Starwood Hotels – Element Goes Green

Project Profiles

Starwood Hotels – Element Goes Green

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At one time, visiting a hotel meant experiencing the latest in building innovation – from indoor plumbing to residential air-conditioning. When it comes to green, high-performance buildings that offer superior occupant health and comfort, no worldwide hotel chain has yet seized on the opportunity to introduce the public to the next round of building innovation. With ELEMENT Goes Green, Terrapin was asked by Starwood Hotels, a major international hospitality corporation, to help create a new ‘green’ brand of hotels. Since this new brand would potentially have locations worldwide, recommendations would include strategies tailored to five different climates: cold, mixed-humid, hot-dry/mixed-dry, hot-humid, and tropical.

Element Hotel Conference Room

Element Hotel Breakfast Seating Area. Copyright Starwood Hotels.

Working with the client’s design team and brand managers, the Terrapin team analyzed the client’s existing hotel prototype design. The team applied concepts of whole-systems thinking and creative mechanical engineering to identify opportunities for energy savings and optimum building performance. In addition to decreasing the new hotels’ environmental impact, the recommended strategies will translate into cost-saving paybacks in the form of reduced energy bills and potentially expedited permitting. The team also explored concepts of biophilia in its recommendations, showing the client how to create a closer connection to the natural environment and enhance the visitor’s sensory and perceptual experience.

As the second phase of this project, Terrapin also drafted a comprehensive set of guidelines for the design, construction, furnishing, operation, and maintenance of the hotel facilities. The guidelines draw from a broad survey of established best practices in green building and hospitality operation, as well as the expertise and insight of partners and staff. As a result, Starwood became the first American hospitality corporation to launch a comprehensive environmentally-conscious brand with guidelines for design, construction, and operations. An educational section in the operational guidelines is a critical component, included as a means to raise awareness among guests and ensure competent implementation by the staff. As an example of leading-edge sustainable design standards, the ELEMENT Goes Green guidelines for green hotel properties will hopefully serve as an influential example for the entire industry.


*Header image copyright Starwood Hotels

*Feature image copyright Starwood Hotels

As a partner, Chris is an architect and sustainability leader focused on systemic thinking to address challenges in the built environment. Chris believes we can learn how to live on this planet if we start listening to nature again.