Energy efficiency among motivations for change

Major hotel chains, big consumers of resources such as power and water, are starting to change their environmentally wasteful ways and design "greener" buildings.

Although most of the efforts are in their infancy, Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham are encouraging the building of eco-friendly and energy-efficient hotels.

Building green hotels isn't about fetching higher rates. Hoteliers view it as an advantage at a time when customers want to patronize green businesses and hotel operators want to cut high bills for electricity and water.

Although green construction is mostly voluntary in the USA, cities such as Dallas, Las Vegas and Arlington, Va., are encouraging it by expediting permits, granting subsidies or requiring it. "People want to be at a hotel that is on the cutting edge," says Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. "Whoever does it first is cool."

Marriott's only green-certified hotel, which is in College Park, Md., uses 30% less electricity than a comparable property. That means it can charge the same rates as rivals, yet earn a better profit, says manager George Trujillo.

Seeing the benefits, chains are slowly embracing new construction guidelines created by the U.S. Green Building Council. Under the program, hotels can get certified by curbing a building's energy and water use, improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.

Among ways to gain points: recycle construction waste; locate near mass transit; plant water-efficient landscaping; install windows that open; choose low-energy elevators and laundry machines; and cover rooftops with tiles made from recycled tires. Buildings can win one of four certification tiers, ranging from standard to platinum.

Until now, the hotel industry has resisted change. Today, just four U.S. hotels are certified green, vs. more than 800 U.S. office buildings.

But that's changing, especially as green construction costs fall and expertise and material quality rise, says Tom Hicks of Green Building Council, which has 59 applications for U.S. hotel projects, including 7,500 rooms in MGM Mirage's $7.4 billion CityCenter in Las Vegas, said to be the largest privately financed green building project in the USA.

"You say 'green,' and a lot of them think 'tree hugger,'" Trujillo says. "You say 'energy-efficient building,' and they're very interested."

California and New York have the most green hotel projects underway, with 14 and 10, respectively.

Marriott and Hilton each run one green-certified hotel; Marriott hopes to have six more in three years. Marriott is rewriting construction and design guidelines for its Springhill Suites and Courtyard brands. Hilton is doing the same for brands including Hilton, Doubletree and Embassy Suites.

Interest is so keen that Marriott project manager Karim Khalifa says he gets calls daily from owners asking what it takes to get certified.

Last week, Wyndham took its first step toward encouraging green building by launching a spa addition that can be built at its hotels to meet green standards.

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This page contains a single entry by published on July 23, 2007 9:24 AM.

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