Celebrating Abundance


Material Abundance & Historical Significance

The Yucatan Peninsula is geologically formed of limestone, a sedimentary rock. This abundance has made limestone a readily available and widely used building material throughout the region. The porous nature of limestone also makes it a key element in the peninsula’s unique cenote formations, adding to its cultural and environmental significance.

Limestone has been a primary building material in Quintana Roo since the ancient Mayan civilisation. It is prominently used to construct Tulum's iconic ruins, which showcase limestone's durability and aesthetic appeal. The stone's ability to withstand the test of time is evident in the enduring integrity of these archaeological sites.

The Mayan ruins of Tulum

Aesthetic Emulation

Modern architecture in the region often draws inspiration from its historical use. Limestone is a versatile material that can appear weathered and ancient or modern and refined. In Tulum, limestone is frequently used as a cladding material, laid in geometric patterns or as tessellated slabs over concrete block walls. The stone does not perform structurally and requires significant amounts of cement mortar to bond to the concrete surfaces.

Boutique hotel, Coqui Coqui Coba

Tesselated limestone used to clad a local development

Mexican construction workers fix limestone to a local development using cement

Common Uses

It can also be precision cut for use around pool edges and in bathrooms, as its cool, smooth surface is perfect for barefoot comfort. Similarly, the material is often used in dry stone walls and boundary treatments made from roughly hewn limestone. These structures require no mortar and allow for natural drainage and movement.

Polished limestone used to frame a pool as part of a high-end residential development

Limestone blocks used to form a traditional drystone wall

Addressing Waste

The traditional use of limestone in construction generates significant waste, which we witnessed on our visit to the town. Offcuts and irregular pieces are often discarded. Recognising the environmental impact of this practice, we proposed an innovative solution to incorporate these waste materials into the building process.

Limestone blocks cut into rectangles ready to be installed

A pile of unwanted limestone offcuts destined for landfill

Use of Limestone Waste

Concrete, typically emits around 0.1 to 0.2 kg of CO2 per kg. The primary reason for concrete's higher emissions is the production of Portland cement, which generates 0.7 to 1.0 kg of CO2 per kg Structural limestone emits approximately 0.04 to 0.08 kg of CO2 per kg, significantly lower than. By combining this with waste offcuts, we can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the project.

K’in Lum Ha’s design uses a combination of waste offcuts and structural stone to construct stacked stone walls, which form the development’s ground floor. This approach reduces both waste and the project’s carbon footprint.

Our proposed design for a house at K'in Lum Ha

By embracing the reuse and recycling of limestone, K’in Lum Ha aims to set a new standard for environmentally conscious development in the region. This project demonstrates how thoughtful specification can honour historical practices, reduce environmental impact, and create beautiful, sustainable living spaces.

Written by Richard Holland