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Syracuse's Hotel Skyler Becomes Third LEED-Platinum Hotel

<p>After more than 18 months of work, the Woodbine Group's 58-room hotel has landed the coveted top green ranking from the US Green Building Council. Here are some of the building's green features.</p>

November 17 was a day to celebrate for Syracuse, N.Y.-based Woodbine Group. It was then that the company learned that its 58-room Hotel Skyler had earned LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED Platinum is a rare feat as only two other hotels in the United States -- the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., and the Bardessono in Yountville, Calif. -- have earned the designation. According to Lynee Sauer, business manager for Woodbine Group, the road to LEED Platinum was more than a year and a half long; the company first registered for LEED on March 24, 2009. "It feels really good to have gone through the process," Sauer says.

"We took a piece of Syracuse's history and reclaimed it," adds Tom Fernandez, director of marketing and product development for Woodbine Group.

Positioned at the center of the Syracuse University campus, Golisano Children's Hospital, Upstate Medical Center, and Crouse Hospital, Hotel Skyler was once Temple Adath Yeshurun -- constructed in 1921 -- and later a home for a theater group. The property originally was set to be high end apartments and lofts until the recent recession hit.

Geothermal Heating & Cooling System

Hotel Skyler, a boutique property, features a geothermal heating and cooling system. Sixteen vertical wells were dug just adjacent to the hotel to, as Sauer explains, "harness the steady temperature of the earth." Each well is 499 feet deep and there are 68 water-to-air heat pumps. Signage inside the hotel helps educate guests about how the geothermal system works.

LED lighting in public spaces and compact fluorescents in guestrooms further enhance the hotel's energy efficiency. A key card-based guestroom energy management system ensures that lighting as well as the heating and cooling system is powered down when guests are not in their rooms. Only the guestroom corridor light and a couple of outlets remain "on" when the guest removes the key card from the card slot located in the guestroom entry area.

Low- and no-flow fixtures will save water -- about 500,000 gallons annually -- and pervious payment in the parking lot and entry way will ensure that rainwater enters the aquifer and not the storm water management system.

Although still relatively soon since the hotel's opening, Sauer says Hotel Skyler is tracking significantly lower in energy and water usage than Woodbine Group's other two hotels in Syracuse.

Emphasis on Locally Made Products

Every effort was made to incorporate regionally-produced and reclaimed materials into the interior design of the hotel. The lobby is accented by a stained glass window reclaimed from St. John's Church, in Oswego, and the bar serves sustainable wines, beer, and liquor. Stefon's Marketplace offers healthy take-away meals, snacks, and coffee.

Regarding the hotel's exterior, Sauer says all of the building's original identity has been preserved. "We are preserving the historic integrity of the property," she says. The building has the exterior décor of a synagogue. Inside the hotel, the design is what Fernandez describes as "Bohemian eclectic" with a lot of earth tones and funky designs. Each guestroom has its own unique art and design. Two two-level tree house suites are included in the hotel.

Other green features:

  • More than 534 tons of the 712 tons of material removed from the site was recycled -- resulting in a more than 75% waste stream diversion rate.
  • Pervious pavers in the parking area reduce stormwater runoff & promote infiltration.
  • Local materials were reused as was material salvaged from the site. Examples include: lobby casework from a deconstructed warehouse in Syracuse; and where possible, original architectural features from the temple were preserved -- decorative corbels, window casings, and ornamental trim to name a few.
  • Green cleaning products are used.
  • A towel and linen reuse program is in place.
  • Recycling reduces the flow of waste to the landfill.

For many reasons Hotel Skyler earned enough points to reach LEED Platinum -- its location, use of an existing structure, energy and water efficiency, attention to indoor air quality, use of sustainable materials (95 percent of the wood used in the hotel is Forest Stewardship Council-certified), enhanced commissioning, and its overall design.

"[Working through the LEED process] was a learning curve for all of us," Sauer says. "It takes a fair amount of due diligence. There is a lot to read and learn."

Offering advice to others pursuing LEED certification for their hotel projects, Sauer says, "Start conversations with those who have done it before."

Fernandez says the hotel is performing better than expected with 65 percent occupancy, on average.

"We expected to have more of a ramp-up period," he says. "Our goal is to hit 70 percent."

Hotel Skyler is attracting business because of its green approach. Some of it is related to the green-focused 2.4 million square feet Destiny USA retail project in Syracuse. Fernandez says the hotel has also become a "green lab" of sorts with tours being given two or three times a week.

This article originally appeared on Green Lodging News, and is reprinted with permission.

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