Dozens of magazines now have a green issue. Conferences and trade shows can’t get enough of the green stuff.
In their January issue, HOTELS magazine declared 2008 "The Year of Green." Hospitality Design's March magazine is all about green. The Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) had a whole green track in its program this year. JMBM and UNLV went a step further and devoted the entire content of their two-day Hotel Developers Conference to green subjects.
Could all this focus be enough to make some people turn red?
I moderated panel discussions at both of these conferences; and, while I am heartened by the hospitality's new interest in sustainability, I am concerned that this topic will be of passing interest rather than long-lasting focus (à la condo hotels, in-room faxes, and … whatever).
Sustainability is one arena in which architects are leading the way. We learned way back in school that good design means creating with the environment in mind. Enlightened clients are following our lead. At the Hotel Developers Conference, nearly 25 percent of the speakers were architects, and two were featured keynote presenters. (At most other hospitality investment conferences, you're likely to have only one or two panelists from the design professions, and their firms are usually paying to co-sponsor the event.)
It's up to architects, planners and designers to keep this issue alive and to dispel the myth that there is a significant cost increase for going green. Recent projects suggest that while there may be a one- to two-percent premium for green initiatives, the overall payback can be achieved in less than two years. Equally compelling to hotel owners is the expectation that consumers and meeting planners will seek out green destinations and penalize those who are not embracing the need to become more environmentally sensitive and sustainable.
Is the interest in sustainability sustainable?
My prediction: Those hotel owners and developers who think they have heard enough about this subject and are wanting to go back to business as usual are likely to be out of business … in the not-too-distant future.
Top Photo - An overall view of the project within the context of the town of Yountville, California.
Bottom Photo - Visible in this view are the photovoltaic cells on the roof and geothermal bore field along Yount Street on the right. The construction trailer and parking to the left sit on what will become affordable housing.
For the second year, I have been co-leading a co-op program in which architecture students from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo spend a ten-week internship at the WATG-Irvine office. The program offers students valuable work experience and, at the same time, an opportunity to complete a design studio project that was developed for the internship. At the end of the program, the students return to Cal Poly and present their project to their peers, professors and WATG mentors. Subsequently, they are graded and credited for their work just like any of their design studio courses.
The students arrive at WATG filled with enthusiasm. For them, it's an adventure away from architecture school. They are very appreciative of the opportunity to test the waters and learn about WATG, its projects, its people and culture, and architecture in general. Interestingly, their time in the office is not just an abridged glimpse of their future careers, but it’s also an opportunity to learn a little bit about them selves—their disposition, character and passion as future architects.
It is within this premise that, perhaps, in the process of mentoring the students, I have hoped to also learn something along the way. Indeed, I discovered lessons about mentoring.
I have learned that teaching, in many ways, is like telling a story. A good storyline requires an engaging start that identifies the necessary and fundamental components. It needs to evolve in a clear direction, with opportunities to divulge what lies ahead and opportunities to tie new ideas with those discussed in the past.
Quite often, lessons from years of experience can be too overwhelming to young minds. When crammed in bursts of discourse, there's a tendency to muddle the basic ingredients of a particular lesson. As such, I have found that it is important to listen to myself now and then and place myself in their shoes. There is a finite amount of knowledge that can be covered in a short amount of time; yet, at the same time, I found that I always need to allow provisions for the times when their exploratory minds challenge my customary expectations.
Young and inexperienced as they are, the students are free from the so-called "architectural baggage," allowing them freedom to explore from what may be, at times, obvious and time-tested design solutions. It is always invigorating to look at a design problem in fresh new ways. For the students, this process allows for growth, self-learning, discovery and experimentation, with time and schedule as the only limitations. For me, it’s the continued search beyond the obvious: it is an opportunity to reintroduce and rediscover architectural thoughts and ideas along familiarized paths, while maintaining enthusiasm, momentum and the unrelenting passion for architecture.
I have found that the students constantly challenge and put to test the teaching methods I have built from the previous group. Simply put, different students have different needs. Although this appears to make the mentoring process more taxing, it actually unravels opportunities in improving the teaching method and raising the standards that exceed their predecessors.
I have found that the internship program can become a perfect venue to understand, identify and test a structured means of disseminating WATG's vast library and wealth of knowledge and experience to its young staff. Through the process of carefully developing lesson plans, comprehensive week-by-week schedules, milestones and mini-deadlines for the students, it provided me an idea of what it would take to train young designers in the office.
Mentoring students and teaching them about hotel design, architecture and the creative process is no doubt a very rewarding and invigorating endeavor. The opportunity to mentor students is also an opportunity to appreciate the exemplary and creative environment at WATG. Sometimes, it is through expounding on such things that I am reminded, once more, the many things that make WATG a very exciting and cool place to work.
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