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Beyond Green: Taking the Long View Toward a Truly Sustainable Resort

CHICAGO, April 19, 2010 — Many luxury resorts and hotels are currently touting their green initiatives: recycling, laundering towels less often, or using compact fluorescent bulbs. While these are important efforts, some are embracing a concept bigger than green: sustainability.

Alex Pettitt, host of TV's "Mainstream Green," contends that sustainability must be ingrained in a resort's culture. "They lower their water consumption, but don't have a sustainable design," says Pettitt. "Or offer eco-trips, but the facility itself is an ecological wart." Green initiatives alone do not make a resort ecologically sustainable: everything the resort does must take sustainability into consideration.

The Resort at Isla Palenque, a Panama island resort developed by Amble Resorts, has sustainability at its very foundation. "Sustainability isn't just about recycling. It's a whole life cycle that includes the inhabitants: the people who live and work there," points out Isla Palenque's architect, Randall Johnson of 4240 Architecture. Amble Resorts plans to protect the island property from uncontrolled development. Less than 5% of the island's 400 acres will be built upon – including all buildings and roads – and 220 of its acres will be protected as a private forest preserve.

Amble President Ben Loomis wants everyone involved with Isla Palenque – from the builders to the employees to the guests – to see themselves as caretakers of the island. Explains Johnson, "Ben brought on a local person who understood all the plant and animal life, someone who could give us the history of the island told as a story. It's helped us infuse local culture and history into the project. Part of designing an eco-resort is telling the story, not only to the people who will live there, but also to the people who will build, maintain and staff it."

One of the major ways this story will be told is in the use of the island's existing developed and undeveloped spaces. The highest density will be on the few portions of the island that had already been cleared for cattle grazing, avoiding further destruction of the island's old-growth forests. Additionally, Amble's sustainable building techniques will mitigate the effects of the resort on the island's ecosystems. To prevent erosion, many homes will be built on stilts instead of on graded land, and careful positioning of roads and homes will allow for minimal disturbance to the environment.

Isla Palenque's facilities will be built using already present resources whenever possible, reducing the transport of materials from the mainland and the use of fossil fuels that requires. Rather than cutting down old-growth trees, an unusual (but not endangered) stand of bamboo Loomis discovered on the island will be harvested in such a way that the stand will continue to provide building materials for the future.

It is clear that this sort of planning for sustainability could potentially take longer and cost more. But as Richard V. Reikenis of Isla Palenque's engineers, East Bay Group, Inc., notes, "Amble is investing more at the beginning, which reveals a sort of sophistication that will pay off in the long run."

Green may be a sprint, but sustainability is a marathon, and today's smart developers may follow Amble's lead and commit to the long-term planning and preparation necessary to run the longer race.


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. For more information visit

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