Published on:

Green Hotel Lawyer: Why should you do GREEN hotel development, and HOW do you do it?

Author of
17 March 2008
Green hotel lawyer at the UNLV-JMBM Hotel Developers Conference™ 2008, Las Vegas, Nevada. In my last posting on, I talked about the keynote address given by Dan Esty at this conference on GREEN hotel development, rehab and operation. Dan Esty is a Yale professor and environmental consultant to businesses including the Fortune 1000. He is also one of the most relevant, practical and influential geniuses observing and guiding businesses in coping with and profiting from greener and more sustainable behavior. If you have not read his seminal Green to Gold, you should do yourself a favor and go to and get a copy right away. It certainly changed my perspective on things. (see Green Hotel Development Lawyer: UNLV-JMBM Hotel Developers Conference 2008)

But the green hotel development conference was also the stage for a 5-star line up of some of the most advanced thinkers and prestigious leaders at the intersection of hospitality, development, architecture, design, engineering and sustainability. They included the thought leaders and battle-scarred veterans from the trenches working on already-successful and still-pending green hotel development projects who raised many thought-provoking, controversial, and often troublesome, challenges to our conventional thinking and business-as-usual approaches. It seemed clear to me that the sea change has occurred. It is only a question of when our boats rise or fall with tide.

Who was there? What did they say? Why was it so important? Well, here are some more of the details and my take on this whole “green hotel development thing” . . .

The Lineup and why THAT is important.

Who goes to the Academy Awards? The best actors and most influential people in business! Who goes to the Nobel Peace Prize Awards, the Olympics, the Superbowl, the Inaugural Parties? The top players in the world and those most interested and influential in the events and other aspects of business. Well, this Hotel Developers Conference was that kind of event — at least all the stars from every aspect of the heavens turned out for this conclave, and the energy, creativity, and sometimes conflict, was almost palpable.

There were more than 70 incredible speakers at The Hotel Developers Conference™, so this listing only gives a hint of the depth of the bench. And the conference delegates attending were equally dedicated and distinguished:

AH&LA Chairman Tom Corcoran who discussed greening hotels as a top initiative of his tenure with the U.S.’s most important hotel trade organization and as CEO of one of the industry’s largest hotel REITs
Hotel CEOs including some of the largest developers and owners of hotel mixed-use in the country such as Karim Alibhai from Gencom and Marty Collins from Gatehouse Capital
Developers, Architects, Consultants and Operators of the first Green Hotels in the world, including MGM Mirage, The Gaia Napa Valley, The Ambrose, The Orchard Garden, and The Hilton Vancouver Washington, Northpoint Group
Green support organization like the USGBC (Pamela Vilkin and her great team from the Nevada Chapter who co-sponsored the event), and EPA (Stuart Brodsky with his great resources)

Giants of hotel finance leading the edge of green hotel finance like Scott Muldavin and his co-panelists from Johnson Capital, Cornerstone Real Estate, Berkshire Capital, and Canyon Capital
Mixed-use and time share advisors like Russell Dazzio (UNLV Alum and one of the most “connected” guys in Las Vegas . . . at least for hotel development) and John Sweeney, one of the guys who practically invented time share and vacation ownership.

The creative architects leading this charge in LEED-certified and otherwise sustainable hotels, such as Howard Wolff and Raj Chandnani from WATG, Nellie Reid and Tom Ito from Gensler, Kip Richardson from Ankrom Moisan, Gary Golla from SERA, Anthony DiGuiseppe from the firm that bears his name, and Scott Lee of SB Architects
Spa and lifestyle leaders like Miraval and WTS International
Alternate energy sources like Andrew Singer of Constellation NewEnergy, Shaun Laughlin of SunEdison, and Greg Tinkler of CGD Redding Linden Burr
Brand leaders in green innovations like Hilton, Kimpton, Fairmont, Carlson, and Wyndham
Consultants like Tom Paladino of Paladino & Company and Kip Richardson of Ankrom Moisan who gave stunning co-keynote presentations, Ray Burger or Pineapple Hospitality, Lynn Simon of Simon & Associates, Tom Morone of Warnick & Co., and Peter Connolly of Palladian Development
Innovators in technology like Ellis Yan of TCP on CFLs, Michael Shore from FLS energy on solar
And how about the Chicago Carbon Exchange — who knows when the value of carbon credits will exceed the value of the New York Stock Exchange?

