Home Publisher's Point of View Green Expectations are High for Current, Future Virgin Hotels

Green Expectations are High for Current, Future Virgin Hotels

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Guests staying at the 250-room Virgin Hotels Chicago in need of a ride to a nearby destination now have the option of being driven in the hotel’s house car—a top-of-the-line red Tesla Model S. The premium electric vehicle is the quickest-accelerating four door vehicle ever built. Would you expect anything less from entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder?

Virgin Hotels Chicago, which opened last month, is the first of Branson’s series of hotels to open. Virgin Hotels has plans to open a second location in Nashville in the summer of 2016 and a third property in New York City in the fall of 2017. The team will announce two additional locations by the end of 2016, as well, with the brand hoping to have 20 locations by 2025.

Leading up to the opening of Virgin Hotels Chicago, I did not hear much about what would be exceptionally green about the property. Something exceptionally green is what you would expect from Branson, the same guy who is co-founder and co-chair of The B Team, leaders of some of the world’s largest companies, who just called on other world leaders to commit to a global goal of net-zero greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

Turns out the Virgin Hotels Chicago is in pursuit of LEED Silver certification. Perhaps you would expect more from Branson? What is unique about the Virgin Hotels Chicago is that it is a renovation of an existing building—the historic Old Dearborn Bank Building. LEED certification is a bigger challenge with a conversion as compared to new construction.

Historic Details Preserved

A significant amount of the character of the old building was preserved in the hotel. The facade features rich, ornate designs including medieval characters, dragons, griffins, ducks, squirrels and more. About 80 percent of the building’s original lobby remains. The Oak Cigar Bar in the lobby is now used as the check-in desk where DIY kiosks are placed. There is a grand staircase with an oak wood banister in the lobby. Elevator doors are original brass and lobby walls are marble.

During construction, 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from the landfill and recycled. Ten percent of added building materials contain recycled content and 20 percent of all construction materials were sourced regionally. Recycling containers are placed throughout the hotel. The main hotel kitchen uses a digester that naturally breaks down food waste into a liquid using enzymes. Virgin Hotels is working with Clean the World for soap donations.

Atop the hotel is a green roof that reduces storm water runoff. The roof also helps to insulate the building, saving energy. The hotel uses about 20 percent less water than a comparable hotel its size. This is thanks to water-efficient toilets, faucet aerators, and a towel/linen reuse program. The hotel has partnered with Whole World Water to filter and bottle its own water, reducing plastic bottle usage. All of the funds raised through the sale of Whole World Water will be invested in clean and safe water projects all over the world.

To reduce energy consumption, Energy Star appliances have been purchased. These include refrigerators, other kitchen equipment, as well as televisions and computers. Efficient products, systems and equipment are expected to reduce the hotel’s energy consumption by 34 percent, reducing fossil fuel use and carbon emissions. Walls are highly insulated, high-performance windows have been installed, 70 percent of the hotel has LED lighting, daylight sensors are used where appropriate to reduce artificial lighting.

It will be interesting to see how Virgin Hotels approaches its other properties from a sustainability standpoint. Virgin’s Nashville hotel (see at right above) is a new-build and will be located at the start of the city’s historic Music Row.

Green Lodging News Adds Laundrylux as Directory Partner

Green Lodging News welcomes Laundrylux Inc. as a Green Product & Service Directory partner in the “Ironers” category. According to Laundrylux, using a Electrolux IC4 4832 FLF series Ironer is a more efficient and faster way to dry linen than drying with hot air from a conventional dryer. What makes the Electrolux model so appealing is that it can be mounted against a wall and accomplish the work of four people with only one operator. The Ironer comes with automatic feeding and folding with the linen always returning to the operator. Another bonus is that the design of the IC4 4832 FLF model allows for very little heat to escape into the laundry room making the environment more pleasant, especially in the summer. Call Dan Goldman at (800) 645-2205 for more information. He can be reached by e-mail at dgoldman@laundrylux.com. Also click here for more information.

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Green Lodging News is always looking to profile sustainability champions in our Personnel Profile section. If you would like to nominate someone for this section of Green Lodging News, contact me at (813) 510-3868, or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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