Home Green Design New Horizon President’s Frank Assessment of LEED Certification

New Horizon President’s Frank Assessment of LEED Certification

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A while back I heard from Aly Valiani, President of Houston-based New Horizons Hospitality, Inc. regarding his company’s two LEED certified hotels. I finally had a chance to chat with him about the properties this past week. The first hotel is the 172-room LEED Silver certified Hilton Garden Inn Houston NW/America Plaza. The second is the 146-room Hyatt Place The Woodlands. I was curious to know how Valiani’s company had benefited from the LEED certification.

First, Valiani told me his company’s seven Houston area hotels are currently averaging just 5 to 10 percent occupancy. Business has been hurt not only by the virus but also by the slumping oil industry.

“We laid off 85 percent of staff in mid-March,” Valiani says. “It has been extremely tough.”

The Hilton Garden Inn was built in 2008. “It was being designed in 2006/2007,” Valiani says. “LEED was very hot. We purchased a VRV HVAC system. It is a closed-loop refrigerant system. It was a 60 to 70 percent premium over a PTAC system.”

Valiani says the payback on the HVAC system was supposed to be four years. “It was not installed correctly,” he says. “We didn’t achieve the level of savings we expected. We are saving 15 percent compared to a typical Hilton Garden Inn.”

It was the VRV HVAC system that earned New Horizons Hospitality the bulk of its LEED points for the Hilton Garden Inn. Other low-hanging fruit points came from things such as a bike rack, low-VOC paints, etc. “The certification process took several years,” Valiani says.

The Hyatt Place The Woodlands

Built after the Hilton Garden Inn, The Hyatt Place The Woodlands hotel is LEED certified at the basic level. “That was not much more than a prototypical design,” Valiani says. The hotel includes VTACS and LED lighting. Getting LEED at the Hyatt Place was not that much of a stretch given meeting LEED standards was already built into the hotel’s design.

“We did get a good amount of energy credit rebates,” Valiani says. “Those were good benefits to have.”

Valiani says the marketing benefits of having LEED at the two hotels has been disappointing because the LEED brand still lacks consumer awareness. “The marketing benefit was not something we could capitalize on,” he says. “We have to work hard at educating our guests about it. LEED never became the next big thing. It is just a footnote.”

Valiani says that today, hotel developers are not talking as much about LEED certification. “The building codes are catching up,” he says.

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