To speak of urban planning and sustainability in this day and age can seem a rather paradoxical exercise. The bursting of the real estate bubble marked the commencement of the crisis we are currently experiencing. Nevertheless, certain segments within the real estate sector (in particular areas) are currently enjoying a healthy economy, where perfection in construction and sustainability go hand in hand. I am referring to the luxury villa sector in Marbella and its area of influence.
Within DOM3 (The Association of Businesses for High Quality Housing), we are convinced that this segment, in which our members operate (some have been doing so for 30 years) is currently the most sustainable one in existence.
This sustainability can be observed in two senses: an environmental and an economic one. With respect to the environment, there are many factors, which need to be taken into account: the first are the relevant municipal regulations. While in other types of construction, buildability (the percentage of squared metres which can be built upon in relation to the size of the plot) can amount to 100 per cent, in single-family villas, buildability hovers between 15 and 25 per cent. This means that a high percentage of the plot is reserved for gardens, which are usually converted into veritable orchards, housing a medley of plants and trees, combined in the most adequate, sustainable means possible. In addition to private gardens, public green zones have also been earmarked for each sector.
The regulations on luxury villas likewise limit occupiable space and height of construction (a maximum of two floors and (generally) seven metres of height are permitted). Additionally, the high-end villa sector has a low density; that is, a lesser number of units per sector. Therefore, the areas in which single-family homes are built become areas filled with gardens. Edifices are low in height and of low visual impact.
Another important factor is the high-level profile of end users of luxury villas. These clients hail from other countries, especially the north of Europe. They travel frequently, both for business and pleasure. They are technologically savvy, well informed, and environmentally aware. They also boast a high purchasing power.
This type of client places high demands on the businesses and professionals that take part in the construction of their luxury villa. These businesses and professionals are specialists in their respective fields; they are on the cutting-edge of groundbreaking technology, renewable energy systems and domotics, to optimise energy.
It can also be said that because of these clients, many of the businesses and professionals working in Marbella and its area of influence have developed a certain ‘know-how’, which is hard to find in other cities in Spain or in Europe as a whole.
As for economic sustainability in this segment, we should make mention of the great number of businesses and professionals involved in the construction of high-end villas. The list includes real estate agencies, architects, lawyers, notaries, registrars, building companies, sub-contracted workers from various fields, structural engineers, painters, installers, landscapers, gardeners and a plethora of companies which generate a myriad of direct and indirect job posts.
Even after the construction of a villa, permanent employment continues to be created. In many villas, at least three staff members work throughout the year, while two external workers are entrusted with maintenance duties.
Luxury villas are the flagship of urban planning in Marbella and its area of influence. They are a great aid in the generation of employment in this area.
This model of environmental and economic sustainability is, in current times, the main value of residential tourism and of the exclusivity which characterises Marbella and its area of influence, converting our area into a unique jewel in Europe.
This is the nucleus around which our objectives for the following years should revolve. Marbella, Benahavis and Estepona should design a joint strategy to promote sustainable luxury and exclusivity.
By Sofía Polo