Maintaining a commitment to sustainability is not always an easy task, but 1 Hotels has found a way to stay true to its mission, while using nature as their guide. The newest location in San Francisco—followed by Nashville later this summer and Hanalei Bay opening Fall 2022—are a testament to this effort, one that demands strict eco-friendly measures and performance. By creating new green spaces and renovating some existing spaces in burgeoning urban neighborhoods, the luxury hotel brand has created not only sustainable sanctuaries that beautifully combine form and function, but also uniquely capture the beauty of each locality.

A sustainable design ethos starts with the location

1 hotels hanalei bay
1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

Known as Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kauai is home to a lush rainforest, draped in tropical greenery and vibrant flowers set along impressive waterfalls. Standing on tall over the sparkling bay on Kauai’s protected north shore, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay incorporates the rich plant life of the archipelago’s oldest island into each guest room. The hotel, which is set to open later this year, is the result of an intricate renovation—one that took thoughtfulness and creativity to achieve—with sustainability at the forefront. Energy efficiency, water conservation, and native landscape restoration were top priority, as well as minimizing the use of new materials to reduce the carbon footprint. “SH Hotels & Resorts [the brand management company that operates 1 Hotels] engaged RE-use Hawai’i, a ‘deconstruction’ company to carefully deconstruct (not demolish) and salvage more than 144.6 tons of existing furniture, fixtures, and equipment that would otherwise end up in the landfill as trash,” says Raul Leal, CEO of SH Hotels & Resorts. Rainwater showers, textured wall design elements, reclaimed materials, and organic cotton bedding with plush pillow-top mattresses complete the vibrant hideaway.

“Repurposed can be far more luxurious and beautiful than any new piece.”

At the new San Francisco location, which opened June 1, guests find farm-to-table cuisine, reclaimed wood accents, décor incorporating live plants and locally made furniture inspired by Northern California. The urban retreat brings elements of the outside world in via expansive windows with views of the cloud-kissed skyline and San Francisco Bay: “1 Hotel San Francisco’s location was intended to allow guests as much access to the natural beauty of the bay while positioning them at a hub of sustainable public transportation and walkability,” says Leal. “The city is incredibly bio-diverse and we’ve relied on native landscaping and local produce in our rooftop garden to contribute to the surrounding ecology,” Leal adds.

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1 Hotel San Francisco
1 Hotels

Over in the heart of Music City, a new addition to the eco-conscious line-up is brewing, set to open this summer. As Nashville’s first mission-driven sustainable luxury hotel, the property’s biophilic design infuses the rhythms of nature with a complex land regeneration project. Built on a previously-developed brownfield site, the proprietors carefully disposed of all contamination before construction began, in order to first renew the land. The hotel’s exterior features a cascading ivy facade with over 56,000 individual plants that not only provide resistance to the impacts of weather, but also capture CO2 and generate fresh oxygen. Guest room interiors are informed by a charming rustic-urban combination, including natural wood textures, muted tones, and furniture inspired by local craftsmanship.

Keeping a small footprint means addressing complex challenges

1 Hotels' commitment to sustainability is its cornerstone on all the properties are built. Each U.S. location is certified carbon neutral and 100% LEED Certified (the most recognized sustainable building rating system in the world). To achieve that level of eco-viability, deliberate efforts must be incorporated into the design process. By repurposing materials during renovations and from neighboring structures, designers avoid reliance on virgin materials: “Whether it’s the repurposed headboards in South Beach crafted from Colorado trees that were killed by Mountain Pine Beetles, or the furniture built out of wood from a sugar factory in Brooklyn throughout our Brooklyn Bridge property, we try to showcase that repurposed can be far more luxurious and beautiful than any new piece,” says Leal.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle with these ambitious projects is reducing energy consumption, which is one of the most significant portions of any building’s footprint. “The most challenging element always has to do with our daylight design and the thermal envelope of an existing building,” says Leal. By designing each building with daylight in mind and conducting a daylight optimization assessment for each new build, the architects are able to rely on natural lighting to conserve energy. “We also include operable windows to allow guests to regulate their thermal comfort naturally and bring in fresh air,” Leal adds.

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1 Hotel Hanalei Bay
1 Hotels

Other crucial efforts in maintaining sustainable building standards include an intelligent BMS system to control HVAC and lighting systems for live-tracking energy consumption, recycling and repurposing more than 50 percent of construction waste, water efficient fixtures, and by relying on native landscaping to support the local ecology. “One way we help our guests keep their footprints small as well is through our partnership with Audi by offering their fully electric e-trons to get them around town while they visit,” says Leal.

Creating tangible solutions in difficult times

Opening sustainable hotels in the wake of a pandemic has also presented another hurdle: goods procurement. “Supply chain challenges have really complicated the need to build more sustainable infrastructure in order for us to meet global climate and biosphere targets,” says Leal. “Certain sustainable partners and vendors aren’t able to meet growing demand or are delayed to the point where they would hinder openings or operations.” Overcoming this now-ubiquitous problem across the U.S. requires thoughtful choices that begin with the design process. The decision, for instance, to repurpose an existing building or build a more efficient infrastructure that uses sustainable materials takes careful planning. “We rely heavily on our partners to help inform these decisions and often in order to be more sustainable you have to be willing to delve into very complex challenges,” says Leal.

1 hotel lobby
1 Hotel

Still, local nature is at the heart of each new design: “Nature informs all our decisions from the location and every step of the development process—the way our guests arrive, depart, sleep, eat, relax, and interact with one another, our team, and the surrounding locale,” says Leal. “We deliberately pick locations where we can bring local outside elements indoors to create a nature infused environment.” A sustainable design ethos may begin with location, but it also takes a sincere commitment to the planet in order to integrate and execute those efforts with tangible solutions.