July/August 2011

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Gurney’s Mines the Sea’s
Rich Treasures

Water has a distinct role in virtually every religion and civilization. The ancient Greeks, more than most, appreciated what is often called the elixir of life as an integral part of their culture. To the Greeks, bathing as a part of spa culture was a holistic undertaking, an educational practice to feed the mind and a way to invigorate the body; it was embraced as a civil ritual of hospitality. European spas, through the lens of Greek culture, came to recognize the power of bathing. They developed thalasotherapy treatments—thalassa is the Greek word for sea—that harnessed the therapeutic powers of the mineral-rich seas. Over the years, thalassotherapy centers cropped up along many European shorelines and today are most common in Germany and France.

Nick Monte, an owner of Gurney’s Inn resort in Montauk, at the very end of New York’s Long Island, recognized the allure of European thalassotherapy centers and brought the concept to the oceanfront resort in 1979. Monte was so enamored with the sea’s restorative properties that he drank a shot of sea water every day.

Today, the Sea Water Spa at Gurney’s Inn bills itself as the only continental US-based thalassotherapy center true to the European tradition. The ancient Greeks’
multi-dimensional approach is clearly a model for Gurney’s: Seawater, drawn from the resort’s well and filtered, is used in the resort’s Olympic-size indoor pool, Roman baths and European hydrotherapy tubs. To enjoy the spa’s spectrum of sea water offerings, try the stress-busting and invigorating Marine Kur Therapy treatment. After a massage from a strong stream of 94-degree sea water in a hydrotherapy tub, followed by a seaweed toning gel exfoliation, minerals work their way into your pores via a body mask of seaweed culled from rich beds off the coast of Brittany, in northwest France.

Walking the shoreline, or taking a seaside massage, Gurney’s guests can reap the benefits of negative ions—airborne molecules believed to cause a state of euphoria by increasing levels of the mood chemical serotonin when they hit our bloodstream. Negative ions are created around waterfalls and other environments where air and water move. Sea water is said to double the benefit. “At the edge of the ocean where the water is turbulent there are droplets of ocean in the air, so with every breath you take you’re also breathing in sea minerals; it’s like breathing in a vitamin,” says Susan Yunker, RN, the resort’s spa nurse and resident thalassotherapy expert.

There’s nothing clinical about Gurney’s. Nestled high on bluffs overlooking a wide private beach, the tastefully nautical-themed scenic resort appears to sprawl out like a cruiseship. For healthful dining, the resort’s inviting Sea Grille offers fresh catches of the day, local shellfish and organic produce from local farms.

There is no shortage of area activities for the sports- and fitness-minded, from traditional surfing and boating to kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboarding. You can fish for striped bass, fluke and flounder, or the animal lover in you can set out on a whale- or
seal-watching excursion. Or hike extensive park trails and climb the lighthouse at Montauk Point.At Gurney’s, a statue of a mermaid-like beauty is perched atop a seashell, a symbol, a plaque reads, “of life emerging from the ageless sea, depicting eternal youth, health and beauty.” Aided by the sea’s magic, a stay at Gurney’s can leave you feeling ageless, too. www.GurneysInn.com

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Thermal Springs in Costa Rica

Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, a 114-guest room Costa Rica luxury hotel, taps the power of nature in a big way. The five-star resort is situated at the base of the Arenal Volcano, which heats springs in which guests can luxuriate and soak ailments away.

 Hot springs are a natural expression of Earth’s inherent energy. Geologically, Tabacon Resort’s thermal natural springs are 97% rain-based and 3% magma-based. Rainwater enters the earth through fissures on the surface and is then heated by magma found in the earth’s core. Once heated, the waters rise to surface, taking with them minerals found in the earth's rocky stratus.

 The minerals work their way to the skin and bloodstream; the water temperature helps dilate the skin, improving oxygen flow in tissues being treated; and the heat encourages the flow of natural sedating substances in the body, relaxing the muscles. It all adds up to a unique thermal wellness regimen in the midst of a mystical rainforest.

