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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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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. 

LEED-Life + Green Building Information from David Gottfried

David_gottfried_1 The USGBC is a concensus-based organization that works to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated.  It’s behind the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system, which is a national benchmark for energy-efficient, green buildings.  It’s important to be congnizant of the fact that LEED buildings can come in different shades of green, but even the lowest level, or "Certified" buildings, are environmental leaders.  David Gottfried is the founder of the USGBC and the World Green Building Council.  His career began as a successful real estate developer in Washington D.C., and he had a green epiphany while working on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Washington office.  His transformation from the developer to the green developer is the primary story of his memoir "Greed to Green."  I read an article about Gottfried and thought I would share some of his notable quotes.

  1. Green Yourself First – "the key to the green-building movement is not LEED or technology; it’s people.  If we’re going to green this world we have to green ourselves, and we can’t lose sight of that."
  2. Watch Al Gore’s Movie – "wake up to the fact that climate change is real and the biggest challenge facing humanity in the short term."
  3. Green Buildings Are A Solution – "buildings consume 70% of the electricity in the US.  That’s an environmental argument, but from a financial basis green buildings make more money, save expenses and have a higher value." 
  4. Get Smart About Your Buildings – "your assets will be devalued if they’re energy hogs, water inefficient, or toxic inside." 
  5. Green Buildings Are Green Opportunities – "this is about economics.  The fastest-growing sector of the building industry, which is a $3 trillion industry globally, is green building." 

The article also mentioned Gottfried’s personal green standard, which he developed called the "Life Balance Sheet" or "Leed-life."  It’s a 100-point system with Certified at 60, Silver at 70, Gold at 80, and Platinum at 90+.  In the beginning, he only scored a 53, but now he fluctuates between 70 and 84, depending on a variety of factors.  I couldn’t find the standard online, so I think it is in his book (if only Amazon had a copy!).  Good luck, I hope we can all live Platinum LEED-life lives!

Extra Links:
Igniting the Spark by Christina Koch [PDF - Eco-structure]



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