From: Jonathan Nelson, The Columbian
Published December 7, 2005 12:00 AM

National Recognition Could Help Attract Customers to Eco-Friendly Hilton

The towering windows, extensive woodwork and staircase in the lobby of the Hilton Vancouver Washington hotel tend to catch the eye of first-time visitors.


But it is Hilton's unseen features that are earning the hotel recognition as a "green" building.


The New York Times carried a short article in June mentioning the hotel's construction and design and its efforts to earn LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification. The 226-room hotel is most likely just months away from receiving its certification as a LEED building.


The Washington Lodging and Hotel Association gave the property an award for its environmental aspects.


Most recently Travel + Leisure magazine granted the Hilton one of its Global Vision Awards for being an "eco-hotel." The six other winners were in such places as India and Jamaica.


On Friday, cable network CNBC broadcast a story about the Travel + Leisure article that included several pictures of the hotel and a recommendation for travelers to the Pacific Northwest to visit the property -- a seal of approval potentially worth lots of money in free advertising and prospective customers.


Gerry Link, Hilton manager, appreciates the publicity but acknowledges his real work is converting the hotel's status as environmentally friendly into a reason for more people to book rooms and events.


"That's the trick," he said.


The drive to become a LEED building began at the design phase of the $73.1 million hotel and conference center project and continued through construction and into daily maintenance. It includes a white roof to reflect heat, landscaping with native plants that require less watering, CO sensors in meeting rooms to maintain a flow of fresh air and six plugs in the parking garage for electrical vehicles.


Hilton's certification as a LEED building puts it in plenty of company in the Pacific Northwest.


Glen Gilbert, president and CEO of Cascadia Regional Green Council in Portland, said on a per-capita basis Washington and Oregon lead the country in environmentally sensitive buildings. Gilbert's nonprofit organization is a chapter of the United States Green Building Council, a third-party group responsible for LEED certification.


Gilbert said the organization was founded in 1993 as environmentalists and the building industry came together to set a higher standard for construction. The incentive for companies to build using environmental standards goes beyond doing the right thing. The methods reduce construction costs and produce more efficient buildings.


In the Hilton's case, construction was done using material available within a 500-mile radius. That cut down on transportation and fuel costs. Construction debris was recycled.


It continues now that the hammering has ended. Guests are given the option to reuse towels and bedding rather than having them changed daily. Windows in guest rooms can be opened.


Link said the public's perception of green buildings is often one that conjures up a spartan or industrial look. He hopes to change that image with the Hilton. "We'll be working on this now and five years from now," he said.


To see more of The Columbian, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.columbian.com.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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