Monday, August 08, 2005

AmCan 'green hotel' plans opening in January

August 6, 2005

AmCan 'green hotel' may open in January

By DAN JUDGE/Times-Herald staff writer

- The environmentally friendly Gaia Hotel - possibly the first of its kind in California - may open in American Canyon by January and be green enough to earn greenbacks for the developer.

Burlingame developer Wen Chang said he believes it will be the first hotel in the state to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The organization's list of certified projects on the Internet shows no similar hotels in the state and only one - the Len Foote Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia - in the rest of the nation.

The hotel will use cutting-edge, environmentally conscious technology in both its construction and daily operations.

"I think a business can be as beautiful as music or poetry," Chang told the American Canyon City Council during an update on the project this week.

If the hotel does earn a LEED silver certification as Chang expects, it will mean green in more ways than one.

The city agreed to let the developer keep up to $1 million of the hotel tax the project generates for the next four years if it is awarded the environmental rating.

The Gaia Hotel is envisioned as an ultra-ecologically friendly inn. The 134-room facility will include a restaurant, lagoon, spa and conference center.

The hotel is using responsibly harvested lumber in its construction, as well as the extensive use of solar power and techniques to conserve water, energy and other materials in its ongoing operations.

Some of those features include a hotel-wide recycling program, laundry service that employs ozone in its cleaning process to cut down on pollutants, a design that makes maximum use of natural lighting and ponds that collect storm water. A pervious pavement also will be used outdoors to allow water to percolate back into the ground.

"It's going to be a wonderful asset to the community," said Lynn Simon of Simon & Associates Inc., the "green" building consultant for the hotel. "It's truly going to be a tremendous project."

Chang estimates the hotel will cost nearly $19 million to build.

That number has risen about $2 million since his projections last year due largely to an enhanced spa area and the addition of more green elements, like environmentally sound furniture and carpets made from recycled material.

"We have many more green items than originally planned," Chang said. "As time evolved, we kept adding new things."

If the city allows him to open the first completed building before the rest of the project is totally completed, Chang said the Gaia Hotel could open by the end of January.

If the city insists the entire facility be finished, he said that date could be moved back to April or May.

Vice Mayor Leon Garcia said he is impressed with the hotel's progress so far and suggested the city look for opportunities to include similar green design elements in its own municipal projects in the future.

"Frankly, I find the project very exciting to see," he said. "We have something to be very proud of."

- E-mail Dan Judge at or call 553-6831.

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