Orlando is regarded by many people as one of the world's most popular places for leisure and business travel. Green Destination Orlando seeks another global distinction.
The numbers stack up to big potential, especially across one of the world's most popular vacation and business travel destinations.
Green buildings require less energy, emit less carbon dioxide, use less indoor water and send fewer pounds of solid waste to landfills, all while providing healthy and comfortable indoor environments. Hotels, meanwhile, represent a landscape of more than five billion square feet of space nationwide, encompassing five million guest rooms, and consume nearly $4 billion in annual energy costs. So what better place than Orlando, with its 50 million-plus visitors each year, to combine green with hospitality to make an environmental statement?
Last fall, the Central Florida Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council answered the question with the launch of Green Destination Orlando—a program that aims to make Orlando the most green destination in the world.
The idea is to create a total sustainable experience that begins the moment visitors arrive at a local airport, including transportation to their hotel, their stay and daily activities, and their trip back to the airport. The plan calls for a sustainable loop that never breaks.
Ambitious, for sure. And making baby steps toward becoming real.
Since the launch, according to Dina M. Belon, hospitality advocacy chair for the USGBC Central Florida Chapter, hotels and restaurants, among others, are signing up to participate. Just don't expect instant gratification, she adds, because the tiered approach is not only completely volunteer but also demands measures of both detail and patience. One tier, or step, leads to another in an continual process.
“The GDO program is designed to help the participants with ongoing progress on the green initiatives versus a certification that you complete and that is it,” describes Belon, who is a principal and owner of RUSH Hospitality in Titusville, which specializes in resort renovations. “The program is designed to help properties make significant progress with their green building practices over time.”
Notably, the program has already garnered national attention and become the basis for the pilot of a national program that encourages other hospitality destinations to follow suit. Under the USGBC, hospitality communities are working together to transform cities, towns, counties, regions and states into green destinations by challenging local hotels, conference centers and restaurants to track energy and water use, waste data and other sustainability metrics. And as a byproduct, in hospitality's ultra-competitive marketplace, the efforts allow meeting planners to access real and verifiable documentation of the destination's sustainability efforts to aid in their decision making.
The program is based on a four-level rating system. A total of 100 points are available based on scores earned on two checklists, plus five bonus points for innovations in operations. GDO program levels, ranking lowest to highest are: Blue (40-49 points); Teal (50-59 points); Green (60-69 points); and Evergreen (70-100 points).
To begin the process, businesses register and complete Checklist 1, entitled "Perform Inventory and Analysis." This checklist helps the business understand the existing condition of the property and identify and analyze opportunities, and must be completed within one year of registration to maintain designation as a participant. Businesses must demonstrate ongoing improvement year over year and score at least 10 of 20 available points to move on to Checklist 2, entitled "Making Changes." In this phase, the business starts with low-cost improvements and works toward more substantial opportunities. The objective of the program is to show continuous improvement each year until the business has achieved the “Evergreen” designation.
Those who continue to earn the designation will be provided with a Green Destination Orlando logo for marketing use. The GDO program is a multiyear process that can prepare a facility to apply for the USGBC LEED Existing Building Certification.
“Similar to LEED, the participant has the option on what points best work for them to pursue,” says Belon.
The decision to participate in the GDO pilot program was simple, contends DeeDee Baggitt, director of engineering and facilities at Rosen Hotels & Resorts. The hotel group already participates in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Green Lodging program. “To create a totally sustainable experience, we needed to create a program in which all types of hospitality businesses, not only hotels, can participate," Baggitt says. "Rosen Hotels & Resorts has been participating in sustainable practices for years, not only because it's good for the environment but also because many of these practices also save money in the long term. In addition, our guests notice and appreciate our efforts and reward us with their loyalty, so it's a win-win situation."
Guess one cannot say that the business of green never goes on vacation.
Existing Green Beats New Green
The tide has shifted, officially.
As 2011 closed, LEED-certified existing buildings had outpaced their newly built counterparts, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. The square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings surpassed LEED-certified new construction by 15 million square feet on a cumulative basis.
"This new data marks the first time that LEED-certified existing buildings have surpassed LEED-certified new construction cumulatively," cites Rick Fedrizzi, the USGBC's president, CEO and founding chair. "The market is becoming increasingly aware of how building owners can get better performance through green operations and maintenance."
Historically, USGBC has seen the stock of LEED-certified green projects overwhelmingly made up of new construction projects, both in volume and square footage. That began to change in 2008, when the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance program began experiencing substantial growth. In 2009, projects certified under LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M surpassed those certified under its new construction counterpart on an annual basis, a trend that continued in 2010 and 2011.
Not coincidentally, a recent report by Capital-E found that efficiency financing has the potential to soar from $20 billion to $150 billion annually, creating more than one million jobs. Also, in its Green Outlook 2011 report, McGraw Hill Construction found that by 2015 the green share of the largest commercial retrofit and renovation activity will more than triple—an opportunity of up to $18 billion in major construction projects alone.
Did You Know?
Projects worldwide are proving that green building doesn’t have to mean building new. By undertaking a large renovation, officials of the recently LEED-certified Empire State Building have predicted they will slash energy consumption by more than 38 percent, saving $4.4 million in energy costs annually and recouping the costs of implementation in three years. The second tallest building in the world, Taipei 101, earned the top environmental honor, LEED Platinum. The skyscraper was designed to use 30 percent less energy, reducing annual utility costs by $700,000 a year. San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid also earned LEED Platinum as an existing building, 39 years after it was originally built. The landmark’s onsite cogeneration plant saves an average of $700,000 annually in energy costs.