 Five springs run throughout the property, with temperatures ranging from 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Two main branches to the thermal river flow through the gardens, and one cold river spring flows down from the rainforest in the back area of the Temazcal. Two more springs are captured for cold water consumption for guest use.

 While many hot springs resorts drill for underground wells and depend on pumps and mechanical systems to fill their pools, Tabacon is completely natural. Water flows by gravity throughout the property, forming in-river pools, waterfalls, and cascades.

An eco-friendly and carbon neutral resort, in 2009 Tabacon was recognized with the coveted Seven Stars Green World Award (www.sevenstarsandstripes.com). Tabacon garnered the Luxury Eco Certification Standard (LECS) last year, becoming the first luxury hotel in the country and the second hotel worldwide to receive the certification. Visit www.tabacon.com.

 

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Water Shiatsu in San Diego

East meets West at Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort & Spa in San Diego, California, where guests can engage in Aquatic Shiatsu, also called Water Shiatsu or WATSU. The practice focuses on stretching to strengthen muscles, increase flexibil­ity and range of motion, and release blockages along meridians—the channels through which proponents say chi or life force flows.

Rancho La Puerta has designated one of its four pools for WATSU treatments.
The 96° water, and the continuous support and weightlessness it provides, frees the spine by taking stress off vertebrae and relaxing muscles. Gentle, gradual movements initiated by the practitioner, the resort says, relieve the pressure a rigid spine places on nerves.

Rancho La Puerta is set at the juncture of the Laguna and Sierra Juarez mountain ranges about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 1,700 feet. Guests can swim, hike and choose from more than 50 classes in yoga, Pilates, tai chi, dance and other disciplines.

The resort and spa’s cuisine is “semi-vegetarian,” featuring organic fruits and vegetables, much from its six-acre organic farm. Fresh seafood is brought in from the nearby port of Ensenada, Baja California.

The resort welcomes up to 125 guests weekly to its 3,000 private acres of gardens, mountains and meadows. www.rancholapuerta.com

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Cancun’s Hydro-Detox Spa

At the year-old Gem Spa, set at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun Resort & Spa, a flowing design integrates rich woods, luminous Italian mosaics, sand marble and expansive water features over black granite.

The layout helps bring to life the spa’s ten-step Hydrotherapy Ritual, which aims to detoxify skin and soothe body and soul through contrasts of warm and cool temperatures combined with high and low water pressures. The ritual includes a guided “circuit” through a sauna, aromatherapy and clay steam room, rain shower, bubbling whirlpool, lagoon pool and a “pool of sensation” filled with bubble and floor geysers. Water cascades and cervical neck jets round out the ritual, which is free to spa guests before or after treatments. If you’re looking for more water-inspired wellness, two spa master suites have hydro massage tubs; a VIP couples spa suite features a double Jacuzzi tub and steam room.

The spa’s treatments are inspired by the Mayan Riviera, the South Pacific and Asia, and
the Baltic regions. Gem stones indigenous to these regions, such as tiger’s eye, amber and jade, are used in some treatments. www.fiestaamericana.com

 

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Traveling Light

Enjoy an eco-friendly vacation at hotels that care for both you and the Earth.

As the summer travel season gets underway, excursions via car and plane may add depth to your carbon footprint. One way to help offset this effect is by staying at hotels and resorts that make every effort to maintain customer satisfaction along with the planet’s health. Here are a few green hotels around the country to help you nurture your eco-friendly ways while enjoying a fun and relaxing summer.

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Avalon Hotel & Spa,
Greater Portland

If the free parking for guests who arrive in an alternative-fuel vehicle doesn’t underscore the Avalon Hotel & Spa’s environmentalist credentials, perhaps the recycling bins in your guestroom will.

Nearly half the resort’s power comes from renewable sources. In 2008, it garnered the Pacific Northwest’s first Leadership in Energy and Environ­mental Design (LEED) certification of an existing hotel building and became the world’s second existing hotel to receive the US Green Building Council’s coveted Silver rating.

