Hotel Online  Special Report



Developer FaulknerUSA Incorporated Latest Advances
in Design and Construction for 800 room HIlton Austin


December 2003 - The master craftsmanship and eclectic creativity synonymous with the progressive culture of the Texas Hill Country is reflected in the new Hilton Austin, located downtown next to the Austin Convention center. The 31-story, 1.2 million square-foot hotel with its indigenous themes, cutting edge construction and state-of-the-art meeting technology began welcoming guests December 27, 2003. 

“This distinctive 21st Century hotel will provide a one-of-a-kind, only-in-Austin, guest experience,” said Andy Slater, area vice president for Hilton Hotels Corporation and hotel general manager. “We wanted to be consistent with what is Texas and Austin, which is being the biggest and the best.”

The hotel is a masterpiece of blended imaginations, expertise and craftsmanship. The mission was to produce an urban high-rise, mixed-use building with a classic timelessness that would carry it through the next 30 years, yet incorporate today’s newest trends as well as the capacity to incorporate those of tomorrow. 

Duncan Miller Design, a Dallas-based interior design and architecture firm that is consistently ranked as a design giant by hospitality publications and interior design magazines, is providing Hilton Austin’s interior design. The firm, which has won multiple design and lighting awards, is widely acclaimed for its expertise in theme development in such high profile, boutique hotels as The Mosaic in Beverly Hills and Dallas’ Hotel ZaZa, including Dragonfly, its celebrity chef restaurant. 

FaulknerUSA, an Austin-based developer and design-build company with extensive hospitality expertise, and a combined $2.2 billion in projects completed or in progress nationwide within the past five years alone, is project developer.

The design of the Hilton Austin is simple, clear and functional, with an impressive appearance yet is casually inviting. Composed of an L-shaped tower on top of an eight-story podium, the mixed-use complex includes the hotel, serviced condominiums and Class A office space that are integrated into the overall exterior of the hotel. Inside, hospitality, residential and office spaces have completely separate entrances, floors and elevator banks to avoid functional crossover. 

The hotel can accommodate many diverse components -- parking, restaurants, hotel lobby, meeting, guestrooms, health club, condominiums and office space that work together like one well-oiled machine that is separated into functional groupings

Developer Uses State of the Art Solutions to Meet Project’s Complex Needs 

Project developer FaulknerUSA incorporated the latest advances in design and construction to meet the project’s unique construction challenges. To construct its multi-level, 800-car underground parking garage, which had a footprint larger than the building itself, the company used a Caterpillar® D-11, a huge bulldozer capable of digging through the site’s five stories (55 feet) of solid rock. 

To meet the exacting Hilton guest comfort standards and ensure adequate soundproofing, FaulknerUSA conducted extensive materials research. Ultimately, the Hilton Austin became the first high-rise structure in the United States to utilize Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) as its exterior system. AAC is a factory produced lightweight pre-cast concrete composed of natural materials mixed with an expanding agent that generates air voids to produce a product that is 80 percent air and 20 percent mass. It has been used all over the world for the past six decades but was introduced in the United States only five years ago. 

Unlike other common Exterior Insulated Finishing Systems (EIFS), which often use Styrofoam® as a base with a plaster top coating, AAC offers superior thermal, fire, sound insulation and is impervious to decay and insects. The product not only assures the soundproofing and temperature consistency needed by hotel guests for a good night’s sleep but, because of its increased insulation values, also reduces the energy consumption needed for heating and cooling. The seven-month process of applying the hotel’s AAC exterior siding panels required FaulknerUSA to engage specialized rigging equipment attached to a giant Piner tower crane. With a hotel full of conventioneers, unlimited hot water for showers at any hour of day or night is a must. To ensure this capability – even at peak times - FaulknerUSA installed an advanced hot water heating system that uses two highly efficient boilers and four steam water heaters. Through use of steam, the system heats water at 46 gallons per minute to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. With four of these water-heating units, the hotel will have the capacity to produce nearly 200 gallons per minute of 140-degree water. 

Walls, Floors, Furniture and Artwork Reflect Texas and Hill Country Themes

Kimberley Miller, CEO of Duncan Miller Design, headed the team of up to 28 interior designers and architects who crafted the hotel’s vast interior spaces. Miller likens the hotel’s 12,000-square-foot lobby to Texas’ wide-open spaces, which will allow guests to move easily within the space without confusion.

“Despite the sheer magnitude of the lobby, guests can stand in the middle and do a 360-degree turn and clearly see where everything is located: the registration desk, guest elevators, coffee shop, restaurants and bar,” says Miller. 

The Duncan Miller team used a variety of components that reflect the area’s natural elements and local culture to achieve warm ambience within the large space. A 22-foot tall water wall provides a breathtaking visual impact for guests entering through the hotel’s front entrance. The spectacularly dramatic lobby water feature is a reference to Texas’ and the Hill Country’s proliferation of lakes, streams and rivers. It is flanked on both sides by curved soffits that extend around the lobby to the hotel’s coffee emporium, continuing the theme of water’s natural, continuous flow over earth and rock.

