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Budget-Conscious Approach

Industry Execs Discuss Ways To Keep Design Costs Down During BITAC® Panel

Friday, July 21, 2017
Dennis Nessler
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Budgets are always a key part of any discussion related to hotel project design and that is certainly the case in 2017 as future profitability for hotels becomes a little less clear moving forward.

With that in mind, a panel discussion entitled “Getting More Bang For Your Design Buck” took center stage at the recent BITAC®: Purchasing & Design East and included designers, purchasing executives and owner/operators.

The panelists were asked to define what value engineering means to them and how they go about keeping the budget on track.

Loretta Thorp, project manager, Jaguar Hospitality, commented, “A lot of times it depends on the client and the designer and how close they work together. Designers have the specifications and they are real adamant about the stone and the finishes and metals they’re looking for. For me to get furniture within a budget we go out and value engineer it and that can mean anything from changing a Caesarstone to an Asian stone; or [changing] a power source; sometimes even changing the finish from a grey veneer to an Asian veneer to bring that cost down to make sure that we’re in the budget,” she said.

Brenda Amsberry, principal, Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, added, “We always look at the budget first thing and come up with things that are going to be in budget. If we are finding that our design is out of budget, we will value engineer. For example, rather than having a true bronze finish [we may go with] a painted bronze finish. So we’re not losing anything on the aesthetic and the durability but we’re going with a different manufacturing process. Something else we also do off the bat is go directly to the sources as much as we can. For example, with fabrics that’s a huge one. There are so many companies out there that have so many multiple layers. So the closer we can get to the mill we can bring 75 dollar fabric down to say 25 dollars, and not sacrifice the look,” she noted.

Meanwhile, the owners and operators stressed the importance of collaboration and how that can impact the budget.

According to Sharron Koch, director of design & construction procurement, JHM Hotels, “I find the closer I work with the design team in the beginning of the project the less value engineering you have to do. If you can get them to design to the budget you have less to complete through value engineering.”

Nick Agostinelli, president and COO, Reliance Hospitality, reinforced the point, “It is important for ownership to really understand what they’re buying and sit down with the suppliers and make sure that you’re buying the right product. You need to understand the product and really get ahead of the construction phase to where you’re working directly with the designers and suppliers. Then putting that budget together is a seamless process and you’re really not trying to stretch or to pull,” he insisted.

One way to help achieve bottom line success is to go with product that stands the test of time and won’t need to be frequently replaced as trends come and go.

“We always like to approach a building almost like you would a home. You wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on red carpet and then design the rest of your home around that. We like to start with classic materials—marbles, woods, metals—that create a nice textural interest in the property and then create the design element that can be easily switched out,” said Amsberry, who made mention of recent trends like reclaimed wood and exposed Edison lights that will eventually go out of style.

Koch expanded on the point. “I find the challenge to be what makes sense operationally as well. Everyone was putting in Edison bulbs, but they were 25 dollars to replace. It just didn’t make any sense in the long run. I like to see designers who are really pushing the envelope and doing trendy, but are also thinking about how is this going to stand up operationally over the next 5 to 10 years?” she said.

Agostinelli, meanwhile, called attention to the change he’s seen with regards to the brands as it relates to design. “We’re finally starting to see something that I’ve been asking for for a long period of time from the flags and that is really opening up and letting the hotels be different. From a competitive standpoint, I think we need to be fresh, new, and competitive. There are a lot of people out there from different brands that are trying to get to the same place and bring in those guests,” he said.

Thorp commented on another design trend. “What I like that I see happening right now is that they’re trying to spend less money in guestrooms and more money in public space where it’s more regionalized. It’s nice to see that they’re starting to bring that into the hotel’s public space,” she concluded.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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