Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LEED Buildings Not Always More Efficient

Research conducted by several researchers from the National Research Council Canada—Institute for Research in Construction, Ottawa, Canada, reveals some interesting information about the energy performance of LEED buildings. The researchers conducted a re-analysis of data supplied by the New Buildings Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council. The energy use data was from 100 LEED certified commercial and institutional buildings. The data was compared to the energy use of the general U.S. commercial building stock. The researchers also examined energy use by LEED certification level, and by energy-related credits achieved in the certification process.

On average, LEED buildings used 18 to 39 percent less energy per floor area than their conventional counterparts. However, 28 to 35 percent of LEED buildings used more energy than their conventional counterparts. Further, the measured energy performance of LEED buildings had little correlation with certification level of the building, or the number of energy credits achieved by the building at design time.

The researchers concluded that, at a societal level, green buildings can contribute substantial energy savings, but further work needs to be done to define green building rating schemes to ensure more consistent success at the individual building level. While the researchers did not focus on hotels in their work, their findings should ring alarm bells for any architect, owner or developer involved in the construction of LEED-ready hotels. Energy savings are not always a given.

Click here for more information on the research.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

El Dorado Adds Greenhouse to Hotel Grounds

Farm fresh. Local. Organic. These are just some of the buzz words I read or hear a lot in reference to food being offered by food service establishments within the lodging industry. Increasingly, food service staff are growing vegetables and herbs on site. In some cases, it is more than vegetables and herbs. Where space is available outside of the building, gardens are being grown. In some cases, rooftops have been utilized to grow fresh food items.

The El Dorado Royale in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, has added a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse for the purpose of planting 30 types of fruits and vegetables. The hotel intends to offer guests tours of the greenhouse and include them in planting activities and cooking seminars. The first seeds will be planted on June 30 and guests can expect the first harvest on August 15. Cilantro, thyme, onions, tomatoes, honeydew melons, lettuce and squash are some of the fresh produce guests will enjoy.

By growing fruits, vegetables and plants on its own property, El Dorado Royale is saving money while reducing emissions created via the transportation of products from their harvest locations to the resort. The greenhouse is the latest addition to El Dorado’s extensive Passion for the Environment program, which includes solar heated water, tree plantings and major recycling efforts. Congratulations to El Dorado Royale staff for launching the greenhouse initiative.

Are you growing vegetables, fruit or herbs for your guests? If so, what kind of success have you had? Let me know by writing to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Canada Expands LEED to Existing Buildings

If you visit the Canada Green Building Council website, you will discover a list of all of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects throughout Canada. Of the more than 1,200 projects, many include hotels. For example, there are currently Element and aloft hotels under way in Toronto that have registered for LEED certification. Those hotel projects that are listed at the Canada Green Building Council site are only new construction. That may soon change.

On June 10, At the second annual National Green Building Summit, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) announced details of the LEED Canada for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance 2009 (LEED Canada EB:O&M) program. Available later this summer, this new rating system will provide ongoing certification on the performance, operations and maintenance of commercial, government and institutional buildings that have either never been LEED certified or that have been certified under other LEED programs such as LEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations.

“Examining actual performance and not design expectations, LEED Canada EB:O&M 2009 recognizes the ongoing efforts of building owners and managers to continually improve the performance of their buildings,” said Thomas Mueller, president and CEO of the CaGBC. “It also provides those operators with the opportunity to demonstrate to their tenants, occupants and the wider community their ongoing commitment to green buildings.”

The new rating system considers the building as a whole, accounting for both common and tenanted areas. It looks at building exteriors as well as site maintenance programs, the optimized use of water and energy, the commitment to purchasing environmentally-preferred products and food, waste management and recycling programs and continual indoor environmental air quality.

