LEED Design: You Can't Afford Not to Do It

By Timothy E. Osiecki President of Design & Construction, Concord Hospitality Enterprises | May 19, 2013

LEED certification. For some in our industry, the mere mention causes a reflexive reach for wallets amidst protestations about ROI and guests who don't care, don't understand and won't pay for it.

In 2008, we at Concord Hospitality Enterprises had many of those same concerns about incremental costs and value to consumers when we embarked on our first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) project, the Settler's Ridge Courtyard by Marriott in Pittsburgh, Pa., And indeed, it did cost over $500,000 more to build, but the annual savings exceeded our expectations so we persevered in figuring out how to minimize cost to maximize our returns and make sustainability as much a part of our company's culture as any of our cornerstones.

Since that first hotel, we've made it our mandate to figure out how to make LEED designed hotels affordable. Working in tandem with Marriott, our Settlers Ridge Courtyard provided the design template that assisted Marriott to develop a LEED prototype to take much of the cost and pain out of LEED design for others. Now there is the option to use Marriott's Volume Build prototypes so developers can attain LEED certification for less than $350,000 over non-LEED certified prototypes.

Since 2008, we have committed that all Concord new builds we develop will be LEED designed. We've put our money where our mouth is and have invested $2 million to date and have another 18 hotels in our pipeline either under construction or in design.

But why bother? Why spend more? Does LEED certification mean anything to customers?

At Concord, we asked those questions, and here's what we found out:

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There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.