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El Monte Sagrado Resort, Taos, NM

It's not habitual to think of a wastewater treatment system as a thriving ecology, but that's exactly the way that Living Machine® technology challenges us to see the world. El Monte Sagrado's Living Machine® is a prime example.  Visitors to this AAA Four Diamond Award-winning spa and resort are treated to a lush cascade of water features, hydroponic plants, and engineered wetlands, all of which are constantly working to cleanse wastewater and rainwater for re-use.

The result embodies the resort designers' philosophy of "infrastructure as architecture," an approach that finds ways to make essential systems both environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.  The system was integrated with the resort's design from the very beginning.  It became a central part of an overall sustainability strategy that included:

  • collection of rainwater
  • energy independent heating and cooling systems
  • ecological treatment and reuse of wastewater
  • environmentally friendly water disinfection
  • composting and re-use of organic waste material
  • onsite production of food
  • use of earth-based building materials

Guests of the resort are invited to swim in natural ponds fed with rainwater, and stroll or lounge beside a working ecological wastewater treatment system. The designers' artful blending of architecture, infrastructure, and ecology poses a profound challenge to the idea that human habitation and support systems must be divorced from our natural environment.