If you own or operate a hotel in Canada, or even if you do not, be sure to check out the Canada Green Building Council's new program. And, be sure to visit Green Lodging News for future updates on LEED Canada EB:O&M.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let's Not Forget the Importance of a Phone Call

I recently received an e-mail invitation to moderate a panel discussion at a well-known industry event. It is an event I have spoken at before. I e-mailed the person back to say I was not quite ready to make a commitment. Time went by and the person e-mailed me again, this time framing the e-mail as if I had already committed to speaking and asking me to supply the name of the presentation I would be moderating. I e-mailed again to say that I was not quite ready to make a commitment. Time went by and I received another e-mail, this time saying that the deadline had passed and that the person needed to know when she should expect to receive all of the information from me for the presentation. Keep in mind that I still had not committed to attending the event!

What I was really waiting for was a phone call from the person to ask me to moderate the session. I thought I deserved at least that much after helping at the event in years past. I finally called the person and expressed my disappointment at not receiving a call. It was the protocol that I had expected and believe I deserved. I still have not made a final decision about participating.

Am I making too much out of nothing? What do you think? What would you do in this situation? Would you have felt hurt? My point in all of this is that we cannot forget how important a phone call is when dealing with a customer, a potential client, business partner, friend, or anyone for that matter. There are times when e-mail just does not cut it. Has e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging and all of the social networking tools out there gotten us to a point where we have forgotten how to communicate over the phone? I frequently deal with people who respond to my phone calls with e-mail. It bugs me to no end.

For goodness sake, we are in the hospitality business. Let's not forget the importance of a simple phone call. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Florida Green Lodging Program Downsized

Green Lodging News reported back in March that the Florida Green Lodging program faced the possibility of cuts. Well, it has happened. The program run by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is being restructured as of July 1. According to an article in the Orlando Business Journal, funding and staff for the program was slashed from $337,000 and four workers to $63,000 and just one employee. The DEP is trying to sound optimistic about the changes. On its website it describes some of the coming changes to the program as "program improvements."

The highly successful Florida Green Lodging Program has been unique because of its mandatory on-site audit. With the cuts, however, DEP will conduct "selected" facility assessments on a regular basis. Other changes to the program include a streamlined online application process, more hosted webinars to provide technical assistance, additional online marketing and educational tools, and a more robust set of best management practices.

As of June 12, there were 520 properties in Florida designated as Green Lodging properties. In the last two years, participation in the program has increased significantly. Growth was sparked by Governor Charlie Crist’s 2007 Executive Orders and 2008’s House Bill 7135 which requires all state agencies to contract with hotels that have received the Florida Green Lodging Program designation.

I feel for the person who now has to run such a large program alone. It will be a daunting task. You have to wonder if giving government the task of funding and running a green lodging program is really the best business model. What do you think? Be sure to visit Green Lodging News for additional details on the changes to Florida's program.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NEWH's New Sustainability Site Worth Visiting

The Network of the Hospitality Industry (NEWH) recently launched its Sustainable Hospitality website. Be sure to check it out. The site includes a Sustainability Directory that includes products listed by category. The Beds & Bedding category, for example, currently includes five companies. Dig deeper into each company's listing and you will find its Environmental Mission Statement and answers to questions about its efforts in the local community and how it is reducing its overall environmental impact.

The website includes a "Tales from the Envirohood" column, green tips for event planning, events calendar, glossary of sustainability-related terms, links to helpful sites (including our own Green Lodging News), information on NEWH's Sustainable Design competition, chapter news, a page with chapter level sustainability directors and their contact information, a page featuring NEWH Sustainable Hospitality volunteers, and a link to information on the Sustainable Suite Design Competition, for which NEWH is a cosponsor.

I have been fortunate to get to know many of NEWH's members and congratulate them on the launch of this new website. While the site is still a work in progress, it is already a helpful portal for architects, designers, developers and anyone else with a stake in sustainable hospitality.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

China Aims to Build 10,000 Green Hotels

The publication ChinaCSR.com is reporting that China will try to build 10,000 green hotels by 2012. Di Jiankai, the director of the Trade Service Division of China's Ministry of Commerce, disclosed the plan to the Chinese media. Of the 10,000 hotels, 1,000 will be created in 2009, 2,000 in 2010, 3,000 in 2011 and 4,000 in 2012. When compared to their predecessors in China, these green hotels are expected to reduce water consumption by 20 percent, cut electricity consumption by 20 percent, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45,000 tons over four years.

