Green hotels make room for health and wellness in their programming

These days, hotels are promoting health and wellness programs that go beyond the typical fitness center or spa.

October 27, 2014 |
The EVEN Hotels wellness brand by InterContinental Hotels Group provides exercis

The hospitality industry has come a long way from the days of simply asking guests to save water by reusing towels and linens. These days, hotels are promoting health and wellness programs that go beyond the typical fitness center or spa.

Two years ago, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) launched its EVEN Hotels brand, a concept that caters to business and leisure travelers who may not be able to afford luxury but still want a holistic, health-conscious experience. In June the first location opened in Norwalk, Conn.; it was created by EVEN Hotels’ own design team in collaboration with Jonathan Neh- mer + Associates and HVS Design, who provided architecture, interior design, and project management services.

JN+A and HVS soon followed that up with the second EVEN in Rockville, Md. The brand plans for two more properties in New York City, with a flagship hotel to open near Grand Central Station in a new tower on East 44th Street. 

“Within the hospitality industry, ‘wellness design’ was previously focused on specific areas of a hotel, such as the spa or fitness center,“ says Jonathan Nehmer, AIA, ISHC, President of JN+A and Managing Principal of HVS Design. Today, he says, it has evolved into a concept that takes into account every facet of the hospitality experience.  


EVEN Hotels cater to business and leisure travelers who want to stay fit even while visiting another city. Jonathan Nehmer + Associates and HVS Design provided design services for the first EVEN Hotel in Norwalk, Conn. A second hotel opened shortly after in Rockville, Md., and the brand plans to follow with several more in New York City, including one near Grand Central Station. PHOTO: JONATHAN NEHMER + ASSOCIATES | HVS DESIGN


The Norwalk hotel, converted from a previous Four Points by Sheraton, features 129 guestrooms on four floors. Each room has its own in-room fitness zone—complete with cork flooring and personal exercise equipment—for guests who prefer to work out in the privacy of their own space. Staff members are trained to advise guests regarding area walking trails or group outdoor activities. The hotel’s gyms, branded as Athletic Studios, are centrally located near the lobby rather than in some obscure back hallway.

Earlier this year Westin launched its Westin Well-Being Movement. It revolves around six pillars of well-being—feel, work, move, eat, sleep, and play—and is available to employees as well as guests. Westin has formed a partnership with footwear manufacturer New Balance to allow guests to rent active shoes and clothing for a fee. The chain’s RunWESTIN program provides running routes throughout the city and Run Concierges for group runners. 

For business travelers, Westin offers specialized workspaces called Tangent that come with computers, videoconferencing monitors, power outlets, and office supplies. Nutrient-rich “superfoods” are provided for meeting breaks.

The MGM Grand Las Vegas introduced its Stay Well concept with a 42-room block on the 14th floor that has since expanded into 171 rooms and a common area. The hotel is partnering with the Cleveland Clinic, Delos Living, and Deepak Chopra for Stay Well. Amenities include vitamin C-infused showerheads, in-room HEPA air purifiers, and dawn-simulating alarm clocks, whose “alarm” comes in the form of gradually increasing levels of light and sound, rather than disruptive beeps.


The Brando luxury eco-resort is located on a remote island owned by the Marlon Brando estate in French Polynesia. Designed to LEED Platinum standards, the hotel features sustainability strategies such as automatic lighting and fan controls in guest villas. The air-conditioning system uses uses deep sea water to cool the resort. PHOTO: COURTESY THE BRANDO


Other green hospitality projects seek to take guests up close to biodiverse ecosystems. On the remote atoll of Tetiaroa in Tahiti, a low-impact eco-resort designed for LEED Platinum certification offers 35 private villas, two restaurants and two bars, a spa built over a freshwater lagoon, and a fruit orchard and vegetable garden.

Dubbed The Brando (the atoll belongs to the estate of Marlon Brando), the luxury resort uses only renewable resources drawn from solar power and biofuel-powered generators, according to sustainability consultant Paladino and Company. The hotel is owned and operated by Pacific Beachcomber SC; Pierre Jean Picart, based in French Polynesia, served as architect.

Nehmer issues this caution to Building Teams serving the green/wellness hospitality sector: “When working with a health-conscious organization, the AEC team needs to look at all aspects of the program to determine how to balance the needs and requirements of the health-conscious traveler with the basic requirements and needs of hospitality design. Be aware that ‘wellness’ still means different things to different people.”


The Brando resort also offers amenities such as a fruit orchard and vegetable garden and a spa built over a lagoon. Pierre Jean Picart (architect) and Pacific Beachcomber SC (operator) worked with sustainability consultant Paladino and Company to preserve the beauty of the South Pacific ecosystem. PHOTO: COURTESY THE BRANDO

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