10 Questions Hoteliers Should Ask Before a Renovation

Balancing guest happiness and revenue generation is an ongoing challenge for hotel owners. A renovation can address both concerns by injecting new life into an older property. Whether trying to make a property more relevant and profitable or preparing it for sale, hoteliers should ask these 10 questions before starting a renovation.

1. Does the hotel simply need a fresh coat of paint or a full reflagging?
The purpose of renovating is to keep a hotel competitive. But how much of a renovation does your hotel need? Answer this question by researching the hotel’s competitive set including the design, amenities, and services offered at other local hotels. Don’t forget to look at changes in hotel availability in the area, too.

2. Does the existing property present significant obstacles for your project?
Space requirements such as room sizes are an obvious constraint, but brand standards will dictate the design of many programmatic elements. Conduct a preliminary evaluation of the brand requirements first and confirm you can meet the current standards. Full-service brands, for example, require more public and support spaces than limited-service hotels.

3. Do you have the appropriate documentation to get your design team started?
Compile reliable existing drawings, including all discipline as-builds and a current digital survey. Conduct an investigatory site visit and discuss the existing building systems, including load and utility capacities, with the existing operations and engineering departments.


4. Have you adequately defined the scope of work and budget?
A thorough property improvement plan outlines the scope that then guides design documentation and helps identify cost as the project evolves. In addition, an ROI report helps prioritize scope. When budgeting, don’t forget to carry budget contingency for unforeseen conditions, which are common in renovations.

5. What are the major scheduling obstacles for your project?
If the hotel will remain operational during construction, identify work hour limits for contractor or operations logistics coordination. When setting the construction period, factor in “high seasons” and special group events to minimize revenue losses. You should also confirm the current permit process and duration for the local jurisdiction and determine if there are ways to expedite the review. And don’t forget to factor in time for brand design reviews, too.

6. Will your project require any special projects or mock-ups?
With guestroom renovation projects, its beneficial to build a model room or multiple rooms, including a portion of the corridor and multiple room types to evaluate not only the soft goods, but also any constructability issues. Custom FF&E, like decorative lighting or high-cost/high-reproduction furniture, also warrants consideration. Remember to track the associated time and cost into your overall project plan and budget.

7. Who needs to be a part of your team?
Most renovations call for a building permit and an architect, but impacts to structure, MEP, or life safety systems also require engineered, signed, and sealed consultant documents. Select an experienced team who understands the brand, level of service, and project scope.

8. Will there be occupancy use changes?
Changing or adding an occupancy type requires an assessment of means of egress, the life safety systems, and program adjacencies. Additionally, an increase in occupancy can often add scope, including more parking and additional plumbing fixtures.

9. Will your renovation scope trigger code-required upgrades?
The classification or percentage of renovation scope/cost may require upgrades to existing building systems to meet the current code, so determine the extent of your renovation on the front end. Also, it helps to have an ADA survey and report completed before finalizing the project scope.

10. Does your project warrant phasing strategies or multiple design teams?
Sometimes there is a benefit in splitting your project into a series of “mini projects.” While this approach requires more documentation, it benefits the schedule by allowing for staggered certificates of occupancy and construction phasing. Depending on the design and scale of the project, consider using multiple interior designers for each space such as food and beverage areas, public spaces, and guestrooms.

In hospitality design, renovations are more common–and often more complicated–than new-builds. Asking the right questions helps a successful renovation project start off on the right foot.


About the Authors
Shauna Achey, AIA, is a senior associate and Aaron Gentry, AIA LEED AP, is a principal at tvsdesign.


Photo: Marriott Marquis San Diego (Courtesy of tvsdesign)

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