Set at the edge of the South Waterfront District on Portland’s serene Willamette River, this luxury boutique hotel and spa’s surroundings scream eco-consciousness. The Avalon borders Cotton Wood Bay, a protected green space, which includes over 8,000 square feet of natural habitat that attract scores of butterflies.

The Avalon, embodying the environmentally progressive nature of Portland, Oregon, eliminated nearly all its irrigation by limiting landscaping to native, drought-tolerant plants. The remaining irrigation uses a drip method used twice a week for three months out of the year. In guestrooms, the hotel trimmed its overall water consumption by 22% by installing water-saving aerators, showerheads and toilet flow diverters.

Although hotel vehicles use biodiesel, driving is discouraged. In front of the Avalon is a wooded riverside jogging trail that connects to the Portland Streetcar, a trolley that takes guests to the downtown shopping district. The hotel also arranges bike rentals.

Chef Andy Arndt’s menu at the resort’s Aquariva Italian Kitchen + Wine Bar focuses on fresh Pacific Northwest produce, seafood and meat, and is inspired by seasonal offerings from his garden and local farmers.

You can go green while relishing a soothing massage, too. The Avalon’s spa menu offerings use product lines that are made with botanical, organic or naturally derived ingredients. Visit www.avalonhotelandspa.com.

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Element Las Vegas Summerlin

The Element Las Vegas Summerlin may be the only hotel whose general manager has a degree in biology and environmental sciences. As travelers become concerned about environmental matters, the manager, David Smith, is finding that those multiple roles can come in pretty handy.

As the hotel pursues its LEED certification, Smith says it doesn’t hurt knowing a thing or two about energy exchange and water evaporation tables. “It helps to have a working knowledge of truly what a green hotel is about,” he says.

Sustainable practices are apparent throughout the hotel, one of nine eco-conscious Element-branded hotels in Starwood Hotel & Resorts’ portfolio.

If you happen to be a guest on the top floor of the four-story Element Las Vegas Summerlin, you won’t have to worry about using excess air conditioning to fend off the area’s triple-digit temperatures—the hotel’s rooftop is equipped with a special white membrane that deflects and resists heat. Carpets are made of recycled content while low-VOC paint maintains healthy indoor air quality.

Guestrooms are outfitted with Energy Star-rated kitchen appliances. Guests arriving in hybrid cars get priority parking. Large windows and open layouts in public spaces bring in plenty of natural light, and compact fluorescent bulbs use about 75% less energy than conventional bulbs. The fitness center is equipped with motion sensors that control lights. Smith says costs per occupied room have dropped by more than $1 over last year, a significant savings in the hotel business.

Waste is kept to a minimum. Recycling bins for paper, plastic and glass are accessible. Recycled paper towels are kept in the kitchen, filter systems for drinking water replace plastic bottles, and silverware and glassware are used instead of disposable products. Showers feature dispensers for shampoo and body wash, rather than wasteful mini-bottles.

The Element has managed to merge its sustainable practices with a sense of warmth and style, all of which you can soak in over a free breakfast of healthy wraps and smoothies. To learn more, visit www.starwoodhotels.com.

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InterContinental New York Barclay

The InterContinental New York Barclay grows a rooftop herb garden, conducts paperless meetings, recycles extensively and runs fully on wind energy. It’s all part of the mantra that Hervé Houdré, general manager of this 685-room Midtown Manhattan hotel, says he embraces: “Balance the needs of people, profit and planet.”

Endorsing the idea that what’s good for the Earth is also good for its inhabitants, the hotel features its Natural Power Breakfast buffet of mostly organic and locally sourced foods, including fruit and vegetable juices and yogurt smoothies, wild honey, organic Berkshire Mountain Granola from Massachusetts, hormone-free meats and New York State Old Sheppard Farms organic cheeses. Quiche and other baked goods are made with organic flour, eggs and milk.

All kitchen waste is composted. “We want to send as little as possible to landfills,” Houdré says.
While accommodating a number of leisure travelers, the InterContinental hosts more than 1,000 groups and meetings annually. The hotel helps meeting planners reduce their carbon footprints with its free Green Engage Meeting program. Only half the lighting is used when meeting rooms are set up; pads, pens and other leftover conference supplies are recycled; water is served in pitchers, not plastic bottles; and condiments are served in bulk, among other practices.

