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Green Means Green For Hotels

Hotels consume more water and electricity per square foot than almost any other commercial building.

That makes the hospitality industry a ripe target for improved sustainability efforts, according to the Urban Land Institute.

The real estate group just produced a report detailing the green opportunities and trends shaping the hotel industry.

Its findings will be discussed Thursday morning in Las Vegas, which has more hotel rooms than any other city in the world.

The Urban Land Institute Nevada chapter will bring together Monika Henn, who led the team that produced the ULI report, with representatives of the Southern Nevada hospitality industry.

“I think the biggest takeaways that I hope people get from the report is that opportunities from improvement in hotels are everywhere from no cost to larger capital investments these changes can have a positive impact on the environment as well as the hotels bottom line,” Henn told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Henn said shrinking a hotel’s environmental footprint can fatten its bottom line by lowering costs and attracting guests who value sustainability.

“It’s a smart business opportunity,” Henn said, “because guests are becoming more awareof the climate impact of buildings.”

She cited a Hilton Hotels survey of 72,000 guests that found a third had a preference for hotels with sustainability programs, a number that grew to 40 percent among millennials specifically.

“So hotels really see this not just as an important investment in their business now but also to their business going forward,” she said.

Henn said Las Vegas already has a reputation as a leader in sustainability efforts and the ideas that were developed here are being spread to other properties owned by the casino giants.

Rick Van Diepen agreed that Las Vegas is leading the way in green buildings, which seems counterintuitive because of the state's reputation as a place for excess.

“Nevada is one of the best investment climates for green buildings because we have a really robust incentive (environment) here," the Las Vegas architect said, "and we have a lot of builders that they know how to do green buildings now.

"It is also very helpful that some of the municipal leaders, city of Las Vegas is one, Henderson is another, they’ve virtually mandated that all their new construction and major renovations are going to be sustainable buildings."

Van Diepen is a consultant on sustainability. He is working with the team that is building the new convention center expansion on the Strip.

The first step in creating a green building is often benchmarking, which is surveying how much energy and water is being used. Van Diepen said that is where they are now with the convention center.

“It’s really finding out what they’re doing now, identifying the things they are doing really great and then looking for ways that they can track to doing more sustainable things in the future,” he said.

He said the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is aiming for the LEED Gold status and Green Globe certification. Both of those are third-party certification programs that are recognized as the gold standard in sustainable building. 

If the new center achieves those goals, it will be the only convention center in the world with both certifications. 

Monika Henn, manager, Urban Land Institute Greenprint Center for Building Performance; Rick Van Diepen, green architect

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.