LEED Certification and Other Green Initiatives Can Be Hotel Marketing Coups

By Carl Rizzo Partner, Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, P.A. | March 13, 2011

Co-authored by Adam M. Goldstein, Associate, Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard, P.A.

In the United States, hotels represent more than 5 billion square feet of space, nearly 5 million guest rooms, and close to $4 billion in annual energy use (1). However, as of January 2010, only 40 hospitality properties have achieved so-called LEED ("Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design") certification. While an additional 900 hospitality projects have registered with LEED and are working towards certification, this number pails in comparison to the more than 35,350 commercial LEED registered projects.(2) While LEED certification may not be as popular in the hospitality industry as compared to other industries, in recent years, there has been a growing emphasis by businesses, across all industry segments, consumers and the news media, placed upon the topic of "green initiatives." In fact, many hospitality companies have already instituted green initiatives or green practices. Whether or not a hotel chooses to seek LEED certification or instead make modest environmentally friendly changes, ownership would be wise to market any such green initiatives to the public.

LEED is a voluntary, third-party green building certification program that awards points to buildings for satisfying certain green building criteria. In order to be LEED-certified, a building has to implement a plan to reduce building operating costs, its environmental footprint, and resource consumption such as water and energy use. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council ("USGBC"), a non-profit organization, and is intended to provide building owners and operators a basic framework for identifying and employing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

Under the LEED umbrella, there are several specific certification programs or rating systems, which are specific to different types of projects. These certification programs/rating systems include:

  • new construction;
  • existing buildings;
  • commercial interiors;
  • core and shell;
  • schools;
  • healthcare;
  • homes; and
  • neighborhood development.

LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations and LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance are the programs which have the most applicability to hospitality projects. While the USGBC is exploring a LEED rating system specific to hospitality, to date, none has been developed. LEED for New Construction provides a framework for green design and construction of new developments, whereas, LEED for Existing Buildings provides a roadmap for hotel owners and operators to improve operational efficiency and minimize the environmental impacts from existing hotel operations.

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.