Real estate developers on the mainland often struggle with the economics of sustainable initiatives, but island properties inherently lend themselves to environmentally responsible design. While few island developers explore sustainability as a common sense strategy, there are some who are in the vanguard of sustainable practices – and reaping the economic benefits.
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 their picturesque lagoons. Cala Mia, the boutique eco-resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui, harnesses Boca Brava Island’s year-round sunshine to be entirely solar-powered. And future Panama island resort The Resort at Isla Palenque plans to treat its wastewater on-site and use greywater for irrigation of landscaping and their 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, the ecologically and culturally sensitive real estate development company behind The Resort at Isla Palenque. “But on an island the cost differences may shrink or even reverse, making alternative energy and sustainable design an economically sensible choice.”
As Loomis points out, importing and transporting supplies to islands is expensive and logistically difficult, promoting a “do-it-yourself attitude.” For example, Isla Palenque will grow much of their 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 Isla Palenque to grow some of their own building materials on the island: palm leaves for thatch and bamboo for furnishings and design finishes.
Power presents another challenge to island developers. Since diesel is dirty and connecting to mainland grids is not always an option for island resorts, Isla Palenque plans to take advantage of the natural island resources by generating a substantial portion of their electricity from on-site solar and wind power – both plentiful on tropical islands. And 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 Resorts 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.”
About Isla Palenque
Amble Resorts’ new Panama real estate project, The Resort at Isla Palenque, will be a secluded and sustainable resort community with a unique boutique hotel, ingeniously designed residences, and sumptuous amenities.