News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Wen-I Chang, “GREEN” hotel developer, December 2006
-- John Muir
Years ago, I was celebrating my birthday at a Santa Cruz seafood restaurant with my family. On the table there was no glass of water. The waitress said I had to ask for it due to water a shortage in that coastal city, which upset me. On the way back home on that winding Highway 17, I started to think: “If I have to ask for a cup of water, then what else could I have done in many other ways? The message of water conservation created a butterfly effect. That night I took a two-minute shower, rather then an eight-minute one that I am used to. I was starting to become more aware of the earth’s condition:
“With every living systems on the earth in decline, can we create profitable, expandable companies that do not destroy, directly or indirectly, the world around them?.... Business is not just a reasonable agent for such change: it is the only mechanism powerful enough to reverse global environmental and social degradation.”This statement is so in sync with my new age thinking. With encouragement from other entities, I decided to devote the rest of my life to the consciousness transformation of mankind, one traveler at a time and ultimately to change the world.
We have a nine-acre vacant lot in Half Moon Bay, CA., which I intended to develop as the nation’s first green hotel seven years ago (1999). The city made us to do all the studies, an EIR and all other reports and spend over $600,000 dollars in fees and spend more than two years. The local residents’ message was that we were just giving them lip service, i.e.: my green hotel development was not for real.
I shifted the base to the Napa Valley, where people advocate the union with nature. That idea fit the practice and idea of one minimalist architect, Mickey Muennig, in Big Sur, CA. He was a student of both Bruce Goff and Frank Lloyd Wright. Mickey is the architect of Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, CA, a famous and #1 hideaway resort in the US for 4 consecutive years. After knowing my preference on these artists, he designed my Half Moon Bay Hotel Project, a waving glass roof line to represent Debussy’s La Mer and also a Monet’s water lily garden - eye-opening ideas emerging from our two-hour first lunch meeting. That was the first time in my development life that I had been in contact with an architect that took sustainability seriously while enhancing the architectural beauty. I started to know what Goethe meant by “Architecture is the frozen music.” It is totally away from the conformity of the prototype of those offered by Holiday Inn, Choice Hotel, Marriot Courtyard, Hilton Garden Inn… and so on.
Even though his design on my project has not gone to the final approval,
Mickey’s sense of beauty and conservation has made a big impact on my future
thinking in preparing a hotel development. We have become good friends.
In American Canyon, Napa Valley, we found a 4.6-acre vacant lot.
The city, the partners and all the consultants loved Mickey’s waving roofline
that flowed with the mountain’s terrain and swan lake that took the gray
water through filtering. The addition of a new architect, Todd Jersey,
enabled us to cut some expensive elements and made it possible for the
Gaia Napa Valley Hotel Project to become a reality and still maintain the
spirit of Mickey Muennig.
Charrette is a design process based on the whole system thinking. The meeting usually includes the consultants from different fields, the city staff and the concerned residents. This democratic process also serves as the function of brainstorming that will end up with an integrated design unlike the traditional approach. We were agonized by some of the consultant’s many trial and errors at the expense of the developer. Mankind had drifted away from our true nature too long and too far.
As I have three green hotel projects pursuing the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) (3 out of 11 pursuing for LEED in USA as of by April 2006), I am becoming smarter in selecting the right firm, one that is both conscientious and knowledgeable in green practices. I have to mention one person who had no knowledge of green interior design before taking my project. Three months after she started, she had learned everything about green interior materials, which includes 100%, recycled floor tile, low VOC paint, carpet and draperies, etc. Her name is Shirley Lippman.
She acts with enthusiasm and passion as if she had a childish heart.
The muralist Yuan
Lee, who was singled out commissioned by the U.N.’s near extinction
animal program, brought the finishing touch of our green concept by placing
a very beautiful wet land scene in front and a special vineyard scene on
the side with non-linearity of nature in mind – spring/morning; summer/noon;
autumn/dusk; and winter/night in sequence – “the night kisses the fading
day and whispers in her ear. I’m death, your mother and I’m to give you
fresh birth” (Tagore). “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
(Shelley) – In fact, the city originally objected the idea of a vineyard
even with Seurat’s pointillistic skill. They thought it was just another
vineyard painting in a Napa Valley restaurant or even on a restroom wall
until I explained with non-linearity. We are also very pleased to
have found a general manager, James Soule, who is so in sync with our ideas
and goals that he even runs his Mercedes on used vegetable oil.
Wen-I Chang, Founder & President, Atman Hospitality Group, Inc.
An entrepreneur and a rebel with a societal mission, Wen I. is passionately committed to transforming the public awareness of ecology into the design and operations of a portfolio of green hotels. Like a seagull, “in fond of storms and dreaming of flying over the sea” Wen I. is launching an innovative hotel system that will revolutionize current industry practices. Even though he has successfully developed hotels under Holiday Inn and Hilton brands, Wen-I wants to make a difference. Following his latest publications of Hotel Investment & Development and Global Brain Awaken, Wen-I knows he can combine the virtues of green with the green of money to promote this noble cause. Wen Chang is pursuing a new book “First Green Hotel – A Journey”.
|Also See:||Owner Wen-I Chang On a Societal Mission Developing an Environmentally Sustainable Hotel, the 133 room Gaia Napa Valley / October 2006|
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