The Brando Eco-Resort, Tetiaroa, Tahiti, LEED Platinum
Marlon Brando first came to Tetiaroa, an atoll composed of a dozen small islands in French Polynesia, while filming Mutiny on the Bounty. In 1967, Brando purchased Tetiaroa and aspired to preserve the atoll’s natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural richness. He was determined to find a way in which it could be a center for research and education as well as a model of sustainability for the rest of the world.
In 1999 he asked Richard Bailey, a long-time resident of Tahiti who shared Brando’s passion for the environment and who created some of the region’s finest resorts, to help him conceive a plan to achieve this dream. Together, Brando and Bailey, chairman and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, pursued a vision of creating the world’s first and foremost post-carbon resort—an island where innovative new technologies would enable a self-sustaining luxury environment for resort guests, residents and scientific research. The Brando is the legacy of this shared vision.
Today The Brando stands as a symbol of Brando and Bailey’s vision: a luxury eco-resort built upon principles of conservation and sustainability. Visitors are struck by Tetiaroa’s nearly pristine, spectacularly beautiful and delicate natural environment, once home to Polynesian royalty, and unspoiled by commercial development. The Brando serves as a model of sustainable luxury to the world – a representation of sustainability and hospitality in perfect harmony.
Paladino was engaged as the owner’s representative to assist in the program to obtain LEED Platinum certification by structuring the approach to certification; validating design, construction and documentation required for certification; and advising on compliance and documentation matters.
The strategies executed by Pacific Beachcomber ensured that Brando and Bailey’s vision became a reality, represented the culture of Polynesia and protected and preserved Tetiaroa’s delicate environment.
The realities of the remote island location were that there was no access to basic infrastructure such as potable water, electricity, and waste water treatment. So Pacific Beachcomber needed to develop the infrastructure as well as the resort with minimal disruption to the small island on which the resort sits.
With Paladino’s advice Pacific Beachcomber implemented sustainability strategies and technologies that bridged the infrastructure gap while providing the sumptuous comfort and amenities sophisticated travelers expect from a resort of this caliber.
While sustainability was a crucial goal of the project, Pacific Beachcomber is a luxury brand and needed to avoid ‘eco-tourism’ strategies that detracted from the guest experience. All green techniques needed to support operational goals and enhance the guest experience.
Tapping into the bounty of the natural environment, design and sustainability strategies were chosen to create a sense of community and connect guests to the timeless power of nature.
The approach recommended by Paladino included balancing the use of sustainable technologies with minimally disruptive design and refinements to operations. Sustainable design fundamentals supplemented by technologies would produce the lowest impact to the site, while preserving the beauty of the natural environment and maintaining a heightened visitor experience. A focus on passive strategies became the focal point of the strategy.
The hallmark attributes of the approach included:
- Preserve the pristine site. There was no construction over the water, which minimized site disturbance.
- Adopt a net zero sustainability strategy by designing systems that consume no more energy or water than they produce or that can be locally harvested.
- Refine the materials palette to include as many local materials as possible, and create opportunities for local industry development.
- Create a carbon neutral transportation strategy that offsets all transportation emissions created as a result of the remote location and difficult access to the project.
“Our vision is now a reality,” said Richard Bailey, chairman and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber. “We are tremendously proud of the conservation and sustainability accomplishments we have made here at The Brando. We hope the resort serves as a prototype for sustainable development in the hospitality industry and for tropical islands around the world.”
The combination of features and systems resulted in a world-class destination with near net zero energy and water. The Brando is the first project to earn LEED Platinum certification in French Polynesia, demonstrating its extraordinary sustainable achievement.
Passive sustainability creates abundant beauty
Through thoughtfully aligned sustainability strategies and using the natural environment, the visitor experience was enhanced while the delicate ecology of Tetiaroa was preserved. Some of the innovative passive and active sustainability features include:
Energy optimization: A pioneering Sea-Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) system uses deep sea water to cool the resort, which is pulled from the sea 3,000 feet deep at 39 degrees. The water cycles in a closed loop flowing through the property, and is then returned to the sea. Paladino advised on the optimal system size to help achieve the net zero goal through energy modeling analysis. Additionally, automatic lighting and fan controls in guest villas minimize unnecessary energy use.
Water efficiency: The entire resort operates from a closed loop, net zero water system. Sea water is pumped into the lagoon and desalinated into fresh, potable water. This is supplemented by rainwater harvesting and the use of a fresh water natural reservoir. Paladino’s water cycle studies validated that demand on the lens does not exceed replenishment through natural sources as determined by occupancy projections.
Water treatment: The resort’s waste water treatment system is filtered through decantation and artificial tides, and purified by aquatic plants and UV rays that destroy bacteria. Because of the sensitivity of the environment, the process uses minimal chemicals, and those that are used are eco-friendly.
Renewables: More than 90% of electricity demand is provided by 4,000 photovoltaic solar panels lined along the island’s private airstrip, with an estimated energy production savings of more than $400,000 per year. Water is heated through solar boilers installed on villa roofs, and 40 batteries in the power plant supplement the renewable system along with six backup generators fueled by natural coconut oil. All the coconut oil is shipped from Tahiti and bought from a local cooperative, supporting the local economy and families on remote islands who depend upon coconut oil production.
Passive conditioning: Paladino facilitated a climate-responsive design and building orientation that would maximize sustainability efforts through daylighting, natural ventilation and harness prevailing tropical breezes for energy-free cooling, as well as implementing native design features such as thatched pandanus roofing with shade overhangs.
Materials: The Brando used local materials extensively in the design and construction. All building materials used are of local or certified origin, renewable, or incorporate recycled components.
Natural food production: An organic garden grows fruits and vegetables onsite so that guests can enjoy fresh organic products that have not been altered by pesticides, storage, or transportation. Crushed green waste and fertilizer produced by food waste digesters are mixed and turned into compost to amend the sand-and-coral soil. Thirty-five beehives with exceptional returns produce all the honey served at The Brando.
Conservation and Eco-Education: Tetiaroa Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that Richard Bailey helped put together with local scientists, conservationists and the owner of the atoll, provides an ongoing and permanent program for conservation, scientific research, cultural understanding and sustainable use of the atoll. Resort guests can participate in nature tours and a green tour to learn about The Brando’s eco-friendly systems.
The resort has been awarded numerous accolades for its dedication to preserving the natural environment of Tetiaroa, including the Golden Turtle Award for its superior recycling and waste management program in French Polynesia; the Virtuoso 2015 Best of the Best Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award – Hotels; a Gold Magellan Award for Hospitality Overall; Eco-Friendly “Green” Resort/Hotel from Travel Weekly; and Best Eco-Tourism Property from Luxury Travel Magazine as part of its 2015 Gold List. In July 2016, The Brando was named the #1 resort in the South Pacific by readers in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
The resort has exceeded the requirements of LEED Platinum certification and is near net zero water and energy.