Ilha Pura

The Ilha Pura Athletes’ Village, built for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, is one of the most labelled eco-neighbourhoods in Brazil, has been evaluated twice by the American LEED-ND standard and three times by the Brazilian AQUA B & L standard. It is therefore an exemplary project, while claiming its nature as a “condominio fechado” (gated community) characteristic of the major Brazilian cities.

The result of a mainly private initiative and carried out in a particularly difficult social context, due to the evictions of residents of neighbouring favelas, this highly controversial project nevertheless represented an opportunity for Brazil to develop its own sustainable urban development strategies.

Dates of completion2010-2016
Surface area7 Condominios fechados, 24.7 ha. 
Second extension phase : 82 ha
LocalizationBarra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Project descriptionUrban extension project located in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro
– 31 17-storey residential buildings (3,604 units)
– 65,000 m² of semi-private park
– Sports infrastructure
Certification LEED-ND v2009 Certified Plan : 47 points out of 110
LEED-ND v2009 Certified Built Project : 43 points out of 110
AQUA B & L Program : 62,1 %
AQUA B & L Design : 79 %
AQUA B & L Built phase : 69 %
NB: AQUA B & L calculations, estimated according to the “score” obtained for each criterion (Good, Excellent, Superior)


The Ilha Pura district is located on the northwestern edge of the Barra da Tijuca district in the western part of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The development of Barra da Tijuca really began under the administration of Governor Negrão de Lima (1965-1971) who commissioned the architect Lúcio Costa to design Barra’s master plan. The latter, finalized in 1969, allows for large public spaces connected by boulevards, and interspersed with planned condominiums. Because of the construction of the Lagoa-Barra motorway in the 1970s, and therefore the reduction of the travel time to the south zone of Rio, Barra da Tijuca saw an influx of wealthy people. These people were attracted by the new facilities that symbolized Brazilian modernity. In 2007, when Brazil was designated as the host country for the Football World Cup, the city of Rio accelerated the launch of studies and the implementation of major urban interventions, such as Ilha Pura. However, these developments are at the expense of the inhabitants of the favelas neighbouring Ilha Pura, Vila Autódromo and Vila União da Curicica, who are moved even further from the city center.


Public sector: infrastructure financed by the Prefeitura de Rio de Janeiro

Private sector: 

– developer :  Carvalho Hosken 

– designers and other contractors: the construction conglomerates Odebrecht, and Andrade Gutierrez, as well as the landscape designers of the Roberto Burle Marx agency. 

Citizen consultation was inexistent, even though many alternative urban planning plans, drawn up by residents’ associations, professors and students of Rio’s public urban planning faculty, had been presented to the municipality.

Sustainable Development

The 31 buildings of the project are LEED BD+C (Building Design and Construction) certified. Nearly 10% of the roof surfaces of the apartment towers are equipped with photovoltaic panels. The project also required reinforced thermal insulation with the use of smart windows, smart elevators and the installation of presence sensors to regulate air conditioning and apartment lighting as effectively as possible. At the district level, bollards were installed to charge electric cars, as well as LED lamps equipped with presence sensors to provide street lighting. Strategies for sustainable water use have been established at two scales: low-flow facilities for sinks and showers, and double-flow toilets within buildings, and systems for recovering water from rooftops that have not been infiltrated are being recovered to irrigate the central semi-private park. Grey water will be treated in situ by a small wastewater treatment plant consisting of bioreactors and high-pressure ultrafiltration membranes, which will be built during the extension project planned for 2025. Particular attention was paid to construction wastes, 85% of which were recycled and sent to treatment cooperatives for recovery. Organic waste related to the park is composted on site. The 65,000 m2 park, built by the Burle Marx agency, recreates a series of ecological corridors thanks to its orientation between the Piedra Branca mountain in the west and the Jacarepagua Lake in the east. 

On the other hand, socio-economic aspects were not really taken into account. Indeed, Ilha Pura, as its name suggests in Portuguese, is a “pure island”, a gated community intended for the wealthy classes who wish to take refuge in an enclosed space protected from the rest of the city. In addition, the conditions under which these towers were built, within a very tight schedule, led to its poor architectural quality. It is also currently very difficult to access by public transport. There is only one BRT stop, the Ilha Pura station, associated with the “green” line of the carioca tram system. 

Researchers working on this project

Claire Doussard