Posted 5/7/2011 - 8:42:48 AM
As the population booms, global society is placing a growing demand on environmental resources and related materials. The hotel industry around the world has come a long way in adopting environmentally-sound practices like recycling, energy and water conservation.
An emerging practice among hotel developers, architects, hotel companies and consumers is LEED certification. Developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED—as defined by the USGBC—is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across the following environmentally-friendly metrics: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.
Marriott was the first in the hospitality industry to launch a green hotel prototype that has been pre-certified by USGBC as part of its LEED Volume Program, meaning that any developer that chooses to follow these plans will earn basic LEED certification, or possibly higher, upon USGBC final approval. The company is also the first in the hospitality industry to have three brands approved to receive the LEED Volume Program pre-certification. In 2010, Marriott was approved for the Courtyard brand and, so far this year, the company has been approved for the TownePlace Suites and Residence Inn brands. Both the Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Suites brands will be approved for the Volume Program by the end of 2011, helping Marriott reach its goal to certify 300 hotels through the LEED certification system by 2015. We have nearly 85 hotels across all brands that are LEED-certified or registered by the USGBC.
In fact, North America’s first LEED-certified hotel and conference center flies the Marriott flag—The Marriott Inn and Conference Center University of Maryland University College in Hyattsville.
We encourage partners to join us on the mission to create LEED hotels. We have used the Volume Build Program to make it easy and affordable. For example, our Courtyard hotel owners who build through the LEED Volume Program save about $100,000 in soft costs and six months of design time. The operational savings in energy and water consumption of 25 percent sets the break-even point, including all construction costs, at five to six years. Factoring in government incentives can reduce that time frame to one year. The bottom line is that Courtyard owners and operators realize the benefits of building green up front, plus they earn an operational return on investment for the rest of the building’s life. And, according to the USGBC, LEED-certified buildings typically save 35 percent in carbon emissions, 40 percent in water emissions and 70 percent in solid waste. Re-sale values for LEED-certified buildings are often higher than comparable buildings that are not LEED-certified.
To earn LEED certification, a building is awarded points for satisfying certain green requirements in six categories—Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design. Additionally, points are also awarded for addressing regional environmental concerns. The total number of points the building has earned then categorizes it as one of the following four levels—Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
For us, the USGBC’s LEED Volume Program was a good fit because we develop hundreds of new construction projects each year and we wanted to help ease the LEED certification process for our owners and save them money.
In addition to our LEED efforts, Marriott is engaging our top suppliers to provide more sustainable products for our guests, from key cards to carpeting and Eco-Smart pillows. This reduces our direct environmental impact and offers our guests and associates a more eco-sensitive experience.
Our greening efforts have also reached our global headquarters building. After a three-year effort to become more sustainable, Marriott’s 30-year-old headquarters building in Bethesda, MD secured LEED Existing Building Gold status in 2010. Practices implemented at headquarters include increasing the recycling rate to 74 percent and diverting all waste from a landfill to a waste-to-energy plant; switching from evening to daytime office cleaning; and providing car-sharing for employees through a partnership with Connect by Hertz.
We live in a world where concerns about the environment and about sustainable development are a necessary and growing consideration for everyone. Our natural resources are becoming more and more constrained. That’s why we’ve made some investments in projects like fresh water access in Asia and preserving the rainforest, which plays a critical role in containing carbon. Sustainability is an important part of Marriott’s global expansion and our commitment to grow responsibly. The LEED Volume Program plays a vital role in that.
Karim Khalifa is the senior vice president, Architecture & Construction, Marriott International.