Hotel Design Cycles

By Tammy S. Miller President, Alternate Resources | November 01, 2015

Design is only good if it works. Hospitality designers are charged with plenty to think about at the onset of a new project. Most importantly, what will make the space work for the clientele and bring people back. People have many diverse needs and desires when travelling but each property has to find their niche and maximize the return on their investments. Luckily, at this time, hotel redesign is being mandated everywhere. PIPs that have been on hold during the recently weak economic times are shaking loose now, and hotel designers are being called to task. The difference between a good hotel room and a great hotel room is design. A well thought out interior can enhance the travel experience, but remember this newly renovated space has to last up to twelve years.

Anyone who works in an office environment today knows that the buzz words are collaboration, flexibility, casual communication, pods, open plan workspaces, pop up meeting spaces, and wireless everything. Even conservative banks are moving to open plan spaces for their employees, including many senior executives. These ideas and trends need to be incorporated into the hospitality industry and carry the design into the future, offering each locale something to make it unique and stand apart from its' competitors. Designs today have to be created with a look towards the future and what the hotel landscape will look like in 2025.

Hotels are renovated on a long term cycle, they have to be….it's expensive to renovate. My experience has been seven years for soft goods and ten to twelve years for case goods, but I have heard longer cycles as well. Every good design will be outdated in twelve years, forcing designers to manage between trendy and classic at the onset. Let's think about how far the television has come in twelve years! Almost every single hotel room had large armoires across from the bed housing a very large box TV and now the flat screen keeps getting flatter. Almost no one uses the telephone on the nightstand anymore, except maybe to call the front desk or the concierge. Who wants to be tied to watching someone else's content when you can plug in your computer, or many other devices, and play the things you want to watch. People don't want to be forced to work at a desk anymore, but rather many choose to sit comfortably with their cell phone, tablet or laptop and do their work. The world keeps changing around us, and good design needs to be flexible.

I think you can begin to see how complicated the role of a good hotel designer is, because design is only good if it works. A good designer has to be part mind reader, part innovator, part creator and part futurist. It is our job to lead our clients in the right direction and help them to see the importance of flexibility. Good ideas have to start and end with a long term understanding and look towards what guests want now and what they will want in seven to ten years when the new cycle comes up. Clients are spending a tremendous amount of money, and mistakes are very costly. Designers and purchasing agents have to rise to the occasion and make sure renovation dollars are well spent.

What good hotel design means has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Let's start with the lobby and the public spaces. It used to be that people checked in at the reception desk and moved along to their room. Now the lobby has to meet many needs. It has to be flexible from day to night, it has to have social spaces to meet up with your group and have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Lobby spaces have to have some drama, some intrigue, something local or unique and memorable. The front desk has to be more interactive, moving more towards people using their own smart phones to check themselves in and download their guestroom key. Guests in your lobby want to be connected and be able to take a phone call, check their emails or simply check in somewhere. They want to be able to charge their devices if need be and not have to search the space for the one outlet. The public space has to be colorful, have interesting lighting, attractive decor and provide an ambiance or a vibe.

When a guest checks into their room, they like a little intrigue, a little something that might be unexpected. Interesting "spa" like bathrooms are being introduced where there is an attractive tile and a nice size shower with a rain head or body sprays. Lighting has to be good in the bathroom where you can put on make-up or achieve a close shave without shadowing. Towels can be upgraded to feel more luxurious and colors can play a role in a more Zen like feeling. The feeling of luxury should be achieved even if the budget is limited.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.