The InterContinental extends its social responsibility to its staff. Instead of using paper at meetings, they are encouraged to use laptops and make presentations with portable USB drives. And the hotel promotes a healthy workforce by stocking its staff cafeteria with reduced-fat foods and hosts a twice-yearly staff health day with visiting nurses. To learn more, visit www.InterContinental.com.

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Fairmont Pittsburgh

Set in the heart of Pittsburgh’s business and cultural hub, this 185-room luxury hotel has taken recycling to a new level. Its house-made soap, part of Fairmont Pittsburgh’s environmental stewardship program, uses reclaimed and natural ingredients from the hotel’s kitchen.

Chef Andrew Morrison and his team create the soap using a simple recipe of tallow, water, coconut oil, blended vegetable and olive oil, lye and natural aromatic oils. The tallow, or rendered beef fat, comes from a half cow that Morrison buys each week from a local farm. Nothing is left to waste as the culinary team cuts its own steaks, makes roast beef and ground beef, and uses the bones to make beef stock for Habitat, Fairmont’s restaurant.

“We choose to do it this way rather than buy primal cuts to ensure the best quality and minimize waste,” said Morrison. “Our culinary team utilized every part of the cow except the tallow. We researched ways to use the fat and discovered some interesting soap recipes that actually call for tallow.”

The soap-making process takes about two weeks and is completed in the hotel’s kitchens. Fairmont Pittsburgh sells the soap, available in a variety of scents, as its signature gift.

Fairmont Pittsburgh’s penchant for local sourcing isn’t restricted to Morrison’s purchases of meat and other products from local vendors. The property, which has received a LEED certification at the Gold level, features works from local artists displayed throughout the hotel. And guests are invited to explore artifacts recovered from the site during the hotel’s construction to learn its history. Visit www.fairmont.com/pittsburgh.

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June 2011

 

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Gaylord National Harnesses
Power of Potomac

The Gaylord brand of resorts is notable for its expansive glass enclosures that make a stay at the properties engaging in any season. That is certainly the case with the Gaylord National, in National Harbor, Maryland, overlooking the Potomac River and monuments of our nation’s capital on the horizon. One of the most alluring views of these sites is from the couples treatment room, pictured, or co-ed lounge of the property’s Relâche Spa.

Adorned with wisps of clouds, the sky over the Potomac and the modern spa’s interior, furnished in white marble, seem to blend into one. Sipping on ginger peach tea after a treatment while losing yourself in this dramatic vista makes for a seriously meditative stay. In addition to offering treatments that are year-round staples, like a divine mud wrap, Relâche offers innovative seasonal treatments, such as cherry oil massages and scrubs during the capital’s famous cherry blossom season. A 24-hour fitness center offers inviting, state-of-the-art equipment. And you can round out your workout with a dip in the junior Olympic-size pool.

Walking is encouraged. Strolling by the Gaylord National’s shops and restaurants in public spaces within the huge atrium, you’ll encounter black bamboo and fishtail palm from Asia and African coffee bushes planted around a stream. Venture out by foot, and National Harbor can be touristy, but artsy and fun. Water taxis can take you to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, or to historic Mount Vernon, but the Gaylord National has plenty to keep you entertained on site. www.gaylordnational.com.

 

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A Tour of Exotic Beauty

You would have to reach pretty deep in your pocketbook for the resources to hop on a plane to the Leeward Islands of French Polynesia, check into the Four Seasons and settle in for its Kahaia Haven spa’s body scrub with Tahitian black pearl powder and fragrant, native vanilla. Or you could replicate the experience at home with author and former fashion model Dawn Gallagher’s Polynesia Pearl Powder Facial from her new book, Nature’s Beauty Secrets: Recipes for Beauty Treatments from the World’s Best Spas (Universe).

