impossible without human-caused climate change”. Meanwhile, the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clarified that a future plagued by drastic fluctuations in temperature is now “inevitable”. For policymakers and political maestros, the agenda could not be clearer: not only does more need to be done to cut waste, reduce carbon emissions and build more sustainable cities, but preparations for a new reality of fires, floods and heatwaves are well under way. Like other industries, the hospitality sector has been striving to be more sustainable, cutting down its greenhouse gas emissions, which accounts for around 1% of the global total, according to a 2018 UN World Tourism Organisation report. Driven by the International Tourism Partnership

(now the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance), which has devised targets for hotels aligned to the Paris intergovernmental climate agreement – along with rising energy costs and public scrutiny – hotels have strived to avoid a negative environmental footprint. For some, this has meant making practical changes to how these ventures are run, with groups such as IHG pursuing plastic reduction methods and updating waste recycling initiatives. In other quarters, the sustainability trend is redefining what a hotel should be: birthing an increasing number of eco-resorts crafted for environmentally conscious consumers. These projects run the gamut from ambitious carbon neutral resorts powered by renewable energy sources to hotels built with sustainable resources and small hideaways located in eco-reserves. Not only are these ventures being built with increasing scope and scale – particularly in places such as the Middle East where ‘sustainable tourism’ is a guiding mantra – but world-renowned architects are being enlisted to build them. In Puerto Escondido, Mexico, for instance, Alberto Kalach’s Casona Sforza hotel has generated headlines for its flowing design centred around a series of round-roofed brick volumes, specifically calibrated to build a stylish environmentally responsible hospitality venture. Others, such as the prolific Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley, have found fame by advocating a more sustainable approach to hotel construction. In Bensley’s case this means repurposing train carriages into luxury suites in Thailand’s 40-hectare Khao Yai National Park.

An eco-friendly approach Nestled high up in the Swiss Alps in the hamlet of Les Giettes in Valais, resides the Whitepod eco-luxury hotel. Comprised of eighteen pods and a series of alpine chalets, the project is the work of David Montalba, founder of an eponymous architecture and design company based in Santa Monica and Lausanne. Having grown up in Switzerland, Montalba was invariably drawn to the challenge of working in the

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alps, a part of the world he has a fond affinity for. He also saw a “connectivity” between Whitepod and the rugged, rolling hills of California. “They’re not necessarily the same scale or angle,”

he explains. “[But] there’s this sense of openness and contrast between buildings, and the landscape is something that’s always really been profound to me and our practice. We really liked the idea and approach of trying to touch the earth gently with a light footprint.” Montalba’s design takes the form of a versatile sustainable resort built around the novel concept of ‘modern eco-luxury’ that is sensitive to history and place. Alongside the pods, which are a contemporary take on age old ritual-centred dwellings, Montalba’s nine eco-chalets (soon to become 21) are a fresh take on vernacular mountain buildings, constructed from larch from local forests. An emphasis on energy efficiency permeates all aspects of their design: triple glazing combined with radiant-heated concrete flooring helps combat heat loss, while water supplies are obtained from a well filled from mountain streams and snow melt to generate electricity.

Opposite page: Floating eco-hotel in Qatar, designed by Sagge architects, billed as a sustainable solution for the tourists expected to attend FIFA World Cup 2022.

“Ultimately it’s about not being wasteful, harnessing energy and creating the spaces and lifestyle we want with a minimal negative impact on the climate, the environment and the people around us.”

David Montalba, Montalba Architects

Likewise, the construction process was meticulously devised to leave as “light a footprint” as possible with wooden panels and a zinc roof fabricated nearby before being assembled on site. As Montalba puts it, while sustainability “means a lot of different things”, one thing all of these myriad project’s share is a focus on how energy is obtained. “Ultimately it’s about not being wasteful, harnessing energy and creating the spaces and lifestyle we want with a minimal negative impact on the climate, the environment and the people around us,” he says. “So, things like being conscientious of where we’re getting the materials from are a crucial aspect of sustainable design.”

A sustainable answer With sea levels rising and technology capable of harnessing wind power, the rise of the self-sustaining floating hotel has become another part of eco-centred hospitality, enabling complex, multifaceted properties to reside on water. While it might be more of a vessel than a hotel as such, the ‘anthenea’ pod designed by


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