October 1, 2012

Project: InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam

When InterContinental Hotels Group hired Bangkok-based architect and landscape architect Bill Bensley to design their 197-room resort on Vietman’s Son Tra Peninsula, they knew they’d end up with many firsts, ideally related to their “Green Engage” program. The program tracks just about everything that could reduce environmental impact, then recommends sustainable initiatives which factor in return on investment and the impact of guests.

At Danang, the program resulted in a funicular railway that links the hillside resort’s many levels and yields a smaller carbon footprint than, say, a golf cart. Guest rooms have large overhangs that provide shade, while air-conditioning is turned down upon the opening of doors and windows, thereby reducing energy waste. Rain water and waste water are collected in a lagoon and used for irrigation. The list of these invitiaves goes on, allowing for long-term environmental and financial savings. Yet, judging by the sumptuous interiors, you’d never guess.

Resort Lounge

Once fully open later this year, the group will seek green certification. In the meantime Bensley has moved on to St. Kitts. “For years now much of the Caribbean has relied solely on the importation of food products to survive – that’s hardly green,” he says. So he’s building what may be the world’s first edible golf course and resort gardens. Every tree, palm, bush, shrub, and ground cover will produce something edible. “Even our lawn mowers are edible,” he jokes, referring to goats and sheep.

The surrounding community is also helping to build, another break from Caribbean tradition, as contractors typically bring in their own workers. Locals were entrusted one of the property’s 84 bungalows, and then another, and another. “At first I was really suspicious of this plan,” says Bensley, “but today we have more than 60 bungalows up and ready for finishes. And, importantly, pride in the community – ‘that’s our bungalow over there’ – and best, money in the pocket.” A payoff that suites everyone involved.

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