Gallagher scoured spas and resorts in points as exotic as Indian Ocean islands and the Far East for myriad recipes for hand, feet, face and body treatments, then simplified them for home preparation. Indeed, a simple trip to the grocery and health food store will give you the common ingredients needed for these recipes, from avocado, banana, olive oil and yogurt to clays and mud mixtures. In this handsome book, with images of appetizing ingredients and photos from the spas and locales that provide her source material, Gallagher offers recipes for a banana body glaze, brown sugar-and-coffee body scrub and Caribbean-inspired seaweed wraps, among many others.

A bonus is the highly practical material Gallagher offers on, for example, getting a good night’s sleep, or dealing with puffy eyes when you don’t—using time-tested, natural approaches.

 

 

May 2011

 


A Day at elBulli:
Lessons in Culinary Creativity

Food aficianados widely consider elBulli the world’s best restaurant for its legendary chef Ferran Adrià’s innovation and creative techniques that pay tribute to nature and art. Considered the ultimate pilgrimage site for food lovers, elBulli sits on a remote beach on the northeast coast of Spain near the town of Roses. Open six months a year, the restaurant receives more than 2 million reservation requests a year.

If you are bound for Spain and one of the fortunate 8,000 who garner a reservation each year, A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adrià (Phaidon Press) can serve as a fascinating guide to what’s in store; if you are not, the book can transport you there.

The sense that something special is ahead comes early in A Day at elBulli, whose opening pages feature lovely photographs of sea foam, sunlit waves and other images of the Spanish coastline, and this caption: “Nature’s Textures: The colors and textures of elBulli’s remote and beautiful setting have provided a rich source of inspiration.” Thus, floral desserts are created by using liquid nitrogen to make leaves and flowers of coconut; roses are made from beetroot; discs of mango and black olive resemble sand dollars. Rich, color photographs take the reader into the creative process: Pulp is extracted from tamarind so its peel can be used for an infusion; a special herb press extracts juice from sprouted corn; a protein foam is readied for freeze drying. Inserts throughout the book drill deeper; one such sidebar, a summary of elBulli’s philosophy, highlights the need to know when foods are to be eaten: sole’s flavor is richer a day after it is caught; sardines are to be eaten the same day because the oily fish deteriorates more quickly.

A Day at elBulli is a pleasurable journey to Spain that at once stimulates the mind and the salivary glands.

Down on the Farm

Farming is hard work but that doesn’t stop guests from signing on to spend the night at Fickle Creek Farm. The 61-acre sustainable farm in Efland, North Carolina, is known for its fresh eggs and just-picked vegetables that are sold at area farmers markets and served in local restaurants.

Farm stays were first introduced in Europe in the 1980s as a means for farmers to supplement their incomes during tough economic times. In recent years, farmers in the US have thrown open their pasture gates to welcome guests.

Academics-turned-farmers Ben Bergmann and Noah Ranells opened a bed-and-breakfast at Fickle Creek Farm in 2005. Since then, the farm has attracted families in search of agricultural adventures and couples looking for romantic retreats.

Fickle Creek Farm’s accommodations were designed with the environment in mind and feature natural materials, low-VOC paint and energy-efficient fixtures.

The big draw is breakfast: The hosts prepare a feast of eggs, vegetables, meat, bread and fresh-squeezed juices—all from the farm or procured from local farmers and producers—and share tales of farming and rural life in their sunny kitchen.

After breakfast, guests can spend time collecting eggs, nuzzling lambs, filling water troughs and watching newborn chicks or exploring the trails and fishing holes on the property. The only rules: Keep the gates closed and have fun. www.ficklecreekfarm.com

 

 

 

April 2011

 

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Bed & Breakfast Wellness
Vibe at the Kerr House

The Kerr House, a wellness retreat housed in a Queen Anne Victorian manor built in 1880, marries Old World charm with a top-to-bottom wellness regimen that begins with breakfast in bed and winds down with the sweet sounds of a harpist soothing your soul through a natural, locally sourced and candlelit dinner. Free-range chicken over purple onion, wild rice salad and lemony celery soup are among Kerr House guest favorites.