Anyway, you get the idea. This was the ultimate meeting for talent, independent thought, practical analysis, tough evaluations and hot debate.

OK. Sorry for the long set up, but I think it is important to understand the significance — and the substance — of this meeting. And here is how Glenn Hasek, publisher of Green Lodging News and a sponsor of the program described the first day’s proceedings. (See Green Lodging News). This excerpt is reprinted with Glenn’s kind permission, and we suggest you check out his site if you are interested in anything having to do with Green Lodging.
Excerpts from Glenn’s report (with permission):

CityCenter Project in Spotlight

MGM Mirage Inc.’s $8 billion CityCenter project was the focus of one session that included developer, designer and construction team members. MGM Mirage is pursuing LEED Silver certification for the mammoth project that eventually will employ 12,000 people.

“We wanted to do something that was a stretch,” said Cindy Ortega, Senior Vice President of Energy and Environmental Services for MGM Mirage. “We brought together architects who typically compete with one another. The sustainable aspects of the project are front and center. What pursuing LEED has done is make it hard for everyone to abandon environmental principles.”

Buildings in CityCenter will be powered with the assistance of a 10-megawatt heat and power plant. Low-flow fixtures will ensure that water consumption is 30 percent below code, and drought-resistant plants will be planted in exterior areas. During construction, cooling tower blow-down water from another casino has been used to control dust. A total of 2.5 million gallons of water has been used so far.

Nellie Reid, Director of Sustainable Design for Gensler, said one of the most challenging aspects of the project has been applying LEED standards–ones originally created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for office buildings–to a mixed-use project.

“It has been a learning process for us,” Reid says.

Trying to Define Green

During a luncheon session, some of lodging’s top hotel developers addressed questions regarding LEED, its merits, and whether or not it should be the lodging industry standard for green development.

“I would like to have a LEED certification process that is hotel-centric,” said Tom Corcoran, Chairman of the Board, FelCor Lodging Trust Inc. and current Chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. “LEED may not get us where we need to be from an operations perspective.”
“LEED does not work as well in the select service segment,” added Marty Collins, president, Gatehouse Capital Corp.

“Our industry is still trying to get its arms around what green really means,” Corcoran concluded.

Demystifying the LEED Process

In a session entitled, “Demystifying LEED: What’s All the Fuss About?”, individuals who already have worked with LEED discussed their experiences. Stefan Mühle, general manager of the LEED-certified Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco, said it took his property just nine to 12 months to reach a steady 80 percent or more occupancy rate at an average daily rate of $180.

“The LEED process added discipline and ensured that we documented what we did,” added Philip Sherburne, president, Sherburne Development Group.

Sherburne is currently constructing the luxury 62-room Bardessono Inn and Spa in Yountville, Calif. The property will feature a 200-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on its roof to generate electricity and ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling.

“There is no contradiction between luxury and green,” Sherburne emphasized.

Gary Golla, an architect with SERA Architects, Inc. in Portland, Ore., helped dispel the belief that LEED projects typically cost 5 percent to 10 percent or more than non-LEED projects. His company did a careful analysis of The Nines, a hotel project in Portland, Ore., and determined that construction costs will be just 1.2 percent more. Payback on that additional cost will be just 19 months after the 331-room hotel opens this summer.

Why do some developers choose not to build green? At this same session, the Orchard Garden Hotel’s Mühle explained: “Developers will often build a hotel and then flip it,” he said. “It can be difficult for short-term investors to realize the [benefits from building green].”

