Sustainability

Chasing a dream – Risking everything to renovate an abandoned hotel

Deborah 'Debbie' Kelly Spillane
Deborah Kelly Spillane
23 April 2021

When builder Bryan Baeumler stumbled upon a decaying and abandoned resort on the tropical island of St. Andros in the Bahamas, he was compelled to quit his cosy life in Canada and transform the ruin into a luxury escape.

Caerula Mar Club Resorts

It was in 2017 that Bryan Baeumler discovered the former ‘Emerald Beach Club’, while on vacation with his wife. Located idyllically on the beachfront of the largest and least commercial of the Bahamas islands, St. Andros, Baeumler could see incredible potential in the space. Although it had been closed and derelict for eight years, he was completely captivated by the ruined resort – to the point that he decided to invest everything he had into revitalising the neglected buildings with a goal of transforming them into the ultimate luxury resort.

For Baeumler, it was vital that the resulting resort was created with the utmost respect for its fragile, island surroundings, with true sustainability at the heart of the renovation. Sounds like the plot of a spell-binding television show? That’s exactly what it became. Not only is Baeumler a talented builder himself, he is also the face of all things DIY and construction-related on Canadian T.V. The cult series follows Baeumler and his family, leaving their home and all things familiar to relocate to the Bahamas, chasing a dream of creating and running a luxury boutique resort in paradise.

Built to last

Baeumler knew that when building in a tropical location such as St. Andros, resilience is key. Getting the right building materials to the island is not an easy task logistically, so it’s important to build to last. The humid climate, coupled with the oceanfront location, makes the resort very attractive for two unwelcome guests – mould and mildew. The heavy, moist air converts almost every surface into their perfect breeding ground, so effective insulation is vital in achieving attractive and healthy surroundings for the guests.

“Given the tropical climate with its oceanfront location and humid, moist air, it was very important to choose an insulation that was not only vapor permeable and moisture resistant, but that also offered excellent drying potential,” says Bryan Baeumler.

Guests escaping to a luxury island retreat such as Caerula Mar want to feel at one with nature – while enjoying every modern convenience of home and more. So, it was a key priority to create safe and comfortable surroundings that enable the visitors to immerse themselves in island living – but without the sweat, mould and mosquitoes!

Renovating to save energy – and reduce emissions

Many buildings waste energy because they are not insulated to the latest standards. This means they can be uncomfortable to spend time in as well as cost more to heat in winter or to keep cool in summer. In fact, modern insulation can save up to 70 percent of the energy used to heat or cool buildings. As a big advocate of insulation and energy efficient buildings, Baeumler knew that using stone wool insulation within the attic would keep the hot and humid air outside and keep the cool conditioned air inside. This way, the guests would stay comfortable, and the energy used would not be wasted.

As our planet has limited resources and an ever-growing population, we need to take care of the resources we have and use them efficiently. This also applies to energy – even renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. Reducing energy demand is the best way to reduce carbon emissions, ensuring only the production of energy that is really needed. Baeumler wanted to reflect this understanding throughout his renovation project by building in the most sustainable way possible and with respect for his vulnerable island paradise.

Leaving a smaller environmental footprint

The fragile beauty of the nature surrounding the resort was one of the main reasons that Baeumler fell in love with the space, and it also cemented his belief in building with the environment in mind. He wanted to build on the existing footprint of the former resort. With respect to the location – an island teaming with wildlife and a sea full of rare coral and sea creatures – he wanted to use building materials that left a smaller environmental footprint.

“Many consider the Bahamas a paradise, so it’s also fitting that we chose a sustainable building product that can help achieve a smaller carbon footprint,” says Baeumler.

During a time when the world is gripped by a climate crisis, it is refreshing to see a man chase his dream, and to do so in a way that truly respects the world around him. In Baeumler’s case, his dream became a reality, and the Caerula Mar Club officially opened in February, 2020.