Case Study: Sustainable Staycations


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our holiday habits - not least in the short term but possibly in the long term and for good. This change in behaviour is also linked to a growing awareness of the contribution that long-distance travel, and in particular airline travel, is contributing to Climate Change. Holiday makers want to escape but also have a growing social conscience of their potential impact on the planet and are seeking to find an alternative that addresses these issues.


During the pandemic, many people have worked from home. They have rediscovered their gardens and during the breaks between confinement have rediscovered the coastline and natural countryside that sits waiting just beyond their front door. Those environments and luxury’s that they have discovered whilst abroad, they have now sought to discover within their own country. The large hotel model with the bottleneck of the lobby areas and shared lifts and are now an issue. Holiday makers now seek space, fresh air and to be separated from other guests. Specialist hospitallers, who were ahead of the game, have found themselves saturated with inquiries and unable to meet demand. It is in this context that the “Boutique Staycationer” has been born and is in huge demand.


We have identified the “Boutique Staycationer” as someone who seeks a short getaway in luxurious yet paired back surroundings in spacious outdoor settings. Whilst creature comforts like a hairdryer are a must, these outdoor sanctuaries offer a break from high-tech working environments. They need not be large – the emphasis is on personal wellness, a place for refection or re-connecting with loved ones, and submersion in or views of the great outdoors. 

The Staycation is Here to Stay


As demand grows so will be the pressure to find suitable sites. Farm diversification offers some opportunities as do lakes and former mineral extraction sites. The later having seen their heyday for sand or gravel extraction can now be remediated, filled with water and be re-naturalised.  This would breathe life back into these now defunct sites, increasing habitat opportunities for local wildlife and settings for local tourism that in turn can enhance local economies​

Rise of the Boutique Leisure Resort

Waterside view of Ashwicken Lake Floating Lodges


We are currently developing plans to create an 80 hectares eco-resort centred on waterside living, water-based recreation, and wellness at Ashwicken Lake in Norfolk. It has formerly been quarried for sand, with a large quarry lake present in its centre. Mature tree belts screen much of the site giving it a strong sense of enclosure.


The approach to the resort will take guests through a landscaped sequence from their moment of arrival, where they’ll leave their car behind in a park graced with rain gardens. Here, their experience of connection with nature, ecological diversity and wellbeing begins. A stroll through swales leads to a land bridge which connects lakeside with the clubhouse. This is the UK’s first clubhouse on water, which sits at the heart of the resort. Distinctively designed, this exceptional building will comprise a spa, café/restaurant, and lakeside pool facilities as well as alfresco waterside dining.


Water-based pursuits will include rowing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) as well as opportunities for open water swimming. For those preferring to stay on land, tennis courts and areas for ball games and archery have also been designed into the landscape along with a climbing wall and children’s play area.

The clubhouse is encircled by 132 lodges, all located on or near the water’s edge, and each with a mooring. Our masterplan arranges the lodges in clusters, interspersed with new planting, trees, follies and water taxi jetties to create areas of different character across the resort. Alongside the existing woodland are 22 treehouses which will provide additional accommodation.


  • The floating villas will be ‘passive’, meaning that have ultra-low energy demands
  • Use of electric on-site maintenance vehicles and electric water taxis
  • Promoting a car free environment on site with the focus on walking, cycling and water-based transport
  • Providing areas of nature conservation interest and value, delivering a biodiversity net gain
  • The clubhouse will be designed to the BREEAM value of very good.

Ashwicken Lake. A truly unique wellness eco-resort


The modern staycationer not only needs to submerge in the experience of the holiday – for many they also need to share their experiences online. Covent Garden in London has most recently undergone a facelift. The shopping experience has been augmented by carefully curated photographic opportunities drawing shoppers and tourists on a journey through this quarter. It has been very successful.


Ashwicken lake is large and can take between 40 minutes to an hour to walk around depending on your pace. The site masterplan already used the water side and floated lodges in clusters entered interspersed with new planting, trees and follies such as viewing platforms, art sculptures and bird hides. These follies offer contemplative opportunities, rest and recreational moments. All the follies have been constructed with the unifying material and structural language of timber. The include the Rise, the Wheel, the Climbing Column, the Oust House, the Mist, the Hot Tub the Ring, the Swing, and the Bird nesting tower. All have been strategically located around the lake to enable visitors to easily navigate the site as well as providing form an social media opportunities for that magical ‘selfie’. 

Feeding social media

View of Wedding Ring Folly at Ashwicken Lake


The Tyram Lakes Resort is uncompromising in its ambition to provide a luxurious great escape, wellness, and tranquillity.  This brownfield site, consisting of a defunct gravel, has been transformed into four serene lakes with planning permission for a 104-bedroom four-star hotel and spa plus 50 lakeside lodges. The site will provide a of activities such as fishing, horse riding, spa treatments, yoga and fine dining make this the perfect destination for families, couples, corporate team building retreats, conferences and most importantly individuals that require an escape.


Whilst the hotel and its uses target zero carbon in operation, it is use of the lake and wider energy strategy that is the most innovative. The site uses the lakes as “blue batteries” a heat exchange to provide renewable energy to the site. Additionally, a bio-solar roof surmounts the hotel, and all the lodges are equipped with solar panels. These are linked to a start of the art building maintenance system linked to large-scale lithium battery store that monitors individual room usage and seasonal variation. This enables the operator to monitor energy use and draw and store energy for the grid at night to supply peak flow as necessary whilst minimising reliance on carbon energies.


