Articles - November, 2006

Modern + Green Gaia Napa Valley Hotel – LEED Gold

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There’s just one thing that I can’t figure out: why aren’t more hotels going green?  Recently, I blogged about Starwood Hotels creating a luxury, green hotel brand (and there’s also the LEED-certified Orchard Garden), but why aren’t all the other hotels going green?  I have two thoughts:  (1) post-9/11, hotels tanked and lost a lot of money, which they’ve really started to regain from 2004 until now…they’re busy making money and don’t want to shut the place down with expensive renovations; (2) the split between ownership and management leaves a decision making gap that prevents the hotel owner from undergoing large capital improvements; or (3) hotel owners are marketing their portfolios and green (the non-monetary kind) is the last thing on their minds.  But if you ask me, the hotel industry is so levered to energy costs that it’s the only way to go.  Looks like Gaia Napa Valley Hotel agrees with me. 

Gaia is chasing LEED Gold (couldn’t find it in the USGBC certification or registration directory), which is the second highest tier in the green building rating system.  Here are some of its green features:  chemical-free landscaping; energy-efficient heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system using 15% less energy; various water conservation features; solar panels; zero-chlorofluorocarbon cooling system; 100% new growth-certified wood; specialty zero energy lighting throughout the hotel and public areas; and low emission paints and adhesives. 

The hotel incorporates extensive use of Solatubes.  These are tubular skylights that capture sunlight from the roof and direct it into the interior space through a diffusion shaft.  Imagine a periscope, except that it filters in light, not images.

Another thing I’d like to point out, is that this hotel is modern + green.  Innovation has advanced to the point that green looks good.  Plus, if you look at the first costs and the operating costs, in comparison to a non-green building, you’re getting a great deal, so it’s economic too.  Really, there’s not other way to go, especially in the hotel industry!

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Good Architectural Design = Happy Inhabitants

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What’s the point of architectural design?  Depends on who is using the building, but talented designers and architects around the world can do unbelievable things with buildings.  Today’s post is an example of the power of well-designed living spaces.  Enter:  The Happy New House.  Designed by Neil M. Denari Architects (NMDA), the happy house is just that, a place where the Alan Family can express its "family brand."  They wanted a home renovation that expressed their distinct family attributes:  artsy but not artsy-fartsy, cultured but not elitist, spontaneous but not disorderly, informal but not messy, into Macs and iPods but not techie, and into the finer things of life but not extravagant. 

Noticeably, the architect went with multi-toned, bright colors to express the Alan Family brand.  The interior design includes a clever mixture of public and private spaces to allow for individuality, but still encourage "elbow-rubbing" opportunities.  Tons of integrated shelving blends into the modern design and helps reduce clutter, and the outdoor living room blurs the indoor/outdoor barrier, which allows the family to connect to the backyard area. 

We’ve all lived in places that just didn’t work out that well.  The same place might fit another person completely, but the reality is, individuals and families do have differences that can be accounted for with creative design.  The extra cost of designing your home or office, just might pay dividends in productivity, livability, and enjoyability later on.  Yet another reason why first costs could be misleading.  See also Archinect.

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What is LEED; How Does LEED Relate to Green Building; Why Do I Care?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; it’s a consensus-based standard for various types of buildings, such as new construction, existing buildings, building interiors, residential homes, and entire neighborhood developments.  One reason for LEED and the US Green Building Council is to eliminate the confusion regarding what a "green" building is.  Built into the standards are various levels, or shades of green.  I found this slide show at the USGBC‘s website and wanted to share it with the Jetson Green readers.

Why?  Application:
You don’t need to be an architect or large design firm to see how LEED is important.  If you’re a lawyer, and you have a developer client friend, you can say to that person, "Hey, have you thought about getting that project done LEED?"  Or if you’re a budding developer, you can go to the design firm and say, "Hey, I want this thing done LEED, and I know it can be done without too much of a price premium…are you the firm for me?"   No matter what your position is, you may have the occasion to tell a decision maker that they ought to consider LEED/green building; that decision maker will be grateful that you were in the know. 

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