The Kerr House experience is holistic in every sense, boosting health through exercise, nutrition, body treatments, and classes in stress management, attitude, and self esteem. “We have a nation of people who dislike their bodies. We’ve always emphasized appreciating your body as it is, and then if you change parts of it you come from a loving standpoint rather than an angry one,” says owner Laurie Hostetler, who teaches yoga at the retreat.

Kerr House, a member of the Destination Spa Group, is set on a picturesque and intimate acre in Grand Rapids, Ohio, about 25 miles south of Toledo. For guests looking
for off-property activity, the retreat is close to the Maumee River’s hiking paths.

The retreat offers five-night, three-night, weekend and one-day programs, as well as individual treatments such as a full-body exfoliation, hot stone massage, reiki, and herbal and mud wraps.

The retreat houses up to eight guests at a time, so if a cozy getaway is what you’re after, the Kerr House is for you. www.thekerrhouse.com

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March 2011

 

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At Boca Resort & Club,
Water and Wellness

On first blush, it can be difficult to pin down a theme at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, a sprawling luxury complex on 356 acres of Florida’s Gold Coast that has earned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s coveted Green Lodging and Clean Marina stamps. It offers an array of activities, from biking, tennis and golf, to name a few, for active families or balmy walks through lovely gardens for couples on a romantic getaway. With magnificent architecture, high ceilings and sophisticated details, the main resort, built in 1926, is Old Florida, while the newer Beach Club, with its glass and chrome touches, and white walls, curtains and linens, is a contemporary oceanside oasis.

And that is where the resort’s unifying concept—water—emerges.

Besides the beach itself, that theme is most dominant at the resort’s glorious Spa Palazzo. Inspired by Spain’s Alhambra Palace, the spa is a haven of equisite mosaics, cypress woodwork, and carved stone. Its centerpiece, in both the men’s and women’s lounges, is the terme, or wet room, pictured below, that will put you in the mindset of ancient Spanish royalty. The terme is the pinnacle of the spa’s 50-minute Ritual Bath routine that begins in an inhalation room. You’ll be guided by an attendant as you soak in one ritual after another with varying degrees of water pressure and temperature. Our favorite? It was a tossup between the candlelit bubble bath and the shower with countless tantalizing jetstreams.

The Ritual Bath is typically a prelude to one of the spa’s signature treatments. If the water theme suits you, you’ll want the “Wrapped by the Sea” seaweed wrap, which employs active spirulina algae rich in antioxidants, essential vitamins, minerals and protein. (Hmmm? It was Florida where Ponce de Leon sought the fountain of youth, wasn’t it?) Still not enough H2O? A dip in several pools, or an afternoon of beach volleyball or on a powerboat, waverunner, catamaran or powersail, might do.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club offers plenty of indulgences best visited sparingly if you want to keep that spare tire off: a branch of New York’s celebrated Serendipity ice cream parlor, for example. But there are enough healthy touches—from vitamin C and wheatgrass shooters with breakfast to a citrus milk chocolate with sleep-inducing valerian extract on your pillow at night—to help revitalize you and make this an inspiring wellness getaway. www. bocaresort.com

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Wanderlust Fest Touts Yoga, Music

Defined as a persistent urge to travel, wanderlust implies an almost physical need for discovery. Launched for the modern yogi in 2009 in North Lake Tahoe, California, the Wanderlust festival (www.wanderlustfestival.com) aims to fill that need by combining outdoor adventure, yoga and live, mostly indie, music.

Organizers have expanded the event this year to six sites. Among highlights are music acts the Wailers, the Mayapuris, Swing Noire and Sub Swaras, with yoga workshops by yogis such as Rodney Yee, Shiva Rea and John Friend. Also on the multi-sensory agenda are paintball, fly fishing, kayaking and golf. Wanderlust kicks off in Miami Beach, at the Standard Spa (3/17-20), and moves to Las Vegas at The Cosmopolitan (5/5-6); the Brooklyn waterfront (6/4); Vermont’s Stratton Mountain (6/23-26); and Lake Tahoe (7/28-31).