Glenn Hasek can be reached at

My take on this green hotel thing.

We cover a lot of issues related to green hotels, condo hotels, hotel development and operations here at We hope you check it all out.

But in case you missed prior postings on (just go to that URL, slide down the right side, and search on “green”), or if you want some help to find them, here are the key prior articles on green hotels:

Hotel Lawyer on the “real economics” behind the paradigm shift to GREEN hotels

Hotel Lawyer on Green Hotel Development: Green hotel development is profitable now! Inspirations from the pioneers make it dangerous NOT to be “green”

Hotel developer alert. So you’re thinking about building a green hotel — or making your existing hotel a little greener? Can you afford not to do that today?

Hotel Lawyer on developing GREEN hotels. Don’t wait for the GREEN. It is here. First LEED Gold Certified hotel in U.S. is announced.

Hotel Lawyer — Eco-friendly lifestyle hotel mixed use project closes financing

Hotel Lawyer: Why the SEC may make you go GREEN

Hotel Lawyer with GREEN GEMS from the Los Angeles Hotel Investment Conference

Hotel Lawyers Hotel Developers Conference 2008

Green Hotel Lawyer: ULI’s Urban Land article on Greening Hotels

GREEN is not a trend. It is not going away. It is a critical economic and social issue we have to deal with. We can be early adaptors and take advantage of incentives and savings that come from leadership, or we can respond to regulation and economic consequences which are inevitable. Take your pick!

My take on the green hotel thing? It is pretty well laid out in the articles above, but in my next posting, I will give you my updated evaluation after the report on the second conference day proceedings. It is worth the wait.

This is Jim Butler, author of and hotel lawyer, signing off. We’ve done more than $50 billion of hotel transactions and more than 100 hotel mixed-used deals in the last 5 years alone. Who’s your hotel lawyer?

Our Perspective. We represent developers, owners and lenders. We have helped our clients as business and legal advisors on more than $50 billion of hotel transactions, involving more than 1,000 properties all over the world. For more information, please contact Jim Butler at or 310.201.3526.

Jim Butler is one of the top hotel lawyers in the world. GOOGLE “hotel lawyer” or “hotel mixed-use” or “condo hotel lawyer” and you will see why.

Jim devotes 100% of his practice to hospitality, representing hotel owners, developers and lenders. Jim leads JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® — a team of 50 seasoned professionals with more than $50 billion of hotel transactional experience, involving more than 1,000 properties located around the globe. In the last 5 years alone, Jim and his team have assisted clients with more than 100 hotel mixed-use projects, all of which have involved at least some residential, and many have also involved significant spa, restaurant, retail, office, sports, and entertainment components — frequently integrated with energizing lifestyle elements.

Jim and his team are more than “just” great hotel lawyers. They are also hospitality consultants and business advisors. They are deal makers. They can help find the right operator or capital provider. They know who to call and how to reach them. They are a major gateway of hotel finance, facilitating the flow of capital with their legal skill, hospitality industry knowledge and ability to find the right “fit” for all parts of the capital stack. Because they are part of the very fabric of the hotel industry, they are able to help clients identify key business goals, assemble the right team, strategize the approach to optimize value and then get the deal done.

Jim is frequently quoted as an expert on hotel issues by national and industry publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, BusinessWeek, and Hotel Business. A frequent author and speaker, Jim’s books, articles and many expert panel presentations cover topics reflecting his practice, including hotel and hotel-mixed-use investment and development, negotiating, re-negotiating or terminating hotel management agreements, acquisition and sale of hospitality properties, hotel finance, complex joint venture and entity structure matters, workouts, as well as many operating and strategic issues.

Jim Butler is a Founding Partner of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro LLP and he is Chairman of the firm’s Global Hospitality Group®. If you would like to discuss any hospitality or condo hotel matters, Jim would like to hear from you. Contact him at or 310.201.3526. For his views on current industry issues, visit