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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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.