LEED certification isn’t only about doing enough to gain points to be able to market a hotel as environmentally friendly. In fact, the first letter of the acronym says it all—leadership. That’s something the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., took to heart when it opened this past October, and Steve Farzam, chief operating officer of the hotel, believes it is setting a benchmark for energy efficiency.
“We are the only new build LEED hotel in Santa Monica. We were originally shooting for silver, but at this point we are four points over the gold requirement,” he says.
But the Shore Hotel isn’t only making its mark on energy efficiency within its walls, it is helping to conserve energy usage throughout the city, something that comes in handy in Southern California, which is prone to rolling brownouts and blackouts. The hotel is the first new-build property using the auto-demand response system with Southern California Edison, the main power supplier in the area.
“We had a commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and give the community what it needs,” Farzam says. “They said they’d never done auto-demand response with a new-build before, so we are the first ones.”
“It is a pilot program to work with new construction projects,” explains Karen L. Klepack, project manager with Southern California Edison. “It’s intended to look for opportunity to drop ancillary load when our grid is taxed. When we send the signal to them, their energy management reverts to the presets.
“It’s traditionally been a retrofit program working with buildings that were already built,” she continues. “This is the first project we’ve had where we’ve worked with the customer from the design phase.”
When a bigger building, such as a hotel, is built there is more demand placed on the power grid. The options for the electric company are to build more plants to supply the demand or to take steps to lessen the demand. “As you probably know there are brownouts in Southern California, so with this system, they can account for something like a heat wave coming,” Farzam explains. “They can come in prior to there being a big demand on the grid and selectively shut down components of the power to the hotel without disrupting the guest experience.”
The Shore has given total access to Southern California Edison. The program is 100 percent volunteer on the part of the hotel. The system is completely automated, but the hotel can override it. Farzam says to this point, the hotel has not yet performed an override. But how can it not disrupt hotel operations or the guest experience?
“I’ll give you an example,” Farzam says. “We don’t do any laundry in the daytime, during peak hours. Also, an easy one, instead of having 100 percent lighting in the parking garage, it gets kicked down to 50 percent. It’s still as bright as you can imagine, but you’re only using half the power.”
The end result is that the program takes energy efficiency to a new level—one that extends beyond the hotel itself. “We’re doing the right thing to reduce our carbon footprint, but more so we are helping the community out,” Farzam says. “It makes sure that critical infrastructure in the city that’s on the same grid doesn’t get knocked out because we have lights that are being used inefficiently or A/C units being misused.”
Klepack agrees. “It allows our grid to be more stable and to avoid some rotating outages, “ she says.
Klepack says the program has been successful. “It’s certainly more cost-effective for us to work with a project in the design phase rather than going into a building after it is built,” she continues. “We look for those opportunities right from the beginning.”
Klepack says the state building code is shifting more and more toward demand response, but the program that Southern California Edison is currently running allows it to pay incentives to early adopters such as the Shore Hotel.
“We pay for 100 percent of the incremental costs to design in the automated capability up to $300 per kW of load reduction,” Klepack says.
Meanwhile, Farzam says the program has given the hotel a boost in guest satisfaction. “Every guest who checks in we make it a point to tell them that there is a story here,” Farzam says. “Our staff is very educated on it and we share it with the guests.”
Look for more on the Shore Hotel and green lodging in the April issue of Lodging.