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St. Louis Hotel Makes Energy Efficiency and Sustainability a Top Priority

From the ground up, the Holiday Inn Express near the Lambert – St. Louis International Airport was designed to be a “green” hotel.  Owner Vinod Patel of OHM Hotel Group envisioned an energy-efficient and eco-friendly hotel that would appeal to business travelers who want to reduce their carbon footprint while on the road.

“We are pleased to offer this kind of a lodging experience for our environmentally-conscious guests,” said Patel. “We are thrilled at the response we’ve gotten from our guests,” he said, noting that the hotel has been completely booked on a regular basis since it opened in July 2014.

The combination of renewable energy, efficiency and conservation will likely enable the facility to be registered as an Energy STAR certified building after the hotel has been in operation for over a year.  The building will serve as a model for future hotels, which may also include additional features such as solar water heating and solar outdoor lighting.

Steve O’Rourke, Vice President at Microgrid Energy, has collaborated with the hotel owners since they initially met in 2011.  “I love being a part of this success story for sustainability.  Vinod and his team have embraced green building in a sensible way, and this hotel will serve as a model for future hotel development.”

To begin the process, OHM hired Microgrid Energy to conduct an energy modeling study which would determine the cost-effectiveness of a variety of energy efficiency upgrades to the 81-room hotel.  The energy model showed how each investment would contribute to overall energy savings, and included a payback and ROI for each.  The comparisons were based on a building design that was minimally compliant with building codes.  The local utility, Ameren Missouri, provided funding for the study and additional incentives for implementing various upgrades.

The study provided a blueprint for achieving higher efficiency using a holistic approach in the building design.  The building envelope was enhanced to utilize upgraded windows and thicker walls with additional insulation to minimize heat transfer and the resulting need for heating and cooling.  More efficient HVAC equipment further reduced energy costs, along with energy efficient lighting and low-flow water fixtures.

Microgrid installed a 30-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the hotel, which produces over 38 megawatt hours of energy annually.  This is enough energy to power more than three average-size homes – or 25 rooms in the hotel.  Energy production is displayed on computers in the hotel’s business services center, and the green features of the hotel are presented on LED flat-screen monitors in the guest dining area and front desk.

The fitness room features Green Series exercise equipment designed to minimize energy usage, and the saltwater pool provides a more comfortable swim. The common areas of the hotel feature a variety of other energy-saving equipment, including:

  • Hi-efficiency refrigerators and freezers with LED lighting and energy conserving fan controls
  • An LED electric fireplace in the dining area that operates with or without heat
  • 96% efficient natural gas water heaters
  • Programmable ice machines that make enough ice to satisfy low or high demand.
  • LED or high-efficiency compact fluorescent lighting throughout the building.

The rooms are designed to provide guests with luxurious accommodations, while minimizing water and energy usage:

  • The room air conditioners use up to 35% less energy than similar models
  • Appliances, including LED televisions, microwaves and refrigerators, are all Energy STAR rated
  • Bathrooms feature low-flow showerheads and faucets, and dual-wattage hair dryers that use 20% less energy at lower wattage
  • Remotely programmable controls enable room temperatures to be automatically set back after guests check out.

The hotel management proudly promotes all of the eco-friendly attributes of the hotel, and invites guests to help conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when leaving their rooms.  Guests are also encouraged to reuse towels and bed linens to reduce laundering.  This cooperative effort between the guests and staff creates a friendly environment and a great model for sustainability in the hotel industry.

The hotel offers a shuttle van that runs on compressed natural gas to further reduce emissions.  They also had Microgrid install charging stations that can charge up to three electric vehicles at a time, with 240-volt Level 2 chargers that are free to use by hotel guests.  The parking lot lights are all high-efficiency LED lamps that use 75% less energy than traditional lighting.   The hotel landscaping also uses a number of native plants that are drought-resistant and require minimal watering.

“This has been a great learning experience for us,” said Patel, “and we are pleased to be able to offer our guests a more sustainable place to stay.”

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