For many, LEED is the gold standard to going green. But the truth is you can have an incredibly forward thinking and sustainable property without having to drop the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to follow the required stringent requirements and avoid filling out the costly requisite paperwork. It’s not a swipe at the U.S. Green Building Council’s system, which has done much to highlight the important of infrastructure sustainability, but it’s not critical to doing the right thing. Or your hotel’s bottom line.
That’s at least what the owners of the Hutton Hotel in Nashville believe. The property, which opened earlier this year, is one of the most sustainable focused properties we’ve ever seen here at Hotel Interactive. But it doesn’t have LEED certification, and it may – or may not – seek to achieve that status sometime next year.
“As we evolved and worked on our drawings we looked into LEED, but the architect and general contractor hadn’t done it before and they kind of scared us away,” said Steve Eckley, Senior Vice President of Hotels with Amerimar Enterprises, the company that developed the Hutton Hotel project. “Doing the government documents alone cost $50,000. Also, the paperwork is so complicated you have to hire an expert to do it. They make the certification a little onerous so everyone won’t pile on. You also need engineers that do testing. It’s a whole process.”
Either way, it’s a case that shows good sense trumps any specific designation a property can get. More important Amerimar has created a showplace elucidating everything the lodging business has been talking about when it comes to sustainability – the need to create a forward thinking way of doing business that doesn’t affect guest experience. In fact with the exception of a couple of small elements, such as dual flush toilets and a key card readers that disable lights when guests exit the room, visitors would never have a clue they were in a hotel that was hyper focused on sustainability.
“I think we just hit it right on the mark. This is a unique property but not so out of the box people are uncomfortable. It caters to all different levels of taste while also appealing to those concerned about sustainability. We hit the sweet spot and that is what I am most proud of,” said Eckley.
The very upscale and modern 248-room property has become of the coolest spots to hang out in Nashville’s West End and many are unaware of its sustainable focus that surrounds them. Such as the reclaimed wood tables in their restaurant, the 1808 Grill, or that there are LED light fixtures in nearly every socket in the building.
Other sustainable focused elements include:
- Bamboo flooring and furnishings in the lobby, elevator landings and fitness center
- Custom designed bamboo furniture in the beautifully appointed guest rooms and the lobby
- LED or fluorescent lighting throughout the Hotel building
- Recycling program for glass, paper and plastics
- Laundry water recycling that conserves water, heat and chemicals
- Reclaimed wood furnishings in 1808 Grille, our signature restaurant
- Biodegradable cleaning products
- Bronze exterior glass - the highest rated for thermal insulation
- Eco-friendly hybrid courtesy vehicle
- A state-of-the-art mechanical energy recovery wheel system preconditions air before heating/cooling for maximum efficiency
- Highly efficient mechanical systems in the public areas and offices
The building, which was built from the bones of a former office building – even that is sustainable! – cost about a million more in incremental costs on the $50 million project, but Eckley said it’s “totally worth it.”
“The whole process fed off of itself and we realized we could do more than we originally envisioned. So we challenged everyone to find ways to make the property sustainable,” said Eckley.
But the big question is how the hotel’s sustainable focus will affect the bottom line. Will people pay more, will it attract more groups and transient travelers, or is doing the right thing the only reward Amerimar will get?
Eckley said people won’t pay more, but it’s becoming more critical to groups booking business in town and it will help. When the hotel business does rebound he feels there will be an opportunity to get some premium in the pricing, however. And the hotel has booked business specifically because of the property’s commitment to sustainability.
“If you look at several major corporations there are pages of questions regarding sustainability on their RFPs. We can fill those pages out. It keeps us from being taken out on the first cut. We will always be a finalist. But it comes down to the product, service and price. And we can win on those merits,” said Eckley.