NOSARA, COSTA RICA—Olas Verdes, a Costa Rican boutique hotel in Playa Guiones, Nosara, has been awarded the highest designation for the international sustainable design and construction standard, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)—LEED Platinum. This makes Olas Verdes the first LEED Platinum hotel in Costa Rica and first LEED certified surf hotel in the world.
Olas Verdes was born out of the owners’ love for Costa Rica, its people and culture, as well as their passion for the local community of Nosara and their dedication to preserving the fragile ecosystems that make this rural beach town so unique. Integrating the spirit and allure of the region into the design aesthetics and guest experience at Olas Verdes was essential for the team.
With Carl Kish of STOKE Certified as Project Manager and Sphera as the LEED consulting agency, Olas Verdes strived for LEED standards from the start of construction in November 2013. “It was an honor to be PM of this development, especially because the owners of Olas Verdes were eager to go the extra mile from day one to raise the bar for sustainable tourism,” Kish said. “They enabled me to be completely creative with our incredible team of local talent and they fully supported the decision to pursue LEED as a catalyst for sustainable development in the region.”
Passive Solar Design
The local architect, Donald Loria, utilized passive solar design to minimize solar heat gain and maximize natural ventilation according to the year-round sun angles and predominant wind patterns to naturally cool and light the buildings as much as possible, which maximizes guest comfort while minimizing energy use. Guanacaste Builders, a local construction company, embraced the new challenges of LEED construction standards while Sphera, a team of LEED AP’s in Costa Rica, guided the entire team through the LEED application and documentation process, ultimately helping Olas Verdes achieve Platinum.
A combination of rooftop solar panels, solar hot water systems, and battery storage installed by Poderco meet over 20 percent of the hotel’s annual energy demand with renewable energy. Energy efficient appliances, HVAC system, Big Ass Fans, and a combination of CFL and LED lighting along with timers for outdoor lights and motion sensors for the guest suites and bathrooms further minimize grid-energy use. This, along with an energy monitoring and HVAC control system, makes Olas Verdes 40 percent more efficient than the baseline building performance rating based on the ASHRAE standard which is the highest level of energy efficiency for the LEED New Construction 2009 requirements.
Water conservation was of the utmost priority for the owners since Nosara is in a five-year drought, which is why Olas Verdes installed 14,000 liters of underground rainwater storage even though it only rains four to six months of the year in Nosara—every drop counts. Each “Casita” uses ultra low-flow water fixtures and all of the property’s greywater is treated in a chemical-free wastewater treatment system. The water is then recycled for irrigating all of the native vegetation that was diligently sourced by Ravenala Landscaping for six months before installation. As a result, the property is integrated with the Ostional Wildlife Refuge in its backyard and provides additional habitat for Howler Monkeys, various types of birds, and other fauna who frequent the hotel grounds.
Recycled Materials in Use
Olas Verdes offers 17 suites across five buildings, each representing a different region of Costa Rica featuring distinct color palettes and authentic decor from local artisans in their respective province. The hotel partnered with the Nosara Recycling Center to collect specific types of glass bottles over several months for different colors in the countertops, backsplashes, and two large mosaics handcrafted by local artisans. Recycled plastics collected in Costa Rica were repurposed into the restaurant deck and 3-stage recycling bins on the property.
The saltwater pool is shaped like two breaking waves not only as an ode to the hotel’s name, “Green Waves”, but also to navigate around the large Jobo trees that would have been removed otherwise. All of the roofing and overhangs were custom trimmed and positioned to go around the trees on the property while tree aeration wells allowed for the buildings’ footprints to sit close to the trees without suffocating their root systems. These initiatives altogether saved over 90 percent of the existing trees on the property.
Overcoming all of these sustainability challenges to achieve LEED Platinum in a rural and outlying part of Costa Rica was tremendously difficult, but the Olas Verdes team feels it was completely worth it. General Manager of Olas Verdes, Luis Pardo, remarks that, “We’ve had immensely positive reactions from other travel industry partners and colleagues as well as our guests who value an amazing experience without compromising the needs of the local community or environment.”
A stay at Olas Verdes is a guarantee that a trip is contributing to community development programs and to the preservation of the local environment. Olas Verdes hosts local schools for educational seminars, coordinates voluntourism efforts with local nonprofits, and supports community-wide conservation efforts such as the Blue Flag Program, which registers Playa Guiones nationally as an ecologically friendly beach town.
Go to Olas Verdes.