Living large and green no longer mutually exclusive


Being ecologically responsible doesn't have to involve a lot of energy or thought. In fact, for owners and visitors to these new four-star properties, it doesn't require anything more than choosing between lounging in a cabana on the beach or by the pool, thanks to developers who have taken care of the nitty-gritty green stuff.

Belize: Palmetto Bay

Billing itself as Belize's first resort to be designed as eco-friendly from its initial planning stages, this full-ownership property has a distinguished pedigree: The architect, interior designer and landscape designers all worked on Francis Ford Coppola's Turtle Inn, another eco-friendly and prestigious property in this Caribbean country.

Sited on eight acres that sit along the sea and a lagoon on the Placencia Peninsula in southern Belize, Palmetto Bay will boast, upon completion, 120 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites that range in size from 1,000-4,000 square feet and cost upward of $300,000. The property includes 450 feet of private beachfront and a 300-foot-long infinity pool, and there are plans for a 50-slip marina, a tennis court and a spa. All will be supported by geothermal, solar and water filtration systems intended to conserve resources -- and have the added benefit of reducing owners' costs. "The developer,

Carlton (Watson), has really taken on what Belize is all about, which is sustainable tourism and development," says director of sales Dave Bauman. "So there's thermal cooling instead of electricity for air conditioning; the lighting is all LED; and there are some solar panels." In addition, three 50,000-gallon underwater tanks capture rainwater that, when filtered, is used for watering plants and providing sink and shower water.

As for how involved the owners will be in the green aspect of the property, "If you didn't know, you'd have no clue," Bauman says. "It's absolutely seamless. We're building to four-star standards, with all the amenities that you would expect along with that."

California: Terranea

No future visitor to this luxurious Rancho Palos Verdes resort is likely to be as demanding as the city and the California Coastal Commission, which issued roughly 200 conditions to the developers before construction began. Comprised of environmental concerns such as ensuring that the coastline would be protected -- and protected for public use -- and making sure stormwater-management goals were met, the list took almost four years for the builders to check off before they could begin erecting the $450 million development. "You do it because it's the city and coast commissions mandate," says project manager Todd Machjer, "but you also do it because it's the right thing to do. We're on 102 acres of waterfront on a southern L.A. property. Not a lot of that remains, so we're acutely aware of what our eco footprint will be."

If the job is done correctly, says Machjer, guests in the 400-room luxury hotel and owners of the 82 two- and three-bedroom villas and casitas (which will sell for $2.25 million-$4 million-plus) may be none the wiser to the infrastructure that ensures the ocean water stays clean and the dry cleaning is organic. Instead, they'll be luxuriating in the 25,000-square-foot spa, strolling the nine-hole golf course, walking and hiking trails overlooking the ocean, or floating in one of the three pools (treated with salt water rather than being fully chlorinated). "You wouldn't necessarily know we were green because we're trying to keep true to the character of the turn-of-the-century Palos Verdes architecture, those grand old estates that used to dot the coastline," says Machjer, who adds that now that it's almost over, he can't imagine developing the property any other way.

"I don't think you can put a price on the value of the ocean, and the fact is, we need to be good citizens," he says. "It's just the right thing to do."

Hawaii: Kealanani

This Hawaiian development is taking the notion of what it is to be a gentleman (or gentlewoman) farmer to a whole new level.

Stretching along more than 2,000 acres overlooking the shoreline of Kauai, Kealanani is first and foremost an agricultural community, with luxurious homesites integrated into a landscape dominated by tea, taro and cacao plantations. The homeowners themselves are required to grow either fruits or vegetables or raise horses on the available 188 lots, which range from three to 80 acres and cost $500,000-$3 million. "The thing I tell people is that they can get their hands as dirty as they want," partner Paul Kyno says. "There are a lot of people who love this concept but who aren't farmers, or are using this as their second home, so they can go ahead and lease their acreage to a local farmer for a percentage of what the farmer makes. Everyone makes money, the owners lower their tax base, and the island gets more produce. It's a win-win."

For those who would rather walk the land than work it, a 12-mile hiking and horse-riding trail winds through some of the 1,600 acres dedicated in perpetuity to agriculture or wilderness; the property, which has nine valleys, waterfalls and streams, will eventually also boast a rodeo for the community. As for the homes themselves, Kyno and his partners have partnered up with two different builders, one of which specializes in Balinese design and the other in homes inspired by 16th-century Japanese farmhouses; owners can choose to hire their own architect instead -- as long as the plans reflect the community and are approved by the design-review committee. "We also request in our guidelines section that people build as green as possible," Kyno says, "and while we're only asking, it will be difficult for them not to. After all, we are the design-review committee."

Honduras: Wilderness Club

For owner Jay Horberg, the idea for developing a group of homes around his Honduran hotel and lodge Pico Bonito came as a natural outgrowth from a program already in place, in which a portion of the guests' charges are donated back to the national park and rain forest where the property is located. Horberg eventually sees the clubs as existing worldwide, but for now he's content to begin with Honduras. "Basically, the whole purpose is to fund conservation," he explains. "We'll build homes in a gated community, donate part of the sales and, in turn, help protect fragile ecosystems, whether in Honduras, Indonesia or Patagonia."

While the Honduran properties themselves -- envisioned as 36 two- and three-bedroom homes that will range between 2,000-2,800 square feet and sell for about $200 a square foot fully furnished -- will not be built to ecological codes, Horberg insists that construction and use of the homes will leave a "gentle footprint." In addition, future owners will be responsible for quarterly assessments to the national park and rain forest. "They'll want to do it," Horberg says of the additional costs, "since this is also their backyard."

In return, owners are able to use the lodge's property and its restaurant and pool as an extension of their own home, and take advantage of a location that is fronted by coastline and backed by a mountain that takes even expert trekkers a week to summit.