Contract - March 2009 - (Page 36)

essay eco chic In the growing field of ecotourism, a quest for authenticity drives architecture and design By Katie Weeks With sustainability in the spotlight across all market sectors, it should come as no surprise that hospitality designers and architects increasingly are being asked to green facilities across the board, from budget properties to high-end resorts. Within this sector, there also is a submovement gaining popularity: ecotourism. What this movement means for architects and designers is both exciting and challenging. Just as there is no set definition of what it means to be green, so too does the exact definition of ecotourism vary. Mexican architect and environmentalist Hector Ceballos Lascurain is credited with coining the most accepted definition in the early 1980s. In 1990 The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) released its now-widely accepted definition of ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” “Without getting bogged down with definitions, the most prudent thing is to state the three main principles that constitute ecotourism: conservation of nature; helping benefit local communities; and providing rich, memorable, interpretive experiences,” says Hitesh Mehta, a landscape architect, editor of the International Ecolodge Guidelines, and the longest-serving member of TIES. Ecotourism’s popularity undoubtedly is rising. The organization Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) estimates that it is a $77-billion market 36 contract march 2009 representing 5 percent of the overall U.S. travel and tourism market, and major brands like Ritz Carlton and Starwood are creating eco-brand offshoots. “There is a new awareness of the environmental and cultural crisis humans are now facing,” Mehta says of the factors contributing to ecotourism’s global rise. “A growing number of people with expendable income want to make a difference when they travel.” What this surge in interest means to architecture and design is as varied as the definition of ecotourism, and sometimes greenwashing becomes an issue. “Ecotourism incorporates a broad spectrum that can go from a 12-bedroom lodge in Australia where they rent kayaks and call it an ecolodge to a small lodge in Costa Rica that is designed with the intention of helping local education and training the local community,” says Richard Franko, architect and principal at Mithun and a board member of the Center for Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (CESD). Technically, Mehta says, an ecolodge must satisfy five of the following 10 criteria: 1) help in the conservation of the surrounding flora and fauna; 2) have minimal impact on the natural surroundings during construction; 3) fit into its specific physical and cultural contexts through careful attention to form, landscaping, and color, as well as the use of vernacular architecture; 4) use alternative, sustainable means of water acquisition and reduce water consumption; 5) provide for careful handling and disposal of solid waste and sewage; 6) meet its energy needs through passive design and renewable energy sources; 7) use

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - March 2009

Contract - March 2009
Color Therapy
On The Green
Shifting First Cost Mentalities
Eco Chic
Realm of Possibility
Favorite Table
About Face
Seeing Is Believing
Domestic Partnership
Designers Rate: Occasional Tables
Behind Business Development
Ad Index

Contract - March 2009