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Open Air

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

By Amber Gibson 
Photos by Jan K. Glenn

Before he began work on Nicaragua’s 2,700-acre resort Rancho Santana, Robert J. Altevers had designed his share of LEED-certified buildings, but never a sustainable eco-friendly community at this scale.

The founder and president of San Diego-based Altevers Associates took advantage of Nicaragua’s tropical climate when laying out the villas and casitas—available for holiday rentals or to purchase—that make up the sprawling ranch (a 17-room boutique inn is also in the works for 2014). “The buildings are for the most part open-air so we don’t have to rely on air conditioning and heating,” he says. A wind turbine is also being constructed so the ranch can supply all its own power.

“We used all local building materials that are easily available,” Altevers says. Stone was harvested from a nearby hillside and reclaimed clay tiles were used on rooftops. Although Altevers designed everything from the decorative light fixtures to ceramic tiles, he manufactured it all in Nicaragua and hired local artists for interior design elements.

“All of the wood we used, from furniture to buildings, was reclaimed wood blown down during Hurricane Felix,” Altevers says. “It was brought in logs to the site and a wood shop was set up right there.” Local craftsmen manufactured all windows and doors on-site. “There’s a lot of beautiful wood in Nicaragua; hardwood that in other parts of the world is protected,” he says. “But these trees were already down from the hurricane, so they were just going to rot.”

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