What Is A LEED-Certified Hotel? How Do I Become “Green Certified?

Going ‘Green’ seems to be the latest trend. Here’s how your hotel can achieve the green certificate.
“In the United States alone, hotels represent more than 5 billion square feet of space, nearly 5 million guest rooms, and close to $4 billion in annual energy use. Business meetings in the United States constitute a $175 billion industry, and Americans make more than 400 million long-distance business trips each year.” – United States Green Building Council

Take a look at those numbers and think about the environmental impacts of the hospitality and travel industry. All hotels, whether a big box hotel or a boutique hotel, have a considerable opportunity to lessen their carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the green movement. Each area of a hotel–guest rooms, event space, back of house operations and general facility use–have operations that can have negative environmental impacts. Energy and water efficiency, waste reduction and management, sustainable and local purchasing, and use of alternative transportation are all areas that offer opportunities for better cost efficiency and environmental efficiency. The most recent topic that has been considered in the green movement is the status of human health. Hotels can contribute to this cause by providing healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor environments with improved air quality, locally and organically grown food, access to daylight, and guest control of lighting and heating control in guest rooms.

In order to stand out in today’s marketplace and in the hospitality industry, hotels can now attain a certification for their eco-friendly practices. As of today, the most prominent green building certification a business can achieve is a LEED-certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an independent, non-profit, third-party rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). By becoming a LEED-certified property, hotels provide numerous benefits for the environment.  In turn, hotels reduce operating costs gained from energy efficient practices and utility cost savings, while also attracting a widely growing population of eco-conscious guests.

How can my hotel become LEED certified?

When it comes to achieving LEED certification, Kermit the Frog might have said it best back on the very first episode of Sesame Street when he sang, “It’s not easy being green.”  He of course meant it in the literal sense, but this phrase has been used by some to describe the process of achieving environmentally-friendly certifications.

The LEED certification process can be tedious, time-consuming, and costly, but the benefits of this certification outweigh the costs tenfold when you look at the long term effects on the environment, the human health element, and your hotel’s bottom line.  Let’s take a look at the steps towards becoming LEED certified:

  • Step One: Begin the process by registering your LEED project online and submitting an application fee.
  • Step Two: After you are registered, the hotel must assemble a project team to demonstrate the sustainability of its property through documentation.  The USGBC provides forms to enter in the information about the hotel’s eco-initiatives, procedures and characteristics.  The hotel itself decides on the time frame that it would like to use to gather the documentation and put together the full application.  This process can take anywhere from six months up to two years.
  • Step Three: Once all of the documentation has been collected and the forms completes, the LEED application can be submitted online along with a second fee that is reflective of the size and complexity of the property and project.

Levels of LEED certification:

The LEED certifications depend on a 100-point scoring system.  In order to attain the lowest level of certification a hotel must meet a minimum of 40 points. Whether you are building a brand new hotel from the ground up or are currently operating a full service hotel, LEED certifications are available for new construction or existing buildings.  The four levels of certification based on the qualifying points of the 100-point scale are:

  • Platinum: 80 points or higher
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Certified: 40-49 points

There are seven different categories in which your hotel has the opportunity to earn points.  These categories are as follows:

  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials & Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Innovation in Operations
  • Regional Bonus Points

What are the online benefits of LEED certification?

With more and more travelers booking their travel online, becoming LEED certified opens up numerous online marketing channels that can help book more business.  Here is a list of the websites that list “green” hotels and provide links to your hotel’s website:

Social media is also a great tool to use to engage with and find eco-friendly travelers that support the green movement.  Find green businesses on both Facebook and Twitter.  Some of the best Green organizations on Facebook are the U.S. Green Building Council, Earth Hour, Green Lodging News, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Participate in the Twitter hashtag #EcoMonday – it’s a great way to get involved in green conversation and helps find eco-conscious travelers who might be looking to visit your city.  Other green Twitter hashtags that are popular are #greentravel, #sustainability, #responsibletravel, #ecotourism, #ecotravel, #LEED, and #greenbldg.  Writing a press release is also a good way to get the word out about your new LEED certification and all the environmentally friendly initiatives in which your hotel is involved.

Why should I strive to be a LEED-certified hotel?

LEED certification is fast becoming the standard in the hospitality industry.  By focusing on environmentally friendly practices there are multiple benefits for both the hotel and guests.  From cost savings to the positive publicity surrounding the green movement, a LEED certification can bring substantial business to your hotel. The Hotel & Conference Center Environmental Questionnaire located at the end of the Green Venue Selection Guide is a perfect tool to help you get started in the green certification process.  This questionnaire can help you outline your property’s progress on key environmental metrics in LEED certification.  Check it out and get your hotel started on the path to LEED certification!

For more information visit: www.usgbc.org

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