Hotels use green building as a path to improved guest experience
By Rhiannon Jacobsen, Vice President, Strategic Relationships, USGBC
For years the hospitality industry has been innovating and reimagining new ways to provide comfort and enhance wellness for guests. From personalized services to new technologies, the hotel guest experience has been transformed. Now, hoteliers are using green building practices as another avenue to demonstrate that guest comfort and wellness is a top priority.
Traditionally, sustainability in hotels has been used to reduce operating costs and show guests how the hotel itself is doing good by reducing its environmental impact. In the U.S., buildings account for nearly 40% of carbon emissions and the hospitality sector in particular uses a tremendous amount of resources.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely used green building rating system and has been adopted across industries, including hospitality, to support sustainability goals. LEED-certified buildings have 34% lower carbon emissions, consume 25% less energy and 11% less water.
“By improving indoor air quality, better connecting people with nature and providing access to natural light, hotels can positively impact their guests’ health and performance.” — Rhiannon Jacobsen
While green buildings are better for the environment, they also support health and wellbeing. Recent survey research from USGBC showed that LEED buildings are linked to improved productivity, health and wellness. By improving indoor air quality, better connecting people with nature and providing access to natural light, hotels can positively impact their guests’ health and performance. These factors are crucial to consider since people spend nearly 90% of their time indoors.
For the hospitality industry, green building is a powerful tool. A recent study conducted by Dodge Data and Analytics found that occupant health and wellbeing ranked as the second most important business benefit for green buildings in the U.S. This research also revealed that almost half of the total respondents globally expect to build more than 60% of their projects as green buildings by 2021.
This demand for green comes directly from the benefits it provides. Strategies such as increasing access to natural light can improve occupants’ mental health as more light exposure during the day leads to an average of 46 minutes more sleep per night. Biophilic design – using design to better connect people with nature – also helps reduce stress, improve cognitive function and enhance mood and creativity.
In Costa Rica, Olas Verdes Hotel became the country’s first LEED Platinum hotel. The property used LEED as a roadmap for preserving the area’s fragile ecosystem, particularly given recent drought conditions. When considering the footprint of the hotel itself, it was important to preserve the trees around the property, bringing guests closer to the natural environment they came to enjoy. Through their design efforts, the hotel saved over 90% of the existing trees that now contribute to the guest experience.
For Autograph Collection’s Hotel Nia, a LEED Silver hotel serving business travelers in California, it was important to use sustainable design to provide a space of respite and relaxation. According to sustainability consultant Integral Group, the hotel provides access to a series of outdoor spaces, as well as daylighting in over 75% of occupied spaces and views to the outdoors for over 90% of occupants.
With the ability to improve guests’ experience, it’s no surprise that travelers want access to green hotels. According to a survey by Booking.com in 2018, 87% of all travelers said they want to travel sustainably. Hotels and other hospitality destinations that incorporate green building practices not only help improve guest comfort and wellbeing, but also support travelers in their quest to become more sustainable.