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February 2010

Ecofriendly in a Big Way

With its 24/7 partying, over-the-top shows and ubiquitous bright lights, Las Vegas is the undisputed capital of excess. Yet in the midst of this overindulgence, the city’s—in fact, the country’s—biggest private-sector development project to date is the very picture of moderation.

Behind that seeming contradiction are the six gold LEED certifications that MGM Mirage’s $8.5 billion CityCenter, a complex of hotels, condos, gaming, conference space, retail and dining, has won from the US Green Building Council. It is the largest project to garner the environmental stamps of approval for an array of sustainable practices that include recycling and cutting water and energy usage.

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From the organic and natural oils in its hotel spas to the recycled materials in its $40 million in art to its reuse of nearly all of the imploded Boardwalk Hotel construction waste, CityCenter is a portrait in green. “There could be aggregate from the Boardwalk Hotel on the ground we’re standing on,” said Gordon Absher, MGM Mirage vice president of public affairs, as he led a writer on a tour. In addition to its LEED certifications, CityCenter has won a Forest Stewardship Council award for its use of wood taken only from responsibly managed forests.

The CityCenter complex is set on the Las Vegas Strip just north of the Monte Carlo and south of the Bellagio resort hotels. It takes its lead from modern urban planning and aims to ease overcrowding, traffic congestion and environmental challenges with an unprecedented and highly dense multiuse blend of art, architecture and design.

Consider that the Bellagio contains 6 million square feet of space on 76 acres compared with CityCenter’s 18 million square feet of space housed on 67 acres. The close layout promotes pedestrian traffic and a monorail discourages driving in a self-contained area with amenities that aim to meet all needs.

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Rather than shoehorn sustainable concepts into existing development blueprints, CityCenter was designed around sustainability, says Cindy Ortega, MGM Mirage’s senior vice president of energy and environmental services. The result is a total estimated energy savings of 30% compared to a typical conventional development.

“When we started this at the end of 2005 into 2006, when you thought of a green building it conjured up an idea of a campus building or a library,” says Ortega, “but really nothing on the high end that you could draw people to. CityCenter proved that you can be environmentally conscious and still service the desires and needs of high-end guests or residents.”

CityCenter is the first Las Vegas Strip development with its own cogeneration power plant. The 8.5-megawatt plant lets CityCenter use the waste heat spun off from the power generation to provide all of the development’s hot water, including in its swimming pools. And because the plant is local, it provides an energy savings versus using energy that is transmitted over long distances.

CityCenter officials say Las Vegas resorts typically cool their buildings with forced-air ventilation, meaning plumbing is set in roofs and cool air is pushed down to fill a room.

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But people occupy only the bottom six feet of space, so CityCenter uses displacement ventilation from the ground up that uses less energy. It also provides cleaner air since rising warm air pulls up pollen, dust and other particles, MGM Mirage says.

In the casino at CityCenter’s Aria hotel resort, slot machines were designed with ventilation systems in their bases. Because the air has to travel a shorter distance than if it came from the ceiling, it is cooled to 68 degrees versus a typical 50 degrees.

Most of the lighting in both the public spaces and hotel and condo rooms are energy-efficient LED lights. CityCenter’s design incorporates a heavy use of glass and skylights for plentiful natural lighting, too. And to keep air conditioning use in check, horizontal bands of special glazes on the outside of the development’s glass buildings help dissipate the heat, as do shadows cast by narrow “eyebrow” overhangs over windows.

Las Vegas would seem a natural for solar power, but executives said the positioning of shadows in CityCenter’s dense design and the development’s use of rooftop space for pools and other public areas did not lend themselves to the technology.

In other energy savings, the development’s Mandarin Oriental and Aria hotels smart-home technology lets guests control lighting, temperature, entertainment systems, wake-up calls, drapes and room service—all from a single remote control. After guests check out, the smart systems sense the rooms are unoccupied and shut lights and air conditioning.

A “water wall” by Aria’s entrance displays intermittent rather than constant streams, saving energy and creating more interesting patterns.

