Marriott expands LEED portfolio: Atlanta hotels conserve energy, water

Nov. 5, 2010
ATLANTA — The SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway and the Atlanta Marriott Gateway are both using 30% less water and 28% less energy than a non-LEED rated hotel.

ATLANTA — The SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway and the Atlanta Marriott Gateway, located here at the Gateway Complex, adjacent to the airport and home to the Georgia International Convention Center, are both using 30% less water and 28% less energy than a non-LEED rated hotel thanks to low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures, water-efficient landscaping and an efficient HVAC system, among other sustainable features.

The SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway is the first hotel in Atlanta to receive U.S. Green Building Council Gold certification — the hotel was awarded the certification in July — and the Atlanta Marriott Gateway is registered for LEED Silver certification.

"We're extremely proud and excited to be among the first to achieve the highest levels of LEED certification in Atlanta," said Erika Alexander, area vice president, Marriott Intl.

Energy efficiency

Several aspects of the hotels’ HVAC systems help conserve energy and decrease operating costs.

“One of the things that stand out in this hotel [Gateway Marriott] is the per ton cost of cooling,” said Bruce Tucker, director of engineering for the Atlanta Gateway Marriott. “The cost is less because of the Trane chillers we have and the type of cooling we use in the building. The cooling tower is high efficiency, and the guest room units are a two-pipe system for cooling.”

The Gateway Marriott is also utilizing a non-chemical cooling tower treatment system, which adds to the efficiency of the cooling tower.

“Treating a cooling tower involves a lot of chemicals not environmentally friendly,” said Tucker. “By having a non-chemical treatment for the towers, water is saved, energy is saved, and chemicals are not released into the system.”

According to Tucker, energy efficiency is gained by using a two-pipe HVAC system for cooling and electric strips inside fan coil units in the guest rooms for heating.

If a four pipe HVAC system was utilized instead, the entire loop would need to be heated just to heat one guest room. Instead, with the current two-pipe system and guest room units, energy is saved and only one specific space is heated when necessary.

“From a guest comfort level, if a guest wants to be warmer they are literally in control of what their room temperature is like,” said Tucker. “Guests can set the thermostat in their guest room to any temperature they want.”

Other energy-efficient aspects of the HVAC system are the air handlers, which have the latest variable speed drives and speed controls, and high-efficiency plate and frame heat exchangers. Plus, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide monitors constantly measure air quality levels to keep a specified amount of fresh air in the buildings.

“Through the monitoring process you can use more free-cooling styles that allow outside air into the building to cool it at certain times of the year when it might not be necessary to run the chiller,” said Tucker. “If you walk around the hotel, in public spaces you will see monitors. When necessary these monitors will pull more air into the building to deplete the amount of carbon dioxide.”

At the SpringHill Suites, a variable refrigerant volume (VRV) system is being used for guest rooms and the public areas — the lobby, dining areas, pool, health club, hallways and corridors — while PTAC units are being used in non-guestroom areas such as storage and utility rooms.

“For the guest rooms we are using a VRV system, which is an upgrade,” said Jefferson Thomas, senior design manager, Marriott A&C Division. “This is a positive for our guests since there is a noise reduction that comes with this type of system.”

The Springhill Suites is also conserving energy by utilizing a controlled occupancy lighting system in which the guest room key turns the lights on and when the guest leaves the room with the key the lights turn off.

Both hotels are also using natural gas produced energy instead of coal produced energy to keep energy costs and carbon footprints down.

Water conservation

Water is conserved at both properties via low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures.

“The [American Standard] toilets flush at 1.28 gallons of water,” said Tucker. “These toilets use about one gallon of water in the bowl and 25% of a gallon to get the waste out of it. That’s the single largest water saving device.”

Both hotels utilize low-flow showerheads and faucets, which is a standard practice of Marriott.

“No matter what Marriott property you go to now you will see that [low-flow showerheads and faucets],” said Tucker.

The landscaping also conserves water at the two hotels.

“The landscaping lets us use 50% less water than what we normally would use,” said Tucker. “There are sensors in the ground that determine if it’s necessary for the irrigation system to come on.”

Building green

According to Thomas, the No.1 misconception is that building green is expensive, and that it will always cost more.

“This is a great case sample that if you incorporate the goal of sustainability in the initial project conception, you can actually design it that it doesn’t cost extra,” said Thomas. “Everyone needs to be on board so it’s a standard integrated design process. If it doesn’t cost more and it saves money for the life the building, why wouldn’t you build green?

“The net operating income is increased since you are saving energy consumption and water consumption,” added Thomas. “Those two items alone, as the cost of energy increases, is a savings that can be recorded into the performance of a building for its lifetime.”

Last fall, Marriott announced a goal to expand its LEED portfolio to approximately 300 properties by 2015. At the moment, there are 50 LEED hotels certified or registered across all Marriott Intl. brands.

Additional information about Marriott’s environmental practices and initiatives is available at:

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About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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