Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. pledged yesterday that all of its corporate-owned hotels and franchises under the new Element brand will be built according to energy-efficient and environmentally friendly standards, starting with its Lexington property, which will open July 1.
The 124-room extended-stay hotel will serve as a living laboratory where the chain will test green construction, products, and operations before rolling these features out to the 20 other Element hotels scheduled to open nationwide by the end of 2009.
The guest rooms are being outfitted with Energy Star-rated dishwashers, low-flow shower heads, and carpets woven with at least 25 percent recycled material, among other things.
The Lexington Element certainly is not the first hotel designed to reduce the consumption of natural resources and the production of environmental pollutants. But Starwood said that it is establishing the first major hotel chain that will require all of its properties to receive LEED certification from the US Green Building Council - a respected designation that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Starwood is starting in Lexington because it already owns property there: the old Sheraton Inn, which the corporation razed so it could create a more eco-friendly establishment from scratch.
Plus, there was "something sweet about Lexington," said Brian McGuinness, Element's global brand leader.
"When we were working with the municipality, they were very much into the signposts that have the finial. They like to use natural woods," he said. "They have a little bit of a sensibility on the green front."
So do cities in Maryland, Texas, and Nevada. Element hotels are scheduled to open next in Baltimore, Houston, and Las Vegas. And the chain is exploring franchise deals in Connecticut and New Hampshire.
McGuinness said a hotel designed to achieve baseline LEED certification only costs 1.5 percent more to build than a comparable hotel that isn't "green." He projects that the lower water bills and other cost savings will make up for the initial investment within three to four years.
The hotel will be coated with low Volatile Organic Compound paints and lined with antimicrobial carpet pads to improve indoor air quality for guests and employees.
It will boast shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers in the showers, as well as filtered water in the guest rooms to reduce the number of plastic bottles that are discarded.
And guest rooms will have recycling bins for paper, plastic, and glass.
Finding in-room recycling bins proved a feat for the Seaport Hotel when it pioneered the idea in Boston in 2005, though.
"We had to go to the Province of Quebec to find these containers, because there was no American manufacturer," said Matt Moore, director of rooms and environmental programs at the South Boston hotel, which now recycles 201 tons of material a year.
"It just wasn't on anyone's radar."
Nicole C. Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.