Hotel Green Circle, Hotel CertificationThe U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently rolled out its latest Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) standards for hotel certification, which included specific guidelines for hotels and other businesses in the hospitality industry. The LEED system for design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings promotes environmental responsibility during the building process and sustainable habits during operations.

Introduced in 1998, the LEED rating system has taken the drastic changes in environmentally friendly construction into consideration. Marriot International currently has 13 LEED-certified hotels. The USGBC gives out platinum, gold, and silver ratings beyond basic LEED certification. Only three hotels have earned a LEED platinum rating. Hotels can save money and boost their brand by complying with these green guidelines.

LEED Principles

The LEED rating system is broken down into various sustainable categories. Hotels can earn points by building on sustainable sites that minimize impact on the ecosystem. USGBC also offers credit for using sustainable building materials and reducing waste during the building process. Once a hotel is up, it’s use of water contributes to the LEED rating. Low-flow faucets and showers are examples of efficient water consumption. Lastly, LEED awards points for sustainable energy consumption. Energy companies can come alongside these building operations to create a plan for sustainability. Hotels that value and conserve electricity are more likely to get a high rating. Hotels have a chance to go green in all these categories.


The latest LEED specifications offer a new suite of tools designed to speed up the certification process. “For LEED 2009 there are about 1,000 versions of forms,” USGBC director Corey Enck told “For LEED v4 there are about 200.” The new LEED specifications also eliminate the light pollution credit for hotels. LEED guidelines indicate the commercial properties should have shading in the windows to prevent light from pouring out. In a hotel, however, guests control whether or not these shades are in use, so it doesn’t make sense to penalize owners. Along with LEED v4, offers a number of new resources for businesses seeking certification, whether they’re getting ready to build or looking to make an existing property more sustainable.

Platinum Hotel Certification

Earning the USGBC’s highest LEED rating is no easy task. Only two hotels in the United States are certified LEED platinum. Bardessono, a hotel and spa in Yountville, CA, uses low-e glass, automatically controlled thermostats and overhangs to reduce energy costs. Owners Steve and Pat Bardessono built their hotel with stone from an existing building. Not only did this give Bardessono a classic look, it also saved material. North Carolina’s Proximity Hotel was the first LEED platinum certified hotel. Proximity features 100 solar rooftop panels that heat water for the hotel. A number of water conservation advancements saved Proximity two million gallons of water in $13,000 in the first year of their installation. During construction, Proximity also recycled 87 percent of its construction debris.

Hotels can look to these two top performers for inspiration. LEED certification is a valuable badge to advertise, and it can save hotels money.