Prototype eco-resort being built in Taos

The former El Monte Lodge in Taos is being fully renovated to become one of the most unique destination eco-resorts in the world.

TAOS, N.M., Jan. 24, 2001 (PRNewswire) -- The former El Monte Lodge in Taos is being fully renovated to become one of the most unique destination eco-resorts in the world.

Purchased in 1997 by Dharma Holdings, Ltd., this 3.25-acre property is being transformed into an exclusive resort serving as a prototype and showcase for sustainable living, and will cater to affluent travelers.

The property will feature 40 customized guest rooms, a spa, five-star restaurant and videoconference facilities, according to Kimberly Goodyear, executive vice president of Dharma Holdings, Ltd.

The suites will exhibit unique artwork, furniture, and bathroom vanities themed to each room -- from Caribbean to Tribal, Mayan to Tibetan. Others are eclectic and will feel more like a home setting, with private gardens.

An eco-resort, the El Monte will be powered by solar energy, constructed in part with recycled materials, and will process its wastewater for reuse as irrigation water. Wastewater from the facility will flow through a Living Machine�, the company's proprietary technology that uses plants, bacteria and other living organisms to process the water.

``Living Machines provide productive green space, while increasing disposal and reuse options,'' said John Szerdi, lead architect on the project. ``They provide living classrooms for visitors, reduce acquisition and disposal costs, and are the most efficient wastewater reclamation systems available.''

In addition, Biolariums�, which are elegant living and recreational spaces, will be built. These ``terra-scapes'' or ``bio-scapes'' can house Living Machines, botanical gardens, fishponds or other natural living space. When ponds or waterfalls are used, they are ideal for collecting and storing valuable rainwater.

``Biolariums provide year-round gardening and greenery, purify air, and heat and cool the buildings,'' Szerdi said. ``They are more affordable than the usual add-on room, and are more sophisticated and efficient than a greenhouse.''

To power the facility, designers will use SolarSculptures�, solar panels designed to resemble trees, bushes and even birds. The structures, which are as much art as they are clean-energy producers, are made of patina steel frames that support photovoltaic panels. One SolarTree� will be 36 feet tall and the other 24 feet.

``We invented a way to position solar panels to gather energy without attaching them to buildings or using standard array configurations,'' Szerdi said. ``They also will charge the electric carts at El Monte, since cars won't move about the resort.''

In construction, developers use a unique building material called Gunnash�. This versatile product achieves the look and feel of adobe, but is less expensive and more durable. It's used in flooring, interior and garden walls.

``Gunnash incorporates recycled ash from power plants and is fire- resistant,'' Szerdi said. ``It's been approved for use by the State of New Mexico Construction Industries Division as an excellent substitute for pure concrete.''

Due to its enlarged project scope, the opening date for El Monte is contingent upon zoning approvals by the Town of Taos. Once construction begins and the resort opens, it will demonstrate how people around the world can live elegantly and efficiently.

About Dharma Holdings

Dharma Holdings, Ltd. is dedicated to the sustainable growth, restoration and preservation of natural and historic resources. The company has properties and projects in Delray Beach, FL, Charlottesville, VA and Taos, NM. The company has numerous properties in Taos, including the Anglada's community center and the Yaxche Learning Center.

SOURCE: Dharma Holdings, Ltd.

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