Renovations of a hotel can be an efficient and cost-effective way to position a property. If the project is thoroughly planned and carefully executed, the hotel’s functional areas and bottom line need not be compromised.
It is crucial to consider the following points in order to maintain a fully-operational hotel property while renovations are underway.
What is the best use of space?
A good renovation takes the opportunity to reconsider how all the space in a building is used. The process should begin with an evaluation of what public spaces, operational facilities and guestrooms are the most in-demand and which have outlived their usefulness.
All of this should be done with an eye on efficiency—how to get the most out of the space. You might find the hotel can generate more revenue if it offers fewer rooms that are suites rather than more rooms that offer fewer amenities.
You and your team should develop a plan that provides insight into how the hotel can produce the highest revenue per square foot and what the costs and benefits are for each potential renovation. Only after this is carefully considered and determined should a renovation move forward.
How can the hotel remain open?
One of the main goals of the renovation process is to structure the redesign so a hotel can remain operational. For guestrooms, this can be accomplished by renovating one floor at a time.
Elevators can be programmed not to stop at the floors that are a work in progress. This might create a demand for the newly renovated floors over the existing rooms, something which you will need to accommodate. Public and back-of-house spaces are more complicated, as most hotels have only one lounge, lobby or laundry. Create a calendar for these spaces that leverages an off-season or slow time. Then build the rest of the renovation calendar around it strategically.
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What new technology is available?
There are several new technologies you can use to identify and avoid common renovation problems, including incorrect or outdated blueprints, small HVAC systems and old wiring.
- 3-D Lasers: Utilizing 3-D laser imaging technology can help identify and address potential problems before the design process begins. The device is small-ish and round and can be placed in any space. It records and measures details of a room or hallway digitally. This will give you the most accurate view of the hotel so there are no surprises, and it also will provide a good template for the design team.
- Chilled beams: Chilled beam technology works differently in that it does not need duct work. Instead, these beams move the chilled water directly to the rooms. The basic properties of water mean it can carry more energy (i.e. cooling) than air per unit volume, thereby requiring less space. One central pumping system moves the water, so it is also environmentally-friendly and can earn a building four to 14 Leadership-in-Energy-and-Environmental-Design points. Limiting the size of the cooling system can increase space efficiency, and centralizing it can reduce the construction and operation costs.
- RF Lighting: To limit the amount of conduit and wiring needed in a room, a wireless radio frequency system can be put in place. It controls the lighting through RF technology and can be integrated into the consolidation panel. This will help you limit the time spent re-wiring a space and will reduce electricity usage by controlling it directly.
What regulations have changed?
Regulations are evolving, and some of them might not have been in place when the hotel was built or during past renovations. Designers, architects and builders need to be well-versed in government, district and city codes. The Americans with Disabilities Act establishes minimum standards for ensuring accessibility when altering an existing facility, and many of these regulations have been updated to clarify previous codes and address issues that have come to light in recent years.
These can impact every part of a renovation, from the guest rooms, to the entrance to the public lavatories. Every planned change or update should be considered in light of the ADA and other regulations. Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regularly updates the regulations on workplace safety, which could have serious implications for the back-of-house design.
Recent economic conditions have made the renovation of existing hotels favorable over new construction projects in many instances. However, the opportunity is best realized through proper planning, scheduling and incorporation of new technologies.
Eric M. Rahe is a principal and member of the executive leadership team at BLT Architects. His 30 years of practice include hospitality, residential retail, commercial office, and educational projects with emphasis on large-scale hospitality and resort projects. He can be reached at 215-563-3900 or by visiting www.blta.com or www.aReturnOnDesign.com.
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