Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

Zaha Hadid Architects plans modular timber homes for Honduran ‘model city’

  • 1 Comment

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has revealed plans for a timber kit-of-parts residential scheme within Honduras’s first economic development zone on the island of Roatán 

The designs for Roatán Próspera – effectively a semi-autonomous model city on the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras – have been developed in collaboration with UK-based engineers AKT II and the Hilson Moran Partnership.

The modular scheme uses a digital architectural platform to allow homeowners to customise their properties, offering 15,000 different variations and sizes ranging from a standard 35m² base unit to a combined five ‘block’ 175m² family home.

Fabricated off-site, the structural timber will be sourced from certified forests on the Honduran mainland and treated locally.

The project’s client is Próspera which describes itself as the ’organiser and promoter’ of the growth area - the first special economic zone opened under the Honduran government’s ZEDE (Zone for Employment and Economic Development) programme.

The members of Próspera’s advisory board includes ZHA’s principal Patrik Schumacher and Shajay Bhooshan a senior associate at the practice.

A future timetable is not yet known.

13 roatán próspera configurator feature property rights porcurement in app

Configurator featuring property rights

Configurator featuring property rights

Architect’s view

The dimensions of the structure’s base timber units have been established to follow the constraints of the local transportation networks to ensure carbon emissions and logistics costs are minimised.

The use of lightweight timber results in a reduced and adaptive foundation system that can be fabricated off-site, keeping intervention to the site minimal and giving maximum protection to the site’s native flora and fauna.

Divided into a ‘kit of parts’ that is quickly assembled on site, the design approach is centered around ensuring local craftsmen, tradesmen and construction teams also benefit from the knowledge and experience obtained by working with new technologies; building lasting relationships between homeowners and the local community that will help new residents to integrate with local culture. All suppliers will be given full assistance to develop their product lines to the 3D digital information model of the houses and the terrain.

The design’s passive environmental control strategies minimise energy consumption by reducing temperatures to improve thermal comfort, with little or no requirements for mechanical ventilation.

05 roatán próspera massing conversion to resident unit and variants

05 roatán próspera massing conversion to resident unit and variants

Optimising renewable resources to reduce energy consumption and generate water, the modules are designed to be self-shading, open and oriented towards the prevailing sea breeze for natural cooling. Local, natural materials and ground coupling provide further cooling to interior spaces. When required, water is removed from the atmosphere for supplementary cooling by dehumidification. This water is harvested and filtered and available for use in each home.

For self-sufficient and net zero carbon operations, shading canopies are optimally shaped to accommodate photovoltaic arrays for renewable power generation. Batteries will store renewable electricity for future use.

The design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA) approach has been carefully instilled into the design of the structural kit of parts, while smart timber connections allow for quick assembly and disassembly, giving the potential to reconfigure the residence or recycle any element of the modular kit.

Integrated services and insulation will be pre-assembled and installed within this structural system that performs as a robust structural frame and building envelope with enhanced thermal and acoustic performance. The configuration platform ensures adjacent units have consistent service locations to minimize on-site connection.

The digital configuration platform allows home-owners to plan their homes and connect with local suppliers; bringing the construction and operational benefits from the digitization of the buildings.

The platform can be used to accommodate the specific spatial needs of family members, share resources and costs with neighbours and allow flexibility for communal modules such as a children’s play area.

Applying parametric design software developed by the Computational and Design Group at ZHA (ZHCODE) and the Computational Engineering Team at AKT II, (P.ART), the platform ensures each residence is developed specifically to the configuration defined by each homeowner.

The platform ensures as little material and energy as possible is used in its construction and operation

It also ensures that each home is fundamentally sustainable by using as little material and energy as possible in its construction and operation with the shapes of each element within the building being environmentally appropriate, particularly from a solar and ventilation perspective.

Extensive feasibility studies have informed the design of the platform’s kit of parts using a library of spatial and building elements tailored to the ecology and supply chain of Roatan. These adapt digital design and fabrication methods to incorporate the skills, experience and craftsmanship of local building traditions and culture.

Particular care has been given to ensuring the designs are sustainable and feasible within the environment of Roatan; incorporating vernacular design features such as palapas and other naturally ventilated spaces, the use of locally sourced timber, passive shading, rain water collection and cooling-pools.

A principle underpinning the configuration platform is three-dimensional property rights with homeowners acquiring occupational and exclusion rights for units of 3D space called volume-pixels or voxels.

10 roatán próspera residences exterior top rooftoptypes

10 roatán próspera residences exterior top rooftoptypes

Their residences will be algorithmically computed to fit within their chosen arrangement of voxels. Each voxel is 35m² in plan-area and 4m high. Residential units vary from 35m² studios (1 voxel), to 175m² family homes (5 voxels). This parametric approach to the design of each residence and overall composition of the development yields many different possibilities united by a coherent formal logic and materiality.

Homeowners can use the platform to customize the spatial layout of their residence to fit their preferred number of voxels. These choices are exponential in nature, with at least 15,000 different variations to configure the maximum of 5 voxels.

The configuration platform adapts each residence to the terrain and other particulars of the site include views and minimizing any earthworks during assembly.

The platform also gives a choice of built-in furniture modules and spatial arrangements to suit individual lifestyles and preferences. These modules include walk-in wardrobes and conversation pits and are designed to integrate into the walls or contained in islands within each room.

Homeowners can also appoint local suppliers to create furniture specific for each room using the digital assets that the configuration platform provides including the 3D model of the home.

07 roatán próspera kit of parts add ons modular bespoke

Kit of parts, add ons and bespoke modular units

Kit of parts, add ons and bespoke modular units

Project team

Design and technology platform Zaha Hadid Architects: Patrik Schumacher (principal), Shajay Bhooshan, Henry Louth, Vishu Bhooshan, Cesar Fragachan, Jianfei Chu, Federico Borello, Georgios Pasisis with support from Tommaso Casucci, Leo Bieling and Ryan Hughes
Structural engineering AKT II: Edoardo Tibuzzi, Gavin Sayers, Thomas Lejeune, Megan Greig
Environmental engineering Hilson Moran: Emlu Schembri, Amedeo Scofone

  • 1 Comment

Related files

Readers' comments (1)

  • It seems to me that it is literally impossible that these designs will have little to no mechanical ventilation in such an intensely humid environment. Sea breezes are good for night time cooling in a plappa or roof terrace but it is too humid to rely on this as a cooling strategy for the housing unless you want clothes to go mouldy and wiring to rust etc.
    Seeing as they are relying on ground source cooling and a huge amount of energy intensive dehumidification the most sustainable approach would be a fabric first approach, which would involve limiting the form factor (i.e. not this exteme stepped form).
    The renders also dont appear to show any solar panels at all either and the rooves are shaped so as to make this almost impossible to install so i seriously doubt whether a zero carbon assessment has beenn carried out, it seems to be being used as a buzz word. Should we really allow people to just throw around a term like this without fact checking it?
    Also, is enouraging more logging in honduras really the most sustainable option?

    its good to see Zaha finally realising the marketing benefit of sustainability, but getting it right is a complex design and engineering task that cant just be painted on afterwards. Maybe this is all just a marketing exercise anyway to make people forget about all the airports (ooops!)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs

Discover architecture career opportunities. Search and apply online for your dream job.
Find out more