A Five-Star Experience at the Intersection of Gold and Green
At the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, all that glitters is gold… and green.
A 146-room, 18-story, five-star hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is the first LEED Gold certified hotel worldwide for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel company and the first in the greater Charlotte area. Replete with regal touches like eucalyptus wall paneling, crystal chandeliers and a tiered water fountain, the hotel features more than 12,000 square feet of state-of-the-art indoor function space including a 7,000-square-foot ballroom and smaller function rooms ranging from 464 to 3,842 square feet. The hotel’s two-level, penthouse Wellness Center encompasses 13,000 square feet and includes a 30,000-gallon indoor swimming pool on the 18th floor as well as spa service rooms and a whirlpool. A barrel ceiling painted the brilliant hue of a summer sunset arches magnificently over the pool, one of the hotel’s crown jewels.
In addition to its many luxury amenities, the hotel incorporates sustainable features including improved indoor air quality; a “green,” vegetated roof to reduce cooling loads, heat island effect and storm water runoff; widespread use of recycled and regionally produced construction materials; and water consumption reduction of up to 34 percent.
Balfour Beatty took a proactive and collaborative approach to achieve the owner’s sustainability dreams while maintaining the design intent. Based on a LEED scorecard the team created during the schematic design phase, it became clear that the established goal of LEED Gold certification would be highly improbable unless strategic measures were implemented long before the first shovel hit dirt. In large part, this was due to the fact that the Ritz-Carlton brand is synonymous with high-end details that are often incompatible with sustainable products and practices. By working directly with manufacturers, suppliers and the interior designer, however, Balfour Beatty successfully facilitated the redesign of several elements and features of the project. The following are several examples of the ways in which the project team exemplified what it means to be a Relentless Ally for not only the owner but also the entire Charlotte community.
Mock-Ups: A Conceptual Construction Lab
Balfour Beatty’s use of detailed mock-ups was critical to the success of this iconic hotel, providing a living laboratory in which the project team could examine the potential pitfalls and possibilities of various design elements.
The stone the interior designer selected, for example, contained a dark line in the grain that he felt did not achieve the intended aesthetic. Cognizant that incorporating only stone without that grain would yield too much waste, the project team assembled a mock-up with an alternative design solution. This version celebrated the darker grain–parts of the stone that would otherwise have been marked as waste–by creating a subtle, organic motif that echoed the overall pattern of the tile floor as a whole. Ultimately, this sophisticated solution was amenable to both the designer and owner and was instrumental in meeting LEED goals.
The Ritz-Carlton’s luxury design incorporates a number of value engineering measures that positively affected the budget while preserving the design intent. The project team built a mock up of two rooms–one according to the exact design specifications and another with all of the value engineering propositions included with price tags attached. This allowed the architect, owner and interior designer to walk through the space and make informed decisions about the lighting, stone, ceiling and carpets with a complete understanding of how their decisions would affect appearance, price and LEED objectives.
Low-flow showerheads in guestrooms were crucial for achieving LEED Gold certification, however, the project team was concerned about the lack of pressure the existing models offered. Balfour Beatty approached manufacturers and, in collaboration with Kohler, developed a low-flow model that maintained strong water pressure. A representative from the project team, developer and owner each installed a different prototype in their homes to test the showerhead’s functionality. While they were pleased with the water-pressure, The Ritz-Carlton team was not enthusiastic about the design of the showerhead, so Balfour Beatty persuaded Kohler to replace it with the showerhead from a more graceful unit. This created not only a product that The Ritz-Carlton loved but also one that Kohler is marketing broadly today.
At the outset of the project, Balfour Beatty initiated a partnership with a local composter that agreed to recycle wallboard waste into compost. In efforts to make recycling the wallboard a more seamless process as the project progressed, Balfour Beatty formed a Drywall Consortium with the National Gypsum Company, which would grind the waste for use on agricultural fields. After discussions with landfill operators, transfer stations at landfills closer to jobsites were established, cutting costs, saving fuel and reducing the impact on the environment.
Onsite Water Treatment
The team implemented an innovative, onsite water treatment system that allowed contaminated water found in the project site to be removed, treated and reused as needed. Beyond the environmental benefits, this approach saved money by eliminating the need to transport thousands of gallons of water to a nearby cleaning facility and back to the construction site. In addition, the system allowed the construction team to recycle the water removed from the site, thereby reducing both the water consumed from the local water supply and the demand placed on local sanitary and storm sewers.
The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is a historic, high-profile project that, since its completion, has been honored with numerous industry awards for both sustainability and excellence in construction from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of the Carolinas, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and Southeast Construction Magazine.