Hilton Aims to Become First LEED-Rated Hotel
Of the hundreds of building projects that have earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s coveted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating since the program’s inception in 2000, not one has been a hotel. But the new Hilton Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington might soon change that. The 226-room facility, which opened in June, contains an impressive raft of sustainable-design elements that the hotel’s owners are hoping will earn the property a LEED certification later this year.
Designed by the Portland, Oregon firm of Fletcher Farr Ayotte, the Hilton Vancouver is 30% more energy-efficient than city code requires. Green measures include CO2 sensors that adjust the temperature in vacant meeting rooms and hallways, a heat-reflecting roof, painting and carpet made from low-emitting materials, a construction recycling rate of 75 percent, water-efficient landscaping, and operable windows.
Furthermore, the hotel’s exterior is pedestrian-oriented, with parking underground. From the third floor up, the building is set back from its base, reducing its shading on the city park located across the street. Plus storm water from the building is diverted from sewers and into underground dry wells, providing a natural filtering mechanism for pollutants.
It’s estimated that, through energy savings, the hotel will recoup the green features’ extra cost in as little as six to eight months.
While the Hilton Vancouver may not be as far-reaching as certain other LEED-rated projects, the fact that it not only is in the running for a LEED-certification, but also was built and is occupied by a major corporation like Hilton, are major accomplishments. It’s just the sort of market transformation that green-building enthusiasts point to as a key to the movement.
“I can’t tell you that a revelation has happened [because of this project], and that everything we do in the future will have that in mind,” says Brad Hutton, who serves as Hilton’s regional president. “But it has certainly caught the attention of senior management. I’m sure that Hilton, as it looks at future projects…will want to take a good look at [green building] because of this.”
Hutton’s mention of joint ventures is crucial. Surprisingly, many hotel buildings are owned by parties other than the ultimate occupant. The City of Vancouver, for example, owns the Hilton Vancouver site. So while sustainable measures may be attractive to the hotels themselves because of reduced operating costs, the incentive to build green may not always be there for the owner or developer.
Nevertheless, Hutton believes hotels will increasingly embrace sustainable measures simply because it’s what customers want. “There’s a universe of potential business out there from people looking to patronize a greener facility,” he says. “When the notion of going for that in Vancouver came up, it was up to Hilton to decide if we could draw more business to that hotel. The answer was absolutely ‘yes.’”