Carmelita Gardens – A Sustainable Development in Belize
“New Ruralism is a modern approach to planning traditional villages,” according to the Carmelita Gardens Belize website.
What we saw when we toured the development with Scot Cave, Director of Sales and Marketing, was a plan to build a community of independent, off-the-grid homes that can contribute to and share in the success of the community. Carmelita Gardens is a sustainable development located in the Cayo District of Belize, just seven miles from San Ignacio, which has a strong expat community.
New Ruralism is a modern approach to planning traditional villages.
Each property owner collects their own rainwater in a cistern, generates their own electricity with solar panels, and they have enough yard to grow their own fruits and vegetables. In addition, most houses have a backup electrical generator. There are future plans to have a community garden with its own rainwater collection system, which can share excess water with home owner who participate in the garden production.
Four homes are complete with another four in construction, and several more in design.
The Sarafina-model home, above, has the foundation on the ground because it is above the 100-year floodplain. The Tortuga-model, at left, is on stilts to raise the house above the floodplain. Each house has a two-stage septic system, which produces drinkable water, but is used only for irrigation. This property backs up to the Belize River and includes a 60 foot easement along the river where nothing permanent can be built.
Both houses are “standard” plans that meet the goals of the community. In addition, buyers can opt for some degree of customization. An example of a custom home is pictured here. The pool adds to the comfort of the home, but also adds to the energy, water collection and storage requirements, which adds to both upfront and on-going cost.
Amma’s cupola, is on a nearby development named Mayan Flats. This development offers larger lots where owners have the option to be on the grid, if desired. The corn field, also pictured in thumbnails above, is a future development across from Carmelita Gardens.
Belizean Construction Methods
In 1961, hurricane Hattie wreaked havoc on Belize destroying almost everything in her path. Since then, construction is almost exclusively done using steel reinforced concrete. Many Belizeans will build a concrete foundation and first level, leaving rebar exposed for later construction of higher levels. Second levels are built using concrete, or with wood.
First levels are often open for ventilation or to raise the house above the 100-year flood level, as we saw at Carmelita Gardens. In towns and villages, the first level often contains a commercial enterprise while upper levels are residential. On one house we saw, the old stairway, was incorporated into the new house.
In Belize, credit and mortgages are rare, so people build as they have available cash, and we saw several houses, where apparently, the folks ran out of money before even completing the first level.
Modern construction methods, like those shown at Carmelita Gardens and other places, can withstand any expected earthquake or wind activity. Pictured in thumbnails above, is the upper floor at Great Mayan Prince Hotel in progress and here is the completed lower floor. The finished work demonstrates a high degree of quality and attention to detail.
Our trip to the Airport in Belize City, the flight to San Salvador, our short layover and the final leg into San Jose were uneventful, relaxing and even enjoyable. We’ll comment on our flight and our arrival in Costa Rica next time.
Next Time: Thoughts on the Cayo District, Belize
(Originally published by Email as: Blog #10 080313 Carmelita Gardens and Belizean Construction Methods)