Checking In On Green Hotels

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Lori Horvath, IIDA, LEED AP
Vice President
United States
Project and Development Services

As tourists, companies and associations increasingly seek environmentally conscious hotels, hospitality industry owners and operators see the need to make their properties more energy efficient and sustainable. The issues and challenges are much different for hotels than for office and residential properties; for example, engaging occupants in sustainable practices is much simpler when that population remains the same from day to day than it is when customers come and go every day.

At the end of 2009, less than 25 hospitality properties were LEED certified, and only three were certified under the LEED Existing Building Standard. 2010 is expected to be the year that hotel operators really start to engage in energy and sustainability initiatives.  Some large chains have announced plans for ground up green properties; many are evaluating opportunities to implement immediate sustainable policies that will have a positive impact on the environment and the bottom line.   I serve on the USGBC Working Group that is establishing the new LEED requirements for hospitality, an initiative that is exciting to be involved in, but is still many months away from reaching its conclusion.  In the meantime, our firm is establishing a path for owners who want to make their properties sustainable, but have natural concerns about upfront cost and payback periods.

Jiri Skopek in our Energy and Sustainability Services group recently completed an energy and sustainability analysis of the 1,640-room Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago using the Green Globes technology platform. The assessment marked the first time that the interactive, online Green Globes system has been adapted to assess energy and sustainability features at a hotel. The analytical process, and many of the specific strategies, can be applied to other hotels.

The assessment measured the success of the Palmer House Hilton’s sustainability effort to date; provided direction for the hotel to make further improvements; included financial return metrics for each program element; and helped the owner and operator prioritize tasks to reach sustainable goals as quickly and economically as possible. The audit provided benchmarks for energy, water, waste and indoor air quality indicators, which prompted ownership to establish energy and water conservation policies, formulation of a renovation waste management policy, and establishment of targets and metrics. In addition, the project aligned with programs demonstrating Hilton’s overall leadership in green hotels.

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