Kimpton Hotel, Once a Post Office, Axes Environmental Impact

9/12/2013 By Glenn Hasek

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The green team at Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Washington, D.C. has had a lot to smile about lately. The hotel was presented with the Technology Innovation, Medium Property award earlier this summer by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. That honor followed last year’s Mayor’s Sustainability Award. More importantly, in the last two years the hotel has completed a long list of projects—$2.4 million worth—that have resulted in a drop of 48 percent in utility costs, 24 percent reduction in energy use, 31 percent reduction in energy rates, and 32 percent drop in water consumption.

Getting to its current operating condition has been a long road for the property that originally was built in 1842. It once served as the U.S. General Post Office and was converted into a hotel in 2001. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) owns the building and Pebblebrook Hotel Trust has owned the ground lease since 2010.

Not long after Pebblebrook got involved in the hotel, it began identifying projects to invest in that would have a payback from three to five years. Pebblebrook brought in Sol Vista Consulting for guidance.

“We helped them identify the projects that would have significant payback,” says Mark Foster, director of services for Silver Spring, Md.-based Sol Vista.

Planned Improvements Took Time

It was more than a year before the $2.4 million in upgrades could be made. All work associated with the energy efficiency improvements in the 196,800 square foot building were required to meet the GSA’s requirements for mechanical design, NAFTA compliance, and historic preservation. This not only increased the cost for many of the upgrades, but added layers of approval and paperwork to each step of the process.

“In mid-summer 2011 we were able to start projects,” Foster says.

Hotel Monaco’s mechanical systems and fixtures suffered from years of neglect. The improvement process began with an ASHRAE Level II assessment and a review of energy procurement opportunities by Sol Vista. Projects at or below threshold then moved into a scoping and bidding stage in order to validate the initial estimates. Through a combination of competitive bidding, innovative design, advanced controls sequencing, and attention to hotel guest satisfaction considerations, a comprehensive suite of impactful retrofit opportunities was compiled. Each component project was justified on its own merit for savings potential and its ability to support the guest experience expected of a high-end hotel.

One of the projects involved transitioning the hotel from district steam to gas boilers. A new chiller was installed, replacing the old one that had an internal water leak as well as an internal heat exchanger that was extremely clogged and could not be cleaned. Exhaust fans were refurbished, a whole-building automation system was put in place, variable frequency drives were added to the chiller water pump and cooling tower fan, and kitchen hood controls were installed. LEDs were installed in back of house areas in mid-2011 and front of house in late 2012. A guestroom energy management system was also put in place.

While upgrades were being made to the hotel, a rebate program became available through DC Sustainable Energy Utility. The team behind the projects was able to take advantage of more than $100,000 in rebates. Enhanced electricity and natural gas procurement strategies have resulted in additional savings.

Hotel Already Had Made Green Commitment

All of the improvement projects complemented steps already taken at the hotel including pressure-assisted toilets, water-efficient showerheads, aerators, in-room and public area recycling, fryer oil recycling, food waste composting, the use of non-toxic cleaners, plastic material reduction, and other steps that fall under the hotel and Kimpton’s sustainable purchasing policy.

Ed Virtue, general manager of the 183-room hotel, says the HVAC improvements have significantly improved guest and employee comfort and satisfaction.

“There is an incredible difference,” he says. “Previously, we would have regular breakdowns. Now we have excess capacity. Complaints about inadequate guestroom lighting are down more than 5 percent. We have also seen an 11 percent reduction in room temperature complaints from our guestrooms. This follows a general trend of increased guest comfort and an improved employee experience as we gain better control of our energy management systems.”

The Hotel Monaco’s commitment to sustainability has also made it a more attractive destination for group business.

“The government has a travel policy regarding sustainability,” Virtue says. “It is part of every RFP. To be on the cutting edge gets us in the running for groups we would not have had a chance at.”

In addition to the aforementioned honors, the hotel has been profiled as part of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and is also featured on the Sol Vista website.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


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