Sustainable initiatives: Element Lexington, Massachusetts

Element hotel sustainable initiatives

This week Green Hotelier talks to Christopher Hartzell, General Manager of Element Lexington, which is the first property in Starwood's eco-orientated Element hotel chain.

Starwood’s Element Hotels is the first major hotel brand to mandate that all hotels pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Thanks to thoughtful prototype development by Starwood, the first ever Element hotel which was built in Lexington, Massachusetts earned LEED-Gold certification earlier this year.  To achieve LEED Gold status, Element Lexington worked closely with LEED consultants, YRG Sustainability, consulting engineers, Collective Design Associates, Synergy Engineering PLLC and general contractor Tocci Building Company in Woburn, Massachusetts to ensure that it reached its sustainability goals. The property is now considered Starwood’s “Green Innovation Lab” and has become the benchmark for all existing and upcoming Element hotels.  There are six LEED-certified hotels in the portfolio and four actively seeking certification.

Launched in 2008, the Element brand is made up of only new-build hotels designed to be ‘green from the ground up’ and built to green standards that will likely earn LEED certification.

When asked why Starwood chose to go down the sustainable route for it's newest hotel brand, Christopher commends, 'Element is uniquely positioned in the hotel industry and among Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ nine brands to showcase sustainable construction, design and operations. It is designed to incubate new “green” ideas that will inspire all Starwood brands and the general public.'

'We find that staff are inspired at Element and oftentimes will incorporate some of the green features of the hotel into their personal lives like recycling and biking to work.  Regarding clients and customers, many do not choose Element primarily because of its green features but are pleasantly surprised when they learn all about the hotel’s green design and operations.'

Christopher goes onto explain that one of the most exciting sustainable initiatives in the hotel is a new 'Bright Rooms' system, 'whereby an energy management system conserves electricity, cooling and heating by using in-room motion sensors that are virtually invisible to the guest.  It also allows for energy efficient guestroom allocation, factoring in the amount of natural sunlight that each room receives to fill rooms appropriately.  In just one month, the pilot achieved savings in electricity of more than 66,000 kilowatt hours and C02 emissions were reduced by more than 86,000 pounds.  Element is estimated to save $30,000 per year in lighting costs per hotel thanks to this system and it will soon be a brand-standard for all Element hotels.'

And it doesn't stop there, here are some of the key sustainable features of the Element Lexington hotel:

Energy & Carbon

  • Element Lexington saves energy and each year keeps half a million pounds of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere by using energy conservation measures including a high-efficiency heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, Energy-Star appliances in guest rooms and a CFL and LED technology powered environmentally-friendly lighting system throughout the hotel.  The hotel also supports the development of renewable energy technology such as wind power.   For the first two years of operation it purchased renewable energy credits to offset 70% of electricity use and is now committed to offsetting 35% of annual electricity use each year
  • The hotel has enhanced indoor environmental quality by using paints, adhesives and carpeting systems that minimise airborne pollutants.  Element Lexington also partnered with EcoLab to implement Green Housecleaning practices to reduce the use of potentially hazardous chemical contaminants.  It also maximised day-lighting throughout the hotel by designing oversized guest room windows and open interior spaces including a multi-storied window wall in the hotel’s lobby
  • Element Hotels’ prototype achieves 90% daylight thanks to a window-centric design which reduces the energy used to light indoor spaces
  • Roofing materials reflect heat from the sun, minimising demand on air conditioning systems
  • Nine Element hotels offer Google-mapped ChargePoint electric car charging stations that allow guests and drivers in the area to charge their electric vehicles. Guests who drive hybrid vehicles are also benefit from priority parking, an added perk for those who choose to drive low-emission or zero-emission vehicles
  • Low flow, compact, fluorescent light bulbs are used throughout all Element hotels
  • Recycling bins are provided in each room for paper, plastic and glass, promoting recycling by guests
  • Magnets are provided in lieu of paper or plastic door hangers for “Do Not Disturb” signs

Water

  • Element Lexington is saving 942,000 gallons of potable water per year by adopting water conservation practices both inside and outside the hotel. The hotel cut outdoor water consumption in half through water-efficient landscaping and reduced indoor water use by installing high-efficiency water fixtures throughout the property
  • The Element brand has spa-inspired bathrooms with oversized rain shower showerhead, amenity dispensers and dual-flush toilet
  • In-room filtered tap water
  • Low-flow faucets and fixtures

Events

  • We have hosted a number of green events at Element Lexington – everything from guest education seminars with Seventh Generation (the leading US brand of household and personal care products that help protect human health and the environment) and cooking demonstrations in partnership with our local Whole Foods (a chain of natural foods supermarkets) to bike rides and farmers’ markets

Summary

What have been the main benefits of implementing these green initiatives?

The savings we are realising in water, energy and waste, and not to mention money, are the main benefits.

Do you have plans to expand on green initiatives in the future?

At Element Lexington we are always looking into new ways to be eco-friendly.  Element Lexington is actually considered Starwood’s green innovation lab so we’re a pilot hotel for a lot of green initiatives that could be rolled out not only to other Element hotels but also across the entire Starwood portfolio.

What would be your top 3 bits of advice to hotels looking to do the same?

  • Always keep trying and looking at new and different ways to be eco-friendly
  • Balance being green with the guest experience
  • Capture your results

For further information see other Green Hotelier articles featuring Starwood's sustainable initiatives

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