Hotel sustainability continues to pick up steam

Hotels know that guests are attracted to good causes such as environmental awareness, and the economics behind sustainability are strong enough to show a return on investment into cleaner technology. Because it is now making sense to hotels and operators, the industry is seeing the most sustainable hotels in history begin to open.

In a release today, Hilton Hotels & Resorts announced it was the first hospitality company to achieve the Superior Energy Performance certification from the U.S. Department of Energy for its sustainable practices in three hotels: the Washington Hilton, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort and Hilton Union Square San Francisco. These are the first commercial buildings to achieve the SEP certification, which adds third-party-verified energy-performance requirements to the requirements already found under Hilton's ISO 50001 Energy Management certification, which it rolled out across its entire portfolio in 2014.

Energy, next to water, represents on the largest cost associated with hotel operations. While switching to sustainable business practices and installing eco-friendly technology in hotels attracts more guests and even saves money in the long run, the adoption of these concepts had a slow start. According to Building Design + Construction, only four hotels in the U.S. have earned LEED Platinum certification. The first hotel to receive it was The Proximity in Greensboro, N.C., and only the Bardessono in Yountville, Calif.; the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Maryland; and the Hotel Skyler in Syracuse, N.Y., have earned the designation (the College Park Marriott earned LEED Platinum this August).

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Though returns eventually come to these hotels, it cost Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels an additional investment of as much as $2 million to bring the Proximity to Platinum status. As a result, however, the hotel saves at least $140,000 a year in utility costs.

These numbers have not been ignored. Last week, the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas announced an expansion to its convention center that would maintain LEED Gold status. The $154-million project will add 200,000 square feet of meeting space, and the property is adamant about it remaining consistent with the rest of the property.

These examples are great news for the industry, because as Hotel Management earlier reported travelers are keeping pace with hotel sustainability programs. Today's guests are eager to participate, and 2016 could be another great year of environmental, as well as economic, savings.

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