Just off the coast of Honduras on the former British colony island of Roatán, a semi-autonomous startup community is beginning to take shape. A joint effort between private development company Próspera and the government of Honduras, the project is the first of the country’s long-awaited Employment and Development Economic Zones. It comes with high-profile partners like mega consultancy EY and Brazilian urban planning firm HS Urbanismo—plus splashy new housing from Zaha Hadid Architects.
Set to break ground later this year, the adaptive residential complex leans on modular design and traditional building techniques to boost sustainability and increase integration with Caribbean customs and culture. The team plans to rely on existing supply chains and local craftmanship and materials, including timber sourced from forests on mainland Honduras. The modules will be built off site—reducing waste and minimizing disruption to the area’s wildlife—and can be easily reconfigured or recycled.
“The design prioritizes sustainability and is integral to our vision for Roatán Próspera,” said Erick A. Brimen, CEO of Honduras Próspera. “Roatán Próspera will strengthen and diversify the local economy while creating homes defined by their natural environment.”
Climate-friendly features include curved palapa roofs—a traditional design that allows for natural ventilation—along with passive shading, rainwater collection and plenty of green space.
Project leaders also found ways to integrate the voice of the customer. Zaha Hadid Architects, together with engineering firms AKT II and Hilson Moran, developed software that allows homeowners to customize the layout, location and size of their residence using interactive 3D models. The tech twist means users can choose from more than 15,000 different variations. Homeowners can even use the tool to commission local craftsmen to create furniture specific to each room.
“We focused on turning local constraints into drivers of efficiency,” said Edoardo Tibuzzi, director at AKT II.
Along with the housing complex, the 83-square-kilometer (32-square-mile) island hub will be home to several other high-profile initiatives. Hospital CEMESA is looking to build out a medical tourism business, while German education company TUM International is planning a new academic research center. And the ambitions don’t stop there. The ultimate plan is to have Roatán Próspera connect to the country’s other economic zones and further bolster Honduras’ growth.