Making Sense of Green Certifications
in Lodging Facilities
By: Eric B. Hansen, AIA, ISHC, September, 2010
The number of green lodging certification programs in the hospitality
industry has increased dramatically since the mid 1990s. The industry is
populated with global programs, national programs, state programs, and
yes, even some city and regional programs.
These certification programs, while aimed at the same objective, good
sustainability practice, are all vying for the same lodging facility’s
attention. There are a wide variety of choices when selecting a green certification
program. In a recent article in Green
Lodging News, publisher Glenn Hasek gave advice to yet another entrant
into the green certification arena. His advice: “you better hurry up: [the
competition is] really starting to pull away in the race to gain the attention
of owners and operators here in the United States”. Glenn’s comments prompted
What does the green lodging certification arena look like these
What types of recommendations do we make to our clients?
In today’s green environment it is important to address the various types
and purposes of the certification programs available, and assess key attributes
about each program.
WHAT ASPECTS OF MY FACILITY CAN BE GREEN CERTIFIED?
The types of green certifications available are as varied as the types
of lodging products available. Hotel & Leisure Advisors identifies
four primary areas that are the focus of green certification programs.
These broad categories consist of certifications for the overall building
structure, the building fixtures themselves, building operations, and overall
Overall building certifications ensure the structure has been constructed
in accordance with strict guidelines relating to building materials, products,
energy efficiency, interior environment quality, conservation, and basic
sustainable practices. Of the choices in certification, the USGB LEED Certification
is the most prevalent. New construction developments considering going
green, typically look at achieving this type of certification.
Lodging facilities can have a certification based upon the installation
and use of permanent eco-friendly fixtures such as low flow toilets, low
flow shower heads, and energy efficient lighting fixtures. The individual
fixtures have labels such as Green Seal or EPA Energy Star. This type of
certification is prevalent in existing structures that make the choice
to go green.
Certifications are available for properties that exercise sustainability
practices throughout their day to day facility operations. Programs such
as linen and towel re-use, non-occupied guest room energy monitoring, and
water conservation in landscape maintenance fall under these sustainable
practices. All green certification programs require some type of sustainable
efforts in the operation of a lodging facility.
TYPES OF GREEN CERTIFICATIONS
The fourth area of certification identifies how the lodging entity manages
their business in relation to their community and their environment. Falling
under this category is the decision of management to purchase supplies
such as guest toiletries, and paper and cleaning products from eco-friendly
suppliers. In addition, how management participates in education and promotion
of sustainable practice is also recognized as having the potential for
certification. Green Globe Certification and The Green Key certification
have a focus in rewarding these types of management practices.
In our studies for hotels, we recommend the development try to obtain
and participate in a green lodging certification program. The evolution
of sustainable property characteristics has taken root in the hospitality
industry as the benefits are becoming more pronounced. We recommend developers
analyze the appropriate certification program for their particular project,
and weigh the benefits against the costs as a common sense approach. General
benefits of participating in a green program include reduced energy consumption
(equating to reduced operating costs) while providing positive eco-friendly
publicity, as well as promoting good resource stewardship.
While not an all-inclusive list, the more prominent green lodging certifications
USGBC LEED® certification: (www.usbgc.org/leed) The Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally
accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high
performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the
tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’
performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability
by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental
health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency,
materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. There are four levels
of certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. LEED Version 3
was launched in 2009.
The Green Key®: (www.green-key.org) The Green Key is an international
eco-label for leisure organizations including hotels, conference centers,
youth hostels, and campsites. The Green Key pursues four goals: environmental
education, environmental preservation, economical management, and marketing
strategy. Carlson Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, and Accor North America are participants
in this program. The state of Indiana has also chosen this program to meet
their green initiatives.
EPA’s Energy Star label: (www.energystar.gov) Once a product-only oriented
certification program, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star
program can now be applied to an overall building structure. Structures
qualify through meeting strict energy performance standards. Energy Star
labeled properties use less energy, have reduced operating expenses, and
reduced greenhouse gas emissions. To qualify, the property must score in
the top 25% based on EPA’s National Energy Performance Rating System. As
of summer 2010, 423 U.S. lodging properties have achieved the Energy Star
Green Suites® Certified Green Hotel program: (www.greensuites.com)
This program is an environmental marketing program designed to provide
recognition and support for hotels seeking green certification. Main goals
of the program are linen reuse, water efficiency, use of non-toxic cleaning
chemicals, lighting retrofits, and energy management. As a ratings-based
program, the property gets recognized on the level of ‘green-ness’ it achieves.
