The Springs Resort opens ‘industry standard’ hotel

Last Friday, The Springs Resort opened the doors on its newest hotel, a $12 million project that has generated interest across the country as one of the few “green built” hotels in the country — and the only LEED-built hotel in Colorado.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the hotel will take about a year, according to Keely Whittington, owner of The Springs Resort. “We’re going for gold certification,” she said, “we’ll be working through the next twelve months on LEED certification through surveys and commissioning.”

With the doors opening just 11 months to the day after ground was broken on the project, the hotel has already taken a prominent place in the skyline of downtown Pagosa Springs. However, with over 90-percent of labor and construction materials secured locally, the project has created more than just a visual impact on the area. With 12 staff members employed at the hotel, the project will continue making a local impact, creating jobs in an economy when other businesses are either cutting back or closing their doors altogether.

Furthermore, the green aspect of the hotel could prove to be a boon to the area, attracting visitors not normally attracted to Pagosa Springs. “We sold out our first two weekends,” Whittington said, adding, “Six different customers at our opening weekend said they’d come to stay just because of our LEED certification.”

The opulent interior of the hotel betrays its down-to-earth role as an eco-friendly structure — from top to bottom, and from start to finish. During construction of the hotel, 286 yards of construction material was recycled — 75-percent of the total materials. Carpeting in the hotel is made from recycled material and is low-VOC (volatile organic compound). Likewise, paints and sealants used in construction are also low-VOC, meaning that they release fewer carbon-based compounds than traditional materials. VOCs have been associated with numerous health problems as well as contributing to greenhouse gases.

“People have been surprised that, despite being a brand new structure, it lacks that ‘new smell’ that you get with new carpets and paint. That’s makes me smile,” Whittington said.

The carbon footprint of the hotel has been minimized through the use of alternative energy sources and energy-saving devices. Heating is 100-percent geothermal while cooling is done through ground cooling systems. Of the electricity used by the hotel, 35-percent is provided from wind energy. Over 600 CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) light bulbs have been installed in the hotel, using a fifth of the energy used by standard incandescent lights. Occupancy sensors are installed in each room, turning off heat or air conditioning when the room is not occupied. According to The Springs Resort, the energy-saving measures amount to the hotel using 31-percent less energy than a standard hotel, with a savings of 28-percent in energy costs.

Water conservation has also been addressed by the hotel. According to Whittington, flow restrictors have been placed on all shower heads and faucets, using 30-percent less water than a standard hotel and amounting to a savings of 174,630 gallons per year.

Taking eco-consciousness down to the finest detail, the hotel will only use green cleaning products for all aspects of housekeeping and food and beverage service. Toilet paper and paper towels installed in room and facilities are made from recycled materials. Even the complimentary soaps and personal hygiene products available in the rooms are “green” and packaged in bottles that are 100-percent recyclable.

Finally, the landscaping around the hotel has been tailored to meet standards for LEED gold certification. “It’s mostly xeriscaped,” Whittington said, “and to meet the gold certification criteria, it’s only plants native to the area, within a 50-mile radius. That wasn’t easy to do, but our landscapers pulled it off.”

With 29 rooms (six designated as luxury suites, each measuring over 1,000 square feet), the hotel has become the flagship facility of The Springs Resort. However, it is the hotel’s “green built” status that appears to make Whittington the most proud. “I was amazed that there weren’t more green built hotels in Colorado and I was surprised to learn that we weren’t just the first but only one in the state. I sincerely hope we’re not just setting a standard in Colorado. I think we’re setting an industry standard.”

jim@pagosasun.com