Monday LEEDoff: Unity Village Hotel & Conference Center- Midwest’s First LEED-Certified Hotel

The first LEED-certified hotel in the Midwest is the Unity Village Hotel & Conference Center, located just outside of Kansas City, which recently earned Silver from USGBC.

At least to date, and for a number of different reasons, green hotels have been relatively hard to come by. A spate of announcements about projects here in New York City during 2007 (including 53 West 53rd Street and 330 Hudson Street) continue to help the local cause, but the hospitality industry at large still faces obstacles to going green that are unique to its sector. To that end, successful green hotel projects carry additional significance, and the Unity Village Hotel & Conference Center in Missouri is no exception. Designed by Kansas City-based Gould Evans and built by McCownGordon Construction, the hotel opened back in January and is now the first LEED-certified lodging property in the Midwest, recently copping its official Silver rating from USGBC. The hotel is located fifteen minutes southeast of Kansas City and is just the sixth in the U.S. to earn any level of certification under the LEED system.

Unity Village itself is the home of Unity Worldwide, a non-profit Christian publication organization. The 1,400-acre, Mediterranean-style campus includes two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and the hotel echoes a similar architecture with an 85,000-panel clay tile roof, each of which is rated under Energy Star. Green features at the property include a 350-foot-deep geothermal heating and cooling system, dual-flush toilets and low-flow showers, and low-VOC paints and sealants; the project team also recycled construction debris and installed a graywater system. The entire facility is smoke-free and housekeeping services each of the 49 double-occupancy rooms with green cleaning products.

gbNYC has written previously about the unique needs of the hospitality industry with respect to green certification, and Unity Village seems to recognize that a sustainable hotel must address multiple facets of both construction and operations. Still, as the Wall Street Journal noted earlier this fall, the hospitality industry must continue to devote resources to objectively assess the green claims that are made by its purportedly green product suppliers. The paucity of LEED-certified hotels to date is indicative of a significant sector of the market that continues to struggle in establishing a uniform definition of sustainability. Projects like Unity Village are obviously both helpful and instructive, but the hospitality sector must continue to apply pressure on organizations like USGBC and Green Seal in pursuit of standards that adequately account for the industry.

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