Resort and other real-estate developments on islands lend themselves more naturally to environmentally responsible design than do developments on the mainland in terms of the economics of sustainable practices, according to developer Amble Resorts.
Many island developers have not learned yet to explore sustainability as a common-sense strategy ― but some have done so, and consequently are reaping economic benefits, says Amble.
In the Fiji Islands, the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort recently installed a new wastewater system using local coconuts and recycled bottles to protect the islands’ picturesque lagoons, Amble notes. Cala Mia, a boutique eco resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui in southern Panama, harnesses Boca Brava Island’s year-round sunshine to be entirely solar-powered.
Amble Resorts, which has begun developing The Resort at Isla Palenque, an island also in Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui, says it is an ecologically and culturally sensitive real estate development company. The company says The Resort at Isla Palenque will treat its wastewater on-site and use grey water for irrigation of landscaping and its organic farm.
“When you’re developing on the mainland, sustainable options may appear to be too costly compared to traditional methods,” says Ben Loomis, President of Amble Resorts. “But on an island the cost differences may shrink or even reverse, making alternative energy and sustainable design an economically sensible choice.”
Loomis says that importing and transporting supplies to islands is expensive and logistically difficult, promoting a “do-it-yourself attitude”. For example, he says, The Resort at Isla Palenque will grow much of its own produce on the island to ensure easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables without importing them from the mainland.
Building materials are also difficult to bring to island development projects, encouraging The Resort at Isla Palenque to grow some of its own building materials on the island: palm leaves for thatch and bamboo for furnishings and design finishes.
Power presents another challenge to island developers, says Amble. Since diesel is dirty and connecting to mainland grids is not always an option for island resorts, Amble plans to take advantage of the natural island resources at Isla Palenque by generating a substantial portion of the resort’s electricity from on-site solar and wind power ― which are plentiful on tropical islands.
Amble also says the eco resort will minimize dependence on air conditioning, the largest power drain in the tropics, by incorporating building designs that utilize natural, passive cooling techniques.
“We were pleasantly surprised to find Amble Resorts asking us how best to maximize the use of renewable energy resources,” says Rick Reikenis, principal of East Bay Group, the coastal, civil, and utility engineer assisting Amble with Isla Palenque. “By being so forward-thinking and making the needed investments up front, Amble is taking the long view, understanding that the principal beneficiaries will be the residents and guests of Palenque.”