Certification is offered in a one to five leaf rating.
Green Seal certification: (www.greenseal.org) This tiered certification
is presented to those lodging properties that achieve various levels of
compliance with GS-33, Green Seal Environmental Leadership Standard for
Lodging Properties. Properties qualify through a demonstration of sustainable
practices in waste minimization, energy efficiency, conservation and management,
management of fresh water resources, waste water management, hazardous
substances, and environmentally sensitive purchasing. Properties are awarded
either a bronze, silver or gold level of certification. The city of Los
Angeles through its Green Business Initiative, as well as Chicago through
its Green Hotels Initiative, have both challenged their hotels to obtain
Green Seal certifications.
Audubon Green Leaf™ Eco-Rating Program: (www.greenleaf.auduboninternational.org)
This is a tiered certification program where the property can achieve anywhere
from one to five ‘Green Leafs’. The extent of environmental measures taken
by the property is evaluated according to the commitment of water quality,
water conservation, waste minimization, resource conservation, and energy
efficiency. The State of New York has chosen this program to meet state-wide
hospitality ‘greening’ goals.
EcoRooms® & EcoSuites™: (www.ecorooms.com) Certified properties
in these programs follow stringent eco-criteria including the use of Green
Seal certified cleaning and paper products, small bathroom amenity sizes,
towel and linen reuse program, recyclable waste program, energy efficient
lighting, high efficiency plumbing, and 100% smoke-free properties. The
properties that achieve this certification are listed on the EcoRooms website
as a tool for travelers who want a ‘greener hotel search’. Currently, 16
properties from 12 states in the U.S. are certified under this program.
This program has been recently recognized by the American Hotel and Lodging
Association and the American Automobile Association.
Green Globe Certification: (www.greenglobecertification.com) This program
is a certification label for sustainability in both management and operations.
Certification criteria cover several areas. These areas include sustainable
management and social economic, cultural heritage, and environmental aspects
of sustainability. The Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia is the
first hotel in the U.S. to achieve a Green Globe Certification.
The number of certification programs is continually growing, and the most
successful programs will be the ones whose brand currency provides true
value to the property through quantifiable results. Expedia has also entered
the green certification arena. In addition, many states offer their own
versions of green certifications, based upon the individual state’s green
policies. In 2006, there were a total of seven states that had some form
of green certification. In 2010, this number has grown to 29 states, a
four-fold increase in just four years.
According to the USGBC® Green Venue Selection Guide, green buildings
use 26% less energy, they emit 33% less carbon dioxide, they use 30% less
indoor water, and they send 50% to 75% less solid waste to landfills and
incinerators. While the results of going green vary dramatically with the
level of chosen engagement in sustainability, the benefits of being green
are quantifiable. Whatever certification program is chosen for a particular
lodging facility, the fact is that participation in a program provides
a positive impact for not only the property, but it reflects well on the
hospitality industry as a whole.
Eric B. Hansen, AIA, ISHC is the Director of Development Services for
Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a national hospitality consulting firm. Mr.
Hansen is active in performing appraisals, market feasibility studies,
property condition assessments, and impact studies for hotels, resorts,
waterparks, golf courses, conference centers, and other leisure properties.
He was formally employed by Cole + Russell Architects, Inc. in Cincinnati.
Mr. Hansen received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of
Cincinnati in 1989. He became a licensed architect in 1992 and was invited
to membership in the International Society of Hospitality Consultants in
2002. He received a certification in Financial Management of Hotels from
Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Executive Education
program, in 2007.
Mr. Hansen offers over 16 years of experience in the hospitality industry
and has been the responsible architect on over 65 hotels and conference
centers of various brands, including full-service, extended-stay, select-service
and economy chain scales. Mr. Hansen has worked with various major hotel
company corporate offices and has extensive knowledge of brand criteria.
As a hospitality consultant with a foundation in consulting, architecture,
financial management, and appraisal theory, Mr. Hansen brings well rounded
expertise to various H&LA assignments and assists H&LA clients
with their pre-development, consulting, and valuation needs.