An array of custom furniture featuring timeless lines and a residential flair accents public spaces and extends into the Hilton Austin’s 800 spacious, graciously appointed guestrooms, which offer Texas style comforts yet all the features required for the business traveler or convention guest. A collection of commissioned artwork ranging from oils to sculpture, from soft leathers cast in metal to shadowbox collages, accent furnishings and accessories that are sophisticated enough for an uptown loft yet comfortable enough for a down-home cowboy. 

Three creatively themed lobby level restaurants offer a gamut of gourmet fare, with something for every taste and occasion. Modeled after a 1920’s style classic American grille, Liberty Tavern serves home-style comfort foods and regional favorites. Premiere steaks, seafood and sushi and a choice of indoor or outdoor dining are served in the casually elegant Finn & Porter®. Whimsical décor highlighted by giant Javanese kite sculptures define the Java Coast® coffee emporium, which offers specialty coffees, light fare and sundries plus indoor or outdoor seating.

A 30-foot tall, 15-foot wide, floor-to-ceiling wine display that connects the second level lobby bar to the first level, main dining area of Finn & Porter provides another of Hilton Austin’s spectacular interior design features. The amber glow provided by the breathtaking sculpture can be seen from the street. The fixture is more than art: it actually provides guests an interactive walkway between the bar and the stairs that connect to Finn & Porter.

The stateliness of the nearby state Capitol building is reflected in the Austin Grand Ballroom, which features an elegant color scheme of blues and golds as well as a replica of the Texas State Capitol dome woven into its custom carpet. A 17,000-pound crystal chandelier provides a dazzling centerpiece for the room and anchors an additional four slightly smaller coordinating chandeliers.

A Meeting Planner’s Dream

The Hilton Austin is a dream hotel for meeting planners and their technology-savvy clients. The hotel features group-friendly, state-of-the-art services and facilities. All 800 guestrooms and meeting rooms will feature fiber-optic connectivity, providing the latest in wireless high-speed Internet services and capabilities for all meeting attendees and hotel guests, wherever they may be in the hotel.

All of the Hilton Austin’s 60,000 square feet of function and event space is conveniently grouped on two dedicated floors, which offer easy access via eight elevators and two high-capacity escalators. Another unique example of the hotel’s smart meeting layout is a dedicated area for group arrivals to accommodate bus unloading, individual group check-in desk and baggage storage.

The Hilton Austin’s two expansive ballrooms and 11 meeting rooms of varying sizes have been fitted with the latest in audiovisual technology.  Each meeting room is equipped with built-in retractable projection screens ranging from 24 to nearly 450 square feet in viewing capacity.  A special event signage system, using plasma and liquid crystal screens, will be capable of displaying electronic images such as corporate logos or digital photographs. This will enable the hotel’s meetings team to provide personalization and to direct meeting and event attendees quickly and clearly to their specific function locations.

The three-story, 28,000 square foot Austin Grand Ballroom features continuous, column-free space. In addition to providing the support needed to replace traditional support columns, the ceiling also needed to withstand the weight of the room’s extensive audiovisual equipment as well as five enormously heavy chandeliers. To provide reinforcement, several 8-foot thick ceiling trusses that span the ceiling’s width and extensive hang points were installed. Each hang point can support up to 1,500 pounds of equipment. More than 140 are available in the Austin Grand Ballroom and 80 are available for use in the 16,000 square foot Governor’s Ballroom.

Even bringing a full-sized car or boat to complement your event is not a problem at the Hilton Austin.  With a 9’ x 18’ freight elevator capable of carrying up to 6,000 lbs., the Hilton Austin can easily accommodate full-sized cars, trucks and boats. 

A Promising Future For A 21st Century Hotel

The combination of the Hilton Austin’s proximity to the convention center and convenience to all of downtown Austin’s attractions make it the perfect place to stay for business guests, meeting attendees and leisure travelers alike.  Pre-opening sales have been brisk since the opening of the hotel’s sales office in Fall 2001, with statistics indicating 70 percent of the sales activity is from clients who have never booked a meeting in Austin.

“It’s a well –thought-out hotel –  incredible meeting venues and state-of-the-art technology capabilities,” said Slater.  “We are excited to share this story behind our hotel – which truly proves that the opportunities and abilities to host an event at the Hilton Austin are endless. Combined with the world-renowned Hilton hospitality and service, the Hilton Austin is destined to become one of the brightest hotel stars on the Texas horizon for years to come.”


Tyler McDonald
Hilton Austin  & Marketing
Also See: The Hilton Austin Attracts Twelve Experienced Managers to Head Up Executive Committee in Anticipation of Early 2004 Opening / July 2003
With Opening One Year Away, the 800 room Hilton Austin Reports $55 million in Pre-opening Sales
Activity / Nov 2002

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.Online Search

Home | Welcome! | Hospitality News | Classifieds | Catalogs & Pricing | Viewpoint Forum | Ideas/Trends
Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.