In its 2006 Green Building White Paper, “Green Buildings and the Bottom Line,” Building Design + Construction magazine noted that, with respect to green hotel construction, “it appears that the industry is missing an opportunity.” At least one New York City developer is attempting to step into that void with a 20,000 square foot hotel in Chelsea.
Construction on Greenhouse 26, a 20,000 square foot hotel is scheduled to begin within the next two months at 132 West 26th Street. The developer, Flatiron Real Estate Advisors, expects the property to open sometime in the spring of 2008 and achieve a LEED Gold rating. It will also simultaneously register the project under the LEED for Existing Buildings system (which requires a year’s worth of performance data from a building prior to awarding certification). The nineteen-story hotel will offer twenty-eight rooms and utilize a geothermal heating and cooling system which Flatiron expects will save up to forty percent on operating costs. Said architect Arpad Baksa,
“[t]here is a misconception that a development must be large to be environmentally and economically viable . . . . Green is about working with the space you have and customizing every inch to be efficient. Size only impacts the methods by which you achieve your goal.”
One of the major points that the White Paper makes is the difficulty that the hospitality industry has had in defining a green hotel. Some operators focus on building envelope and energy efficiency while others emphasize the hotel’s operations, including offering hypoallergenic rooms. There are clearly opportunities under either definition for operators to improve their bottom line. For example, the hospitality industry spends $3.7 billion per year on energy; a ten percent reduction would save $370 million, which works out to $83 per room annually. A recent Cornell study found that fifty-eight percent of respondents would be willing to pay a premium for a hypoallergenic room- as high as five to ten percent.
While green has been slower to catch on in the hospitality industry, an increasing number of green hotel projects are underway across the country. Here in New York, where hotel rooms are scarce anyway, it seems likely that a hotel offering a “green experience” (much like a W or other high-end brand as the White Paper speculates) could fetch a substantial premium on top of the high rates that operators are commanding. Greenhouse 26 will be an interesting local case study and one I’ll definitely be following as construction proceeds this summer.
- Work Begins on City’s First Green Boutique Hotel (Globe St.com)