Talk to most hotel owners about sustainability and they will tell you that building environmentally-friendly or ‘green’ hotels is a nice concept, but it’s just not practical given today’s economics. But at least one owner maintains that it makes more economic sense than the rest of the industry might realize.
Dennis Quaintance—CEO of Greensboro, NC-based Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels, which in 2007 opened the only LEED Platinum-certified hotel in the U.S. with the 147-room Proximity Hotel in Greensboro—touted some of the benefits of a true commitment to building green. “If you go deep it doesn’t cost that much more. There are almost as many subtracts as adds,” he said, in reference to the stringent building requirements.
Of course, when it comes to eco-friendly properties, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has its own definition, but how does Quaintance define it? “In today’s world, it has got to be about the guest. There has to be no compromise. The indoor air quality has to be extraordinary, the lighting has to be extraordinary. It has to use less energy without compromise,” he said.
The green movement throughout the lodging industry seemed to be gaining considerable momentum prior to the global recession, but Quaintance said the long-term impact is not yet clear. “I think everyone is looking for an excuse not to do it. But there are two [potential] answers, it could slow it down or it could speed it up,” he said.
Quaintance further commented on where he sees the growth of sustainability in the next decade and his company’s eventual impact on that growth. “There’s a chance this really becomes fashionable. If we outperform everyone, they will say ‘let’s go do that.’ I feel such an obligation to not screw it up,” he said.
But Quaintance pointed out that the rest of the industry needs to feel an obligation as well and he expressed concern for what will happen if hotels fail to take a proactive approach to green building. “The key is to get ahead of the codes. If we [as an industry] use the USGBC as a model, which is really well done, we’ll have a great argument against codes. My fear is onerous codes,” he said.
Another fear for many owners and one of the top challenges for Quaintance is becoming familiar with the vocabularly, particularly terms like VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), as an example. He also noted that a major factor hampering green development is “ambiguity relative to price and outcome.” Furthermore, in his opinion, much of the country’s population has yet to make a serious commitment to sustainability, saying, “95% of us want to be green 5% of the time.”
Quaintance maintained that an honest effort on the part of any hotelier is really all that’s needed. He explained that was the primary goal of Proximity Hotel, which employs more than 70 sustainable practices. “We had no idea we would end up LEED Platinum, we said we will be methodical and we’re sincere,” he said.