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Mr. Rogg

Development & Construction

How Smart Design Changes Can Help Maximize a Hotel's Operating Efficiency

By