Hilton experiments with 'allergy resistant' hotel rooms

September 01, 2005 |

If you're one of the millions of Americans that suffer from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions, you may want to consider bunking up at the Hilton O'Hare next time your in Chicago.

The 34-year-old hotel located at O'Hare Airport is one of the first hotels in the U.S. to experiment with offering healthier, "allergy resistant" rooms for guests afflicted with sensitivities and reactions to dust, molds, and chemicals.

"Asthma attacks and allergies are frequently triggered by exposure to these impurities," says Nicholas Nardella, president of Environmental Technology Solutions, a Glen Ellyn, Ill.-based IAQ consultant that designed the special rooms for Hilton. The pilot project, which opened in April, involved gutting and then retro-fitting two rooms with environmentally friendly products and materials.

"We addressed everything in a room that contributes to poor indoor air quality," says Nardella. Standard carpeting was replaced with hardwood flooring, which is easier to clean and minimizes dust. Door hardware, plumbing fixtures, and other frequently touched surfaces were coated with an anti-microbial agent to eliminate germs. All paint, adhesives, coatings, and furniture are free of VOCs and other off-gases. Fabrics, such as furniture and drapes, are manufactured with EPA-approved materials. The wallpaper is even perforated to prevent moisture from getting trapped and breeding mold.

Air-purification systems in each room collect 99% of particles and gases, and a monitoring system allows the hotel to maintain proper levels for odors, gases, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, humidity, and temperature.

"These rooms are being monitored on a minute-by-minute basis," says Nardella. "If, for example, housekeeping walks in and starts using ammonia or another cleaner that off-gases, the hotel will know within 10 minutes, instead of days later."

Nardella says there is a "premium" initial cost for the construction upgrades, but could not offer an exact figure, per Hilton's request. He did say that the hotel chain expects a return on its initial investment in less than two years.

So, are you interested in trying out one of the new rooms?

You better book your stay far in advance. Nardella says the rooms have been "rented virtually every night" since opening—even at a $20-per-night premium.

Hilton is looking to expand the pilot program to include 500 rooms across 10 cities.

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