In recent years, luxury hoteliers have weaved more sustainability initiatives into their operations to lower their property’s environmental footprint. Sisters Jennifer May and Colleen Tebrake of Two Sister Bosses are taking that equation and flipping it with the development of North America’s first landscape hotel. Rather than retrofitting sustainability into the hotel’s model, May and Tebrake approached the design of their first project—Ambiente, A Landscape Hotel—with the intent of preserving the Sedona, Arizona, site on which the property will be located.
Two Sister Bosses is a sister-owned and operated luxury hotel development and management company that May and Tebrake started because they were inspired by their father’s successful business and industrious work ethic. The opportunity to develop their first hotel came about after May and Tebrake purchased the land next to their parent’s restaurant. Shortly after, the sisters learned about the concept of landscape hotels and were inspired by landscape hotels around the world that are designed to preserve their natural environments, including in Spain, Norway, and Uruguay. “As we discussed ideas, we kept going back and forth and it got better and better. We thought, ‘This is going to be a really cool concept. Let’s do it.’”
From there, May and Tebrake hired landscape architect, Krizan Associates, Inc., to help preserve the land. May says, “We worked with a couple of different companies that do surveying that come in and get a topographical map of the property because there are a lot of hills and valleys within the three-acre piece. We needed to have it all mapped out in order to plan how we wanted to place the atriums and how we wanted to make it all fit together.”
Two Sister Bosses began construction on Ambiente in October 2019. The hotel will comprise of individual glass “Atriums”—a proprietary building system developed by ASUL Architects. Pre-fab steel frames will sit on four holes in the ground, virtually eliminating the need to grade the site’s natural vegetation and topography. The development team is hand-placing every Atrium to ensure that each fits within the trees and flora while also maximizing views and privacy.
The project’s focus on sustainability attracted the attention of the city of Sedona, which was in the process of planning a sustainable tourism initiative, and asked Ambiente to be their flagship model. “Basically, it’s educating our guests about how beautiful the land is, how to keep it beautiful, how to respect it, and how to enjoy it but not destroy it in the process,” May explains. “We’re taking that concept all the way down. There’s a traffic issue in Sedona right now, and we’re trying to keep people from adding more traffic. We’re thinking of adding several different types of scooters so that when guests valet their cars, they can take the electric scooters to explore Sedona.”
In addition to efforts like making scooters available to guests, Two Sister Bosses are also committed to sourcing environmentally-friendly materials throughout the property. “We found a beautiful rug that’s completely all-natural without any chemicals,” May says. “We’re working with a company to source down pillows and down bedding that are created without any chemicals because they’re important to sleeping environments. We’re not doing paper coffee cups in rooms; they’re going to be actual, reusable mugs. Where we park our cars is going to be covered utilizing solar on top of those covers.”
The property will also connect guests to the surrounding environment through an on-property trailhead. “It connects over 200 miles of trail that’s behind us and goes out in different directions,” May says. “We’re going to be partnering with a local mountain bike shop and have mountain bike lockups around the property or possibly at each room for people who want to bring their own mountain bikes. We’re also talking about having an app made that will take people that are hiking to the famous spots in the mounts and rocks to give history about the area.”
Many luxury resorts focus their sustainability efforts on mitigating their environmental impact through operations or guest experience. For hotel owners that want to become more sustainable or protect the environment, May advises them to think of out-of-the-box ideas that flip experiences inside out. She adds, “We came up with the concept of the glass buildings so guests can have all the luxury they want inside of the Atrium, but have this almost 360-degree view around them. Instead of building an environment for our guests, we wanted the existing environment to be the experience.”
Editor’s Note: LODGING conducted the interview for this article prior to the COVID-19 crisis in the United States.