The 65 private residences at the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica are all powered by renewable energy

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Eco-property: the emerging generation of energy efficient coastal homes

4 June 2024 • Written by Ruth Bloomfield

The latest hot properties are all about striving to keep the climate cool, says Ruth Bloomfield.

In the past, when house-hunters went shopping for a seafront home their key considerations were its location and views. Today, a new concern has been added to their wish lists: sustainability.

There is a natural synergy between coastal living and a desire to protect the environment. Buyers who plan to spend much of their time in nature will automatically want to protect their surroundings, and coastal locations are at the front line of challenges like rising sea levels and extreme weather events, which are inspiring increasingly strict building regulations.

As a result, a new generation of energy efficient coastal homes is emerging, built from local materials and fitted with water-harvesting systems, solar panels and wind turbines.

Anybody buying a newly built home on St Barths in the Caribbean will find themselves owners of an eco-home by default.

“We are a small island, and we have to produce everything ourselves in quite a small space,” Zarek Honneysett, partner and CEO of Sibarth Real Estate, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, says.

To preserve resources, the island’s government now insists all new homes are built with subterranean tanks to collect and recycle water, taking pressure off the island’s desalination plant. For the same reason new homes must also include solar panels to produce energy.

Simultaneously, over the past few years Honneysett has noticed buyers asking more and more questions about the sustainability of properties, perhaps because issues like rising sea levels and hurricanes are particularly acute in the Caribbean.

“It is a new discussion we are having with buyers,” he says. “Islands are connected to nature, and I think people who come here do really care.”

Sustainability is also becoming a key selling point in resort developments. Four Seasons has sold each of the 65 energy efficient homes at its private residences at Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica. The entire site is powered by renewable energy and single-use plastics have been eliminated. The attention to detail here is impressive, with security staff trained to protect turtle nesting sites among other initiatives.

At Tropicalia, the focus is on low emissions and wastewater management

A similar approach is being taken at the 24-hectare Four Seasons Resort Dominican Republic at Tropicalia, due to open in early 2026. It includes 25 sustainably built private residences, designed for low emissions and wastewater management.

In the US, Rory McMullen of Savills’ private office helps top-end buyers purchase homes on the East and West Coasts. He finds that buyers are willing to take a risk on real estate even in vulnerable areas. “These places do tend to be extremely beautiful,” he says.

A recent study by Professor Matthew Spiegel of Yale University analysed the impact of climate change on real estate prices and came to the same conclusion. His research found that sale prices in high-risk locations have not fallen as a result of devastating weather events or rising sea waters.

McMullen agrees with Honneysett that building regulations are tightening up. And, he adds, the resulting low-carbon homes are a particularly big hit with younger buyers who are willing to absorb the cost of building an eco-property.

“I think it all depends on what era you were brought up in,” he says. “The new generation of wealth that is coming through is concerned about its carbon footprint. If you can make a change, even in a small way, it is a good thing.”

On the market:

Home set between the Outeniqua Mountains and the coast

Set on a private estate near Knysna on South Africa’s Western Cape, this four-bedroom home is powered by a combination of wind and solar power, and also has a heat pump. The property's swimming pool in the garden is also solar powered. R24.5 million,

A villa overlooking St Barth’s Petit Cul de Sac beach

This off-grid Caribbean house is powered by solar panels and a generator, and water is supplied by underground water tanks. The villa is perfect for snorkelling, and the six-bedroom home also has a pool within its 5,600m2 gardens. POA,

A house on the rugged Howth Peninsula

A dramatic grand design of a house set just north of Dublin, Ireland, with panoramic views of Lambay Island and the Irish Sea. The five-bedroom, 340m2 house has nearly three hectares of grounds and is clad in local stone, while its roof is covered in sustainable, corrosion-resistant zinc. €6 million,

First published in the June 2024 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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