The energy system designed by Geyser, utilises the lake as an energy source to provide hot water and central heating to all the lodges. The system pumps water in a more efficient way, reducing lime scale which is also safer for the equipment involved and in turn requires less maintenance. The water is then distributed to heat pumps providing the ability to heat the water in the lake from 8 degrees up to 65 degrees. All unused water is then pumped through a state-of-the-art water filtration system, which does not require chlorine, and in turn provides the clean and cold-water storage for the lodges. 

Tyram Lakes Hotel and Spa

Tyram Lakes Hotel, pool view


In Ghana, we are developing a waterfront eco-resort on a private island on the River Volta in Ada, Western Africa. The design will take cues from Western and Eastern African architecture safari designs and to fuse with the best practices of European hospitality sector.​



From the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ to the ‘Famous 5’, the treehouse forms the part of the nation’s subconscious, a playful and romantic memory many children’s lives whether in fiction or actuality.


Baca Architects has designed a cocoa pod-shaped treehouse for an upcoming eco-hotel located on a secluded Panama island, only accessible by boat far away from the crowds of tourists. We were asked to design the treehouse as well as a larger residence for the  on the Bocas del Toro archipelago.


The chain of islands in the Caribbean is known for their beautiful natural forests filled with mangroves and a verdant habitat for wildlife. The treehouse’s design will take advantage of the setting through a panoramic opening at one side of its rounded form, splitting it in two like a cocoa pod. The forms are inspired by cocoa pods and other seed structures found in the rainforests of Panama.


The young owners are Ariel Stephenson and Zabrina Shield. Ariel is Panamanian, from Bocas del Toro and Zabrina is British. Ariel has lived outside of Panama since he was 17 and has been living in the UK for more than 15 years. He has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years at some of the top hotels in London including The Soho, Covent and ACE Hotel. Zabrina is a nature and culture lover with a passion for Latin America.


Bamboo was picked as the primary material for the 270 square foot treehouse, due to abundance in Panama and to make use of local construction knowledge. To reduce the need for construction vehicles on site, parts of the structure will be prefabricated and assembled on the island. This also means the structure can be deconstructed without leaving permanent traces on the site. A spiral staircase wrapping the trunk of the tree, as well as the treehouse’s structure, will all be made from bamboo.


Baca is known for floating and flood-resistant architecture to consider how tropical rainfall and humidity might affect the design, shaping the treehouse to redirect rainwater and offer ventilation. The open design of the treehouse provides maximum exposure to the tropical jungle and distant views of the Caribbean Sea, while at the same time closed for security and mosquito protection.


Visitors will be welcomed at the water’s edge by the main lodge. The retreat is only accessible by boat. While the patterns are designed in London, the lodge and treehouses are constructed from materials sourced on-site or locally and we will be working with a local design team as well as local labour.


The treehouses will feature outdoor showers, shaded balconies, sleeping areas and staircases that spiral around the tree trunk. The developers also want each treehouse pod to be able to be reached by a hanging walkway. The retreat will offer snorkelling and canoeing expeditions, treetop adventures and chocolate making activities. Key design considerations include deep overhanging for sun-protection, cross-ventilation, as well as protection from tropical rainstorms.


The forms are inspired by cocoa pods and other seed structures found in the rainforests of Panama. Bamboo’s flexibility as a construction material is utilized in numerous ways, including walls and roofing.


(Extract from Forbes: The World's Best Tree-House Hotels Including A New Eco-Resort In Panama by Jim Dobson)

The Renaissance of the Treehouse

Tyram Lakes Hotel, pool view


In the UK, Baca Architects have developed, the ‘Kingfishers Series’, a range of tessellating trees for the European Leisure Parks market. These are self-supporting enclosures. The staycationers are Lifted upwards in a part tree house, park cabin to provide an all-unique holiday experience.


The single pod provides a cosy nook for a couple looking to decompress with panoramic views from the picture windows at the reception floor or relaxing in the outdoor hot tub at night they can climb the magical stairway to fall asleep under the large round window - an oculus to the stars whilst cradled within belly of the treehouse.


The addition of the second pod provides space for a larger family or for friends seeking to get away together. The main addition is a dedicated lounge space with communal table set for board games and spacious loungers to catch up with that neglected novel!

The three-pod series sleeps 6-8 over three levels with staircases winding up into the treetops. A magical second floor crow’s nest gives way to a star gazing terrace over the middle pod.


Designed for volume production, the tree houses are built with high tech, low waste manufacturing processes to create simple honest beautifully designed low footprint enclosures. Various components of the modular system underlying the structure of the pods can be combined according to the specifics of the location, climate, surroundings, and occupancy. The enclosure is prefabricated is made from modern methods of construction. Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) machines craft the designs into self-locating components for ease of assembly. The facade finishes are interchangeable, with each selected specifically to enhance its individual settings. And the interiors and soft finishes are sourced from local suppliers.

Tyram Lakes Hotel, pool view


Because of the pandemic a new sustainable way to vacation has been borne. The eco-savvy consumer demands comfort and uniqueness and that instragramable photo! This demand is driving a renaissance in old and new architectural typologies. Coupled with modern methods of construction, the next few years will witness a boom in artisan designs that can be produced en masse. Long live the “Boutique Staycationer​"



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