Hotels Hotel-specific green building program in the infancy stage By Lester Craft / May 15, 2008 Share 1 -- The U.S. Green Building Council, developer of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building certification program, is taking the first steps toward creating a new LEED track specific to the hotel and hospitality industry.Hotels' interest in LEED has "exploded" in recent months, prompting the USGBC to begin work on a hospitality-specific program, said Mark Heisterkamp, manager of USGBC's LEED corporate/investment real estate sector.Speaking Wednesday at Green Day, a companion conference to the HD Expo in Las Vegas serving the hospitality design sector, Heisterkamp said the USGBC has had initial conversations with several major hotel brands and operators in order to begin assessing how LEED requirements for hotels should differ from the existing tracks in place for commercial office buildings, retail spaces and other categories.Heisterkamp noted that even though the current LEED program is not configured with hotels and other hospitality venues in mind, the increasing impetus to "go green" is prompting growing numbers of hotels to seek certification under the current program despite its shortcomings.He said that about 200 lodging properties, most of which are in the planning and construction phases, are working toward LEED certification. Ten hotels have gained LEED status thus far, a number that is set to grow rapidly given the swelling pipeline of properties seeking LEED certification.Heisterkamp noted that a LEED track specific to hotels and hospitality would have several advantages over the program's existing categories. Key requirements tailored to hotels, for example, could account for renovation cycles as well as FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment), operations and maintenance, and even food and beverage.Heisterkamp explained that rather than dictating LEED requirements, USGBC develops standards through industry consensus. Its role in devising hotel-specific standards would include obtaining input from industry representatives and then subjecting proposed requirements to extensive industry vetting. Approval of proposed standards, once they have been developed, would take several months, he said. Even though hotels are adopting LEED later than office buildings and other sectors, ultimately hotels could become a highly visible venue for LEED and for green buildings in general, Heisterkamp said. LEED hotels could have a significant educational impact because of hotels' highly visible exposure to vast numbers of consumers, he said, and provide "a powerful message we don't have in most other space types."To contact reporter Lester Craft, send e-mail to email@example.com.