GREENSBORO, N.C.—The greenest hotel in North America? If not, it is certainly among the top few. Dennis Quaintance, CEO and CDO (Chief Design Officer) of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, developer of the 147-room Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., has his sights set on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. The property, still under construction, will use 40 percent less energy and 35 percent less water than a comparable hotel. It is expected to open in August or September.
What makes the eight-story Proximity Hotel so different than a typical luxury property? The roof is a good place to start. One hundred solar panels covering 4,000 square feet are positioned there. The panels will be used to heat a glycol solution that will run through a heat exchanger to heat hot water. That hot water—approximately 5,000 gallons a day—will save the hotel $14,000 in water heating costs each year.
Quaintance says the entire system cost his company about $400,000, a sum he says is higher than it had to be because his company chose to build a concrete structure and extra floor to support it.
“We spent more than we had to in order for it to look right,” he says.
The solar hot water heating system has the capacity to supply all of the hotel’s domestic hot water needs—the equivalent of enough hot water to heat water for 100 houses for one year. The solar system will be backed up by natural gas for those days when supplemental energy is needed.
An Old-Style Design
The Proximity Hotel is named after the Proximity Manufacturing Cotton Mill, which is central to Greensboro’s history. It will have an old-style warehouse look and feature loft-style guestrooms with ceilings 10 feet high and large windows to bring in as much natural light as possible. The windows will open.
“Older industrial buildings have a timeless architectural appeal,” Quaintance says. “It is a wonderful look for a hotel. The best way to predict that something will be attractive in the future is to look at what has been popular for decades. We want to build hotels that will be around for decades because we plan to own them for the long haul.”
Quaintance says this approach “confused the devil out of the design people.”
“We had to remind them what century we are in,” he says.
To save water, toilets that use just 1.28 gpf have been installed in guestrooms, waterless urinals will be used in public restrooms, and laminar flow aerators will be used in faucets. North America’s first installation of an Otis Gen2 elevator will use regenerative drive technology to actually generate electricity as the cab descends.
More Examples of Green Initiatives
• Vegetation will be grown atop the restaurant roof to reduce the urban heat island effect and filter rainwater runoff.
• Superior air quality will be maintained inside the building by efficiently circulating large amounts of outside air into the guestrooms and employing energy recovery technology.
• About 10 percent of the materials used in the hotel’s construction include recycled content and about 75 percent of construction waste is being recycled and diverted from landfills. Items such as carpet will include recyclable content.
• The mission to incorporate nature includes restoration of the banks of a nearby stream. The hotel has a 2.5-acre natural area.
• As much local produce as possible will be purchased for the hotel’s restaurant. In fact, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels expects to purchase $700,000 in local produce this year. That total includes its other properties as well—the O.Henry Hotel in Greensboro, for example. The company is such a strong supporter of buying local that it is working with tobacco farmers to teach them how to grow vegetables sustainably.
“We have a wonderful relationship with the local co-op,” Quaintance says. “We are hitting our stride with locally grown products.”
The developers of the Proximity Hotel hired a consultant to help them through the LEED process and is working with a construction company that employs LEED-certified staff.
When the hotel does open later this year, Quaintance expects the room rate to be in the neighborhood of $160 a night. The entrepreneur’s company intends to build additional green hotels in the future—possibly a second one 18 months after the first one opens.
“We feel real good about our market position,” he says.
Quaintance is excited that his new hotels’ resource-saving initiatives will not impact his guests negatively in any way.
“I defy anyone to find something they do not like,” he says.
Go to the Proximity Hotel.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.