Eco homes abroad: carbon neutral in paradise

Cathy Hawker finds ways to buy a home abroad without feeling so guilty about being an energy guzzler
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Soneva Kiri, Thailand
From £1.54 million: sustainable homes through Six Senses are available at Soneva Kiri in Thailand
Sonu Shivdasani, a contemporary at Eton of David Cameron, is driven by the belief that it is unrealistic to expect people to stop exploring the world because of environmental concerns.

Instead, he argues, hoteliers and developers must work harder to provide luxury with a green conscience. Shivdasani and his Swedish wife, former Vogue model Eva, launched their eco-friendly Six Senses chain of resorts and spas in 1995 with branches stretching from the Maldives to Thailand; several offer property for sale.

Six Senses aims to be carbon-neutral by 2020 and charges its guests - Madonna and Michael Schumacher are regulars - a two per cent carbon tax on the already hefty room rates (an average of £740 a night for a villa at Soneva Gili in the Maldives). It bottles its own water, bans plastics and donates to environmental projects.

Property for sale through Cluttons Resorts includes 15 fully furnished beach villas, priced £1.54 million, on Laamu, an island in the southern Maldives about 40 minutes by air from the capital Malé. The 3,760sq ft two-bedroom villas, built from sustainable timber with dried palm-leaf roofs, are part of a new hotel with 100 rentable villas. Owners can receive a five per cent rental guarantee for five years with 30 days' annual personal use.

Further north at Soneva Gili, much closer to Malé, which has direct BA flights from London, 16 over-water, four-bedroom villas each cost £3.7 million. Owners receive bicycles to free-wheel around the tiny island and there's a garden growing some of the only organic produce in the Maldives. Rustic touches include driftwood benches, bamboo uniform for the staff and hammocks slung artfully over the sea where baby sharks glide underneath.

Six Senses, Laamu, Maldrives
£1.54 million: 15 fully-furnished beach villas at the Six Senses resort on the Maldives island of Laamu

Affordable eco-living

Eco-friendly property is generally pricier to build than standard homes, and few buyers are willing to pay more, admits Anwar Harland-Khan of L'Amandier, a low-density development of 15 two- and three-bedroom villas near Marrakech in the Atlas Mountains priced from £319,000.

However, he believes eco-measures and energy efficiency are becoming increasingly important to buyers. "Clearly, flying for three hours is not helping our planet regenerate but people will always want homes abroad," he says. "You compromise by using sustainable and indigenous materials, minimising waste and creating energy-efficient properties."

Harland-Khan is co-founder of Sustain Worldwide, an invitation-only organisation aiming to raise awareness of environmentally responsible development. "Sustainable homes are cost-effective to run and generally more future-proof as they use modern technology," says Harland-Khan. "Long-term, they are better for you, your wallet and the planet."

On the rails

There are many reasons to love Europe's high-speed rail network, not least the green nature of rail travel. Flying from London to Paris produces 10 times more carbon emissions than going by train. From London to Marseille takes a little over six hours; Lyon and Avignon are five hours away, and the Alps little more than seven hours.

High-speed tracks recently opened from Paris to Figueres in northern Spain, making Barcelona or Girona an overnight journey from London. PGA Catalunya is a 300-hectare golf estate 10 minutes from Girona, where Knight Frank is selling apartments, townhouses and villa plots from £818,000. Latitudes has a village house to restore close to Saint Rémy de Provence, 20 minutes from Avignon TGV for £414,700.

Close to St Emilion, and four hours from Paris, Domaine de Rochevigne plans to be France's premier eco-resort. Two-bedroom leaseback houses set in a 60-hectare park cost £152,700, with up to 4.04 per cent rental income offered.


* Six Senses property: contact Cluttons Resorts (020 7584 3050;
* L'Amandier: contact Savills (020 7016 3740;
* Sustain Worldwide: (sustainworld
* Knight Frank: (020 7629 8171;
* Latitudes: (020 8387 4090;
* Domaine de Rochevigne: (0800 014 8250)

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