The Dollars and Sense of Green Design: A Hospitality Study

At SERA, our work in the hospitality industry focuses on blending design, guest comfort, operational efficiency, and sustainable initiatives. About two years ago, I was talking to someone from a major hotel brand, who thought that green Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E) added an extra 10% to the costs of a hotel refresh project. My feeling was that 10% was a high estimate, but we did not have the data to verify that notion. At the time, we were working on a guestroom and corridor renovation of The Courtyard by Marriott – Denver Downtown. The owner and design team were pursuing some enhanced sustainability measures on the project, so it was an excellent opportunity for us to incorporate deeper product research into our process.

Here was our approach:

  • Identify each of the products in our design that were specified with a sustainable focus (locally-sourced, recycled content, limiting chemicals of concern, etc.)
  • Identify comparable products that were similar in quality but did not incorporate a green approach
  • Establish a delta in price between the standard products and the more sustainable products specified.

The results were compelling.

Of the total products used in the renovation, 70% incorporated some type of green move. The cost delta between the green products we specified versus the similar quality standard products was only a 4% premium — much lower than the hypothesized 10%.

We also examined the individual product categories involved in our study to better understand which product types posed the greatest financial impact. To this end, we found that the more sustainable product selections involving art, carpet, lamping, paint, and fabrics were incorporated with minimal or no budget impacts, while wall covering had a much larger cost impact. Understanding the relative impacts of each product category enables us to maximize the number of sustainable products used while minimizing the budget impact. Furthermore, by keeping the premium for the sustainable products at a mere 4%, we were able to absorb that additional cost by identifying other areas of efficiency in the design while producing a healthier interior.

Additional cost by product type

As we approach our projects, we are always blending and balancing the issues of sourcing, budget, durability, sustainability, and aesthetics. Doing this effectively requires not only research, but also close collaboration with the vendors, purchasing agents, the hotel flag and, of course, the client to determine priorities. Having performed this initial case study, we  now have a better understanding of what works and what obstacles are yet to be overcome.

While it is a common misconception that incorporating sustainability initiatives into hospitality FF&E is cost prohibitive, we produced this study to help dispel this notion. In our experience, you can deliver healthy interiors that are respectful of resources while at the same time delivering a design that satisfies the budget of the client and the needs of the guest.


For those of you in the design industry, how do you balance project requirements and sustainable initiatives around Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment? For all of us as consumers, do any readers out there have a unique approach to “greening” your household purchases? Please share your successes and challenges with us.

For further reading, check out this article on the Denver project published in Hospitality Design Magazine.


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