THE BAHAMAS—There have been many changes in the few years since “travel” and “sustainable” first appeared in the same sentence. Emerging technologies coupled with mounting consumer demand have given us green travel options from luxury ecolodges (that have a negligible impact on their ecosystems) to carbon-neutral resorts, tours and airlines. A new leader in this green revolution is Star Island, a private-island destination currently under development in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. When it opens its doors in late 2009, its mix of high-luxury and high-sustainability could be the talk of the travel industry and the inspiration for green resorts worldwide.
“This is a very exciting time in the field of green technology and, by extension, sustainable tourism,” says David Sklar, the architect, CEO and visionary behind Star Island. “Resorts are harnessing natural energy sources, building with sustainable materials to LEED specifications, recycling, decorating with fair-trade furniture, serving locally grown organic foods and aiding their local communities. But these advancements have never been brought together in one place and in one lifestyle before. Star Island plans to do just that and, in the process, become a showcase for the latest and most innovative technologies, materials and practices.”
The site of this ambitious project is a 35-acre island in a protected sound just 10 minutes by boat from Harbour Island, just off the northern tip of Eleuthera. In terms of five-star luxury, Star Island will offer a sophisticated private-island lifestyle through a mix of private homes, resort residences and bungalows, complete with upscale facilities like a spa, restaurants, bars, pools, tennis courts and a “no fuel” marina. Just out the back door, the world-renowned nature of the Out Islands will be the setting for diving, sailing, and bone- and deep-sea fishing.
Emphasis on Sustainability
Star Island’s real difference is its steadfast commitment to preserving both its immediate surroundings and mitigating the impact of tourism on the Earth as a whole. Every part of its development and ongoing operation will be fully sustainable—from the materials used in its construction to its groundbreaking alternative-energy sources, from the shade-grown organic coffee served in the restaurants to the renewable-bamboo sheets on the beds, from its recycling systems to its off-site community programs.
“We have a real opportunity,” says David Sklar, “to prove that uncompromising luxury and Earth-friendly practices are entirely compatible.”
A key member of his development team is Scott Sklar (no relation), the founder and CEO of The Stella Group, Ltd., an alternative energy integration and analysis firm that works with private and governmental clients like the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense. As Star Island’s senior energy advisor, Scott is exploring the viability of such energy sources as solar, wind and microhydro.
“When we’ve finished Phase 1 of the development,” says Scott, “Star Island will be entirely off the grid, 100 percent energy self-sufficient. This carbon-neutral power comes with no disadvantages. It’s cleaner, extremely reliable and, crucially, has no negative impact on the island experience. Unless guests are interested in seeing our alternative-energy sources, they will never notice the difference.”
Recycled Content in Steel
The same rigid principles are being applied at all levels of the construction process. Designed to meet or exceed LEED-certification requirements, the structures will be built with eco-friendly systems like cold-formed steel, with the same strength as regular steel but made out of primarily recycled material. No heat is used in the process so it comes with an extremely low carbon cost. Using insulated concrete forms (lightweight forms that are filled with concrete mixed on site), Star Island will reduce construction time, shipping demands and waste, plus they benefit local labor. Operationally, the buildings will incorporate the latest technologies, such as high-efficiency LED lighting and geothermal temperature-control devices.
Behind the scenes, state-of-the-art management systems will convert most of the island’s non-recyclable waste to energy, fuel and natural fertilizer. The landscaping will root out invasive species and favor indigenous plants that require minimal irrigation or chemical fertilizers. Star Island’s water needs will be answered by an extensive rain-harvesting system—using every available surface from roofs to roads—and underground storage tanks. Drinking water will be purified through reverse osmosis systems that can produce up to 100,000 gallons a day.
“We’re not just looking at existing technologies and best practices,” says David Sklar. “Star Island is an environment for testing and demonstrating emerging techniques. We want to be a magnet for ideas. We want to show what’s possible.”
For more information, visit www.starislandbahamas.com.