It’s now official: Long Wharf’s new boutique hotel is really, really, really, really (and maybe five more reallys) green.
As in: as environmentally sustainable as a hotel can be.
That official statement came Tuesday afternoon in the form of a plaque unveiling and mounting event held at the 165-room Hotel Marcel New Haven (former Pirelli Building) at 500 Sargent Dr.
It is a “LEED Platinum plaque” conferred by the U.S. Green Building Council testifying that the hotel meets the highest standards of energy and environmental design.
More than 1,000 solar panels power the fully-electric hotel, which opened last year after an eight-figure renovation of the 20-year-vacant iconic six-story designed by architect Marcel Breuer (hence its name). It uses no fossil fuels.
Marcel is the first hotel to earn LEED Platinum status in 10 years, and the 10th ever.
Elected and Green Council officials joined Hotel Marcel owner and architect Bruce Becker in the lobby for Tuesday afternoon’s event.
They spoke of making the net zero hotel an industry model.
“The hotel industry has not been at the forefront of sustainability,” said Becker (pictured above). “People are going to look at [Marcel] and learn from it.”
He said Marcel, which is in Hilton’s so-called “Tapestry Collection,” will host conferences in hotel sustainability.
The word got out to students in Dr. Jan Jones’ University of New Haven Global Sustainable Tourism Management Program, who attended the event and then — after a photo op with U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Jim Himes — went on a Becker-led tour of the hotel.
Speakers at the event credited DeLauro and Himes with helping Becker’s team successfully appeal a federal regulatory ruling to obtain $8 million in national historic tax credits. The team was able to leverage that $8 million plus $6 million in similar state credits into three times as much private investment, and therefore afford to both preserve an historic structure and address climate change by carrying out a carbon-neutral renovation.
The initial denial of those federal credits reflects a problem in merging those two goals, according to Sara Bronin, President Biden-appointed chair of the federal Advisory Council of Historic Preservation. She said her group has drafted proposed changes to the approval process so that projects that preserve buildings can earn the credits without having to, say, replace single-pane windows with new single-pane windows (just because a building used to have them) rather than energy-efficient triple-pane windows.
That was one of the sticking points the Marcel project had to overcome to win its appeal, according to Becker. Others included gaining permission to put a canopy out front and surround windows with wood.
The U.S. Department of Interior, which approves the tax credits, had historically supported such “adaptive reuse” to allow historic buildings to change uses (such as, in this case, from an office building to a hotel), Becker said. But in recent years it instead has pursued a goal of creating “museums of the past,” which can stymie the goals of both preserving the buildings (by finding sustainable new uses) and tackling climate change (by making them more energy-efficient).
“The greenest building is the one that is already built,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen (pictured above), managing director of U.S. Market Transformation & Development at the U.S. Green Building Council.
“We have to see buildings like this over and over again,” added Bronin, “in cities all over the country.”
This story was first published April 5, 2023 by the New Haven Independent.