You can make the argument that The Hotel at Oberlin, which opened last year in the heart of the bucolic city of Oberlin, Ohio, is the greenest hotel in the United States. Okay, the “greenest” part will be decided by experts in the field. So let’s just say that this property, the first hotel in the U.S. to incorporate solar, geothermal, and radiant heating and cooling (and one of only five hotels in the U.S. to qualify for the rigorous LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council), is a poster child for sustainability.
Overlooking Tappan Square and owned by the famously progressive Oberlin College, which encircles the hotel, the 70-room property is managed by The Olympia Companies and was designed to be one of the most environmentally sustainable hotels in the world.
Architecture: Inspired by a Tree House
The hotel was designed by the Chicago-based architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB); the creative process was led by SCB Principal Jim Curtin, AIA. Curtin explains that “the building had to be visually engaging because of the artistically rich legacy of Oberlin College. The central design metaphor is the image of a treehouse, as demonstrated by the lofted program elements and surrounding landscape. The canted columns supporting the ballroom, with views to historic Tappan Square, are analogous to tree trunks, designed to be playful while reinforcing the sustainable nature of the building.”
“The positioning of the entrance,” Curtin says, “was a critical design decision.” The public entry and atrium directly face the intersection of College and Main Streets, literally the point where town meets gown. “We wanted to make this a transparent, inviting public gateway.”
Interior Design: Inside becomes Outside
The Gettys Group, the interior designers of The Hotel at Oberlin, sought to blur the line between outdoors and inside, tapping into the natural surroundings for both inspiration and design elements. Reclaimed wood from a historic farm building became paneling for the bar area, a satellite view of Oberlin’s pastoral setting was transformed into an intriguing abstract mural for the dining area, and a color palette of cool browns mated with warm red reflects the ever-changing hues of the landscape. Sustainability plays a key role in The Gettys Group’s design and procurement services, with carpet tiles made of recycled materials used in the guestrooms and hallways.
Green Technology: The Ideal Solution
The innovative HVAC system relies on a geothermal well field and utilizes radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels and flooring, as well as ceiling fans. A large portion of the hotel’s power is supplied by a 10-acre photovoltaic array on campus. The hotel has many other sustainable features, including an on-site bio-retention basin to filter storm water, rainwater harvesting for landscape irrigation, and exterior automated solar shading devices to reduce heat gain. Fifty percent of the building materials were sourced from within 500 miles. The primary exterior material is Öko Skin, a highly sustainable cement slat wall panel that was chosen because “the scale and coloration of the material are compatible with the brick and stone of nearby older buildings, “says Curtin.
To mark Earth Day, The Hotel at Oberlin has unveiled an Earth Day, Every Day package to celebrate the earth and to foster sustainable thinking among its guests. Details can be found at The Hotel at Oberlin’s website.