According to ChinaCSR.com, Han Ming, a director of the China Hotel Association, told a recent conference that a national green hotel working commission has been established by the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, The State-owned Assets Supervision, the Administration Commission of the State Council, the National Standards Commission, and the China Hotel Association. Han said that, from now on, five-leaf green hotels will be appraised by a national appraisal department and four-leaf and below hotels will be accredited by provincial level departments.

What the article fails to bring up is the net impact these 10,000 new hotels will have on the environment in China. Ten thousand new buildings are going to require a lot of energy, a lot of water, and they certainly will generate a lot of waste. How many new power plants will have to be built to generate the electricity for these new buildings? How many of those plants will be fueled by dirty coal? Yes, it is great that if hotels are going to be built anyway, they should be efficient, but their overall net impact has got to be considered—especially when one is talking about thousands of buildings. The media has got to ask the tough questions. Understandably, in China that may not be so easy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What to Do With Leftover Soap & Shampoo

What does your property do with its partially used soaps and shampoo bottles? Throw them away? Donate them? Donating soap is not as easy as it sounds. There are certainly sanitary issues to consider. Would you want to use soap that a stranger has used? A new nonprofit organization, Orlando, Fla.-based Clean the World, Inc., has formed to deal with the soap and amenity bottle issue. I strongly recommend that you check them out.

Clean the World is currently working in the central Florida area but it hopes to expand its program throughout the United States. The organization collects used soap, heats it to 240 degrees for an hour, grinds it down into a powder, and then molds it for reuse. The soap and shampoo is being donated to homeless shelters in Florida. Clean the World also intends to donate the items to areas of the world where acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease are a problem. Every year more than 5 million lives are lost to these diseases, with the majority of deaths being children under five years old. Studies have shown that simple hand washing can greatly reduce the spread of these diseases.

While I have run across numerous examples of individual properties donating partially used amenity bottles, Clean the World is the first organization I have heard of that is focused on collecting soap and bottles on a large scale. What they are doing is not only great for the less fortunate, but great for the environment as well. Be sure to support their efforts. Watch for additional details soon at http://www.greenlodgingnews.com/.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The World's Greenest Building?

Even though Independence Station will not include a hotel component per se (although it will have units for daily and weekly rental) when it is completed in 2010, the mixed-use structure is most definitely a project worth checking out. Located in Independence, Ore., Independence Station is on track to become the world's greenest building, according to Aldeia, LLC, the building's developer. The 40 percent complete, 57,000-square-foot structure will house offices, retail space, a restaurant, research facilities, classroom space and 15 residential units. Aldeia is pursuing the world's highest (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) LEED rating ever awarded for new construction.

What makes Independence Station unique? The building will boast a 120-kilowatt installation of photovoltaic panels. During sunny months, the panels will produce more than enough energy to run the building, store extra energy in a large battery bank for nighttime use as well as feed power back into the grid. In cooler, cloudier months, the building will rely more on a biodiesel-fueled cogeneration and thermal storage system, including a retired tug-boat engine affectionately named Mabel, which will serve as a backup and run on waste vegetable oil from local restaurants.

Radiant floor heating and cooling, displacement ventilation, solar water heating, day lighting design, an ice-based cooling storage system, water-based ground source heat pump, and extensive use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are some of the systems that will minimize Independence Station’s “off the grid” energy consumption.

Independence Station is expected to exceed the strict Oregon Energy Code by 74 percent. In fact, Independence Station is expected to operate in a carbon negative manner. Because enough rainwater is stored in the winter to supply 100 percent of the building’s needs for laundry, toilet flushing and irrigation of the both the green roof and planned 40-foot interior vertical “urban garden,” water consumption records are expected to fall as well.

The current LEED record holder, a Canadian project, has a score of 63 out of a possible 69 points. At its completion next year, Independence Station will likely earn between 64 and 66 points, bringing the top score back to the United States.