The designation, offered under the U.S. Green Building Council's Portfolio Program, enables a firm that obtains advanced approval of a design to expedite final certification of any structure built according to the plans.
Starwood (NYSE: HOT) announced this week that its prototype for all new Element hotels passed muster with the USGBC.
The practice is called volume pre-certification. In addition to saving companies time, the practice also saves money and is considered a strong advantage in any industry that involves franchises and has green building aspirations. The franchisees can follow the franchisor's eco-friendly footsteps without having to shoulder the costs for architectural plans and studies of various design elements for resource efficiency.
Marriott International (NYSE: MAR) took the wraps off its green prototype for newly built Courtyard Hotels last month. The design also was pre-certified to LEED standards.
Starwood launched the Element brand in 2008 and considers it the company's "green lab." All hotels in the line pursue LEED certification.
The Element green prototype is based on the Element Lexington. The Massachusetts property earned LEED-Gold certification in 2008. The design has enabled the hotel to be 20 percent more energy efficiency and cut water use by 32 percent, which translates to a savings of 942,000 gallons. Almost 70 percent of the power purchased by the hotel comes from renewable energy sources.
Other green design features at the Element Lexington include the use of building materials, furnishings and finishes that contain few volatile organic compounds. Low VOC paints and other materials do not "gas-off" odors and vapors that are typically emitted by such products. The lower emissions improve indoor air quality.
The Element brand also created an online tool, called a "LEED Developer Roadmap," to help hotel operators pursuing green building certifcation.
In June, Starwood Hotels and Resorts announced plans to slash energy and water use in each of its 1,000 hotels by 2020. The company is shooting for a 30 percent reduction in energy use and a 20 percent drop in water consumption per available room within in a decade.
The firm also introduced green meeting guidelines for its North American properties in June and said it will roll out the practices globally next year.
Images of Element Lexington, courtesy of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.