It’s something of a paradox in the world of luxury property, but when it comes to sustainability, the less you notice it, the better it is.
Some properties wear their sustainability on their sleeves, with a pared back rawness to their design and choice of materials that serve as a constant reminder of their eco credentials. But the best sustainable super-prime properties are “100% luxurious and comfortable. If you walk in and don’t know, you won’t see it or feel it as everything is top notch. All the sustainable details are behind the scenes,” comments Alex Gonzalez at GC Studio, the architects of Villa Sierra Blanca, a new concept in ‘conscious luxury living’ by Sierra Blanca Estates.
This one-of-a-kind property, set on one of the last plots with panoramic sea views in Marbella’s upmarket Sierra Blanca neighbourhood, shows that it’s possible to combine luxury living with an environmental conscience. You have a prime location, first-class design and amenities, including a beautiful swimming pool, spa and home cinema – but also the reassurance that the property has been built, and designed to run, as sustainably as possible. That pool, for example, is filled with pure mineral water. The spa’s sauna and hamman are solar-powered. And as a A-rated home in its consumption and emissions, its energy bills will be near zero.
The challenge, says Sierra Blanca Estates’ chief executive officer, Carlos Rodriguez, is how to “go the extra mile” with eco features in a super-prime, so that it becomes “a showcase for sustainability”. It’s a question they have also carefully considered in their collaboration with the fashion brand Karl Lagerfeld, with five highly-sustainable villas that are rare and individual works of art from an architectural and design perspective, yet have minimal impact on their environment.
“Sustainability and exclusivity can go together,” adds Luis Rodriguez, Sierra Blanca Estates’ chief operating officer, and one way to demonstrate that with Villa Sierra Blanca has been to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification. This globally-recognised measure of a building’s sustainability is based on a wide and detailed range of criteria, including its carbon emissions, low-impact design and ecological value, along with its energy efficiency, management of waste water and use of sustainably-sourced materials.
Given a local climate that provides year-round sun and warmth, one key design consideration at Villa Sierra Blanca has been to maximise the light and heat gain in winter and incorporate terraces and planting that provide plenty of shade in summer. In addition, every material used comes with certification to show it has been recycled and the garden is planted with minimal grass and abundant low-water plants.
Then there are all those small details that you may not notice, but which are fundamental in achieving a high BREEAM rating, from special water-saving filters in every tap to butterfly boxes in the garden, part of the measures to encourage biodiversity. The house is discreetly designed, too, to be entirely accessible to anyone with mobility issues or registered blind, and everything is automated and intuitive, from the self-cleaning swimming pool to automatic filtering of the air, dimming of the lights and temperature control.
Carlos Rodriguez likens owning this kind of property to buying an elite make of car. “Both come with a manual – and if you follow the instructions, you will achieve optimal smoothness and performance. Villa Sierra Blanca is as sustainable as its owners want it to be.”
This project also showcases a new way of enjoying luxury living in Marbella. This is architecture that stands out from the crowd but blends in with its natural environment. A home for a high-net-worth owner who prizes eco over ego. This is a house that, if you treat it right, won’t just take care of itself but will take care of you too.