Hospitality and the Tech Boom
A thriving tech industry isn’t the only factor driving the recent hospitality boom in Silicon Valley. Though business travel to the area remains strong, visitors are increasingly extending their stay for pleasure. Additionally, city dwellers are making the short drive from nearby San Francisco for quick and ecologically responsible getaways. CALgreen, California’s Green Building Code, ensures that all new developments incorporate a number of sustainable components, but some hotel operators are doing more and in the process, addressing a larger, global trend—providing compelling differentiation for discerning consumers who have more power and choice than ever in how they flex their wallets.
Marriott, for example, has invested in multiple Silicon Valley properties with mandates to achieve LEED Gold or Silver. These include AC Hotels in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, as well as a second Sunnyvale development that co-locates an AC Hotel and Autograph Collection Hotel. LEED certification benefits these properties across several fronts. Not only do systems that conserve energy and water help reduce operating costs and, in the larger scheme of things, slow global warming, but a 2014 study conducted by Cornell University found that certification also boosts revenue. Moreover, LEED status is an effective marketing tool to members of Generations X, Y, and Z, who value brands that demonstrate environmental responsibility.
Our designs for various Marriott properties in Silicon Valley share many sustainable features. All employ an HVAC system and water-efficient plumbing fixtures that reduce energy and potable water consumption by 20 percent; guestrooms with access to daylight via low-e windows; no- or low-VOC interior finishes, and smart controls that automatically adjust light levels and temperatures to changes in ambient conditions. Additional features include recessed walk-off mats at major entries to help preserve optimal indoor air quality; low-sloped roofs and hardscaping with a solar-reflective index greater than 78 and 29, respectively; and drought-tolerant native plantings that provide shade, require little water, and absorb rainwater.
Amenities exclusive to the AC Hotel in San Jose, a seven-story, 210-room development on track to receive LEED Gold, include electric-car charging at an adjacent parking structure, and a demand-response system that relieves pressure on the city’s electrical grid by automatically supplying backup power during periods of peak demand. A Guided Eco Tour, created as a LEED Innovation and Design credit, introduces guests to the hotel’s sustainable features and is a unique feature for ecologically conscious organizations that prefer to do business with like-minded partners.
The dual-hotel development in Sunnyvale shares an array of LEED Gold-qualifying features, including a waste recycling center and native vegetation, and guest amenities, such as an outdoor pool deck, a covered lounge space, and an outdoor dining and lounge area. The co-location of two brands also responds to the different needs of two different clienteles: Autograph Collection caters to the luxury boutique market, while the European-style AC Hotels target Millennial business travelers.
The overlap of business and leisure typical of workplace culture at tech companies has undoubtedly influenced hospitality design. Guestrooms at AC Hotels tend to be modest in size and minimalist in aesthetic. On the ground floor, a lounge and bar area has replaced formal dining, allowing guests to grab a bite to eat, work, and relax. With housing in short supply in Silicon Valley, the setup is also ideal for extended-stay tech workers.
Presently, demand for lodging shows no sign of letting up, particularly in San Jose, where conferences abound. However, as consumers continue to increasingly exercise their spending power, hotels with a strong environmental emphasis may already have an edge on the future.