Where possible, CityCenter used local resources to minimize the environmental toll of long-haul shipping. For instance, a reddish rock that graces some exteriors comes from the Rainbow Quarries in Jean, Nevada, just about 30 miles from Vegas.

And with its eye on transportation, CityCenter’s fleet of 26 limos is the first to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), releasing fewer greenhouse emissions and costing less than gasoline.

MGM Mirage says it has cut water use by 60% for landscaping and 33% for bathrooms and restaurants compared with typical non-LEED buildings. Native foliage resists drought. And irrigation systems are equipped with sensors that alert when plants need watering or detect an accumulating puddle that signals a line break and need for repairs.

CityCenter itself, with its many unusual perspectives through its glass walls, is a work of art. Many of the pieces of art within it, too, are ecofriendly. Behind the Aria check-in desk, Maya Lin, the artist behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, created an 80-foot cast of the Colorado River with silver reclaimed from medical and photographic uses. A Nancy Rubins sculpture uses recycled kayaks and canoes. Richard Long’s wall drawings use mud and natural materials.

CityCenter’s grand scope and MGM Mirage’s buying power helped create new green practices and products that the project’s vendors will be able to use in new projects, MGM Mirage and environmental officials say.

“It really demonstrates sustainab­ility on a large scale,” notes US Green Building Council spokesperson Ashley Katz. “For projects that might be saying, ‘I’m not sure if this is for me,’ they can really look to CityCenter as a project that was able to successfully fulfill all its environmental goals.”

Rick Roetken, vice president of marketing at Delta Faucet Company in Indianapolis, said the CityCenter work “helped shape Delta’s approach to broad-ranging water conservation coupled with high product performance.”

Len Christopher, chief executive of Evergreen Recycling, cited a customer that builds glass construction products such as pavers. Because Evergreen brought it so much glass waste from CityCenter, the customer is now strictly reusing glass rather than creating it anew.
“It opened up some other markets as far as commodities just because of the sheer volumes,”

Christopher said of Las Vegas-based Evergreen’s recycling work for CityCenter. “If you have a lot of anything, you can usually find a buyer for it. It opened up avenues we did not have before. We have more outlets for material. Instead of one or two buyers for your steel, you have five, or you have half a dozen buyers for your paper projects instead of one or two.”

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CityCenter features the first energy-generation on the Las Vegas Strip through an 8.5 megawatt natural-gas co-generation plant that provides efficient electricity on site. It reduces emissions and uses “waste heat” to provide all of the complex's hot water.

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"Smart" sensor technology in the guestrooms at CityCenter's Aria hotel detect when guests have checked out and turn off any lights and other electronics.

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CityCenter's fleet of limousines run on compressed natural gas (CNG), releasing fewer greenhouse emissions and costing less than gasoline.

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Spas at CityCenter, such as the facilities at the Aria and Vdara resorts, pictured, use natural and organic oils. Wood at CityCenter, like that in the Vdara spa (bottom), is taken only from responsibly managed forests and has garnered CityCenter a Forest Stewaardship Council award.

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A reddish rock that graces some CityCenter exteriors was locally sourced, from the Rainbow Quarries in Jean, Nevada, about 30 miles from Las Vegas.

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Perched above Aria's reception desk against a panoramic window is the first work of art in Las Vegas by Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Her 80-foot “Silver River” was inspired by the boundaries and topography of the Colorado River as it carves the desert landscape. In light of Nevada’s standing as “The Silver State,” Lin used reclaimed silver for the piece.

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A sculptor and artisan known for her grandiose works created from salvaged and industrial consumer goods, Nancy Rubins created “Big Edge” at CityCenter. Cantilevered over Vdara’s main drive and measuring roughly 57 feet wide and 75 feet long, Rubins’ work is a colorful composition of aluminum rowboats, canoes and other small river and ocean vessels finessed into an eye-catching, gravity-defying form the artist calls “a blooming flower.”

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Slot machines at Aria were designed with ventilation systems in their bases, meaning air does not have to travel as far as if it were pushed from the ceiling and can therefore be cooled to 68 degrees versus a typical 50 degrees. 

 

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