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Great Green Renovations That Raise Rates

Sustainability is quickly becoming the de facto way of design. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s proof.

Thursday, December 20, 2012
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Smart design and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

These days, designers are finding ways to combine the best of both worlds: Increasing consumer satisfaction while lowering operational costs through smart sustainable practices. And the best part is; doing right by Mother Nature doesn’t have to be excessively expensive even if the property already exists.

“There is change going regarding sustainability in our industry. In 1999 the idea of sustainability was it was expensive and difficult and may not stick around. Now we are very much in the phase of doing what we did but causing less damage while doing it,” said Craig Palacios, architect and sustainable consultant and an adjunct professor at the University of Las Vegas. “There is evidence that LEED is accomplishable and to a certain extent will become the jumping off point rather than something unattainable.”

Take Glen Oaks Big Sur, for example. The property is a mid-20th century motor lodge that was yearning for redevelopment. Somewhat ramshackle and downtrodden, the property was getting just $75 per night per room in a market where two super luxurious hotels – Ventana Inn and Post Ranch Inn- were achieving rates of $800 to $1,000.

Of course designer Steve Justrich, principal of Justrich design knew the hotel couldn’t compete head to head with a property that had relatively outdated infrastructure, but he knew he could get rates significantly up with a smart, eco-minded investment.

“The natural ethos of Big Sur has always been green, so this was something expected in this market,” said Justrich. “I had to think about being a developer and marketer and became obsessed with Trip Advisor to see how we were doing, especially compared to others in the region.”

It led Justrich to get creative in order to completely change the property from eco-weak to eco-chic.

According to Justrich the property was made of a series of small building, each of which contained two pairs of rooms measuring 12 x14 and 12 x 18. First task was to make the rooms more attractive and intimate.

First task was creating private yards for more indoor-outdoor living. They moved king room entry doors to create added privacy, added a fireplace which was also a heatilater, a lower cost and attractive way to heat rooms. They also enclosed porches to increase privacy and added planters and fire pits.

Instead of box springs, beds were placed on recycled pergola wood platforms. Rooms also contained throw rugs made from recycled materials, and new floors were crafted from bamboo. Curtains were also 100 percent recycled polyester and sofa coverings were made from tent canvass.

He even went so far as to create art made from used rope bought at a local hardware store.

In the end, the hotel’s renovation cost between $15,000 to $20,000 per key and they hotel pumped up rates from $75 per room to $225 room, a threefold increase.

Per room cost 15-20k per room.

In Albuquerque, NM, Darin Sand, Director of Sustainability with Hotel Andaluz shared how his company transformed a 1939 building – the original Albuquerque Hilton – into a luxury boutique hotel that has achieved LEED Gold certification.

After operating under various names and being closed for many years the hotel was purchased by Goodman Realty Group in 2005 and a four year $30 million project commenced to change the outdated infrastructure into a sustainability showpiece.

The hotel tried to reuse as much material as possible, creating recycled touches as vanities in the public bathrooms were made from 1980s era ceiling remnants that were originally in meeting rooms. The hotel also had hundreds of 350lb cast iron tubs that needed to be discarded. Fortunately, they worked with a local college that coincidently had a fine arts program that required a lot of cast iron for a once a year intensive sculpting workshop. Oh yeah, the school also had a trucking school so students drove on by as part of their lessons and grabbed the material.

Hotel Andaluz also built a rainwater capture system that collected rain water from the roof and sent it to three 2,500 gallon storage tanks where the water is used for landscaping and irrigation.

They also added dual flush toilets, installed low flow shower heads that mix water with oxygen for the sensation of increased water pressure and installed all new lighting that saves about 24,097 KwH a month. They also added an energy management system or rooms and placed solar panels on the roof.

“We are saving millions and millions of gallons a year, but we are also saving on the energy it takes to pump water and treat it after it leaves the hotel,” Sand said.

The project was done at a cost of $280,000 per key, which reflects a higher price due to following many regulations they had to follow because the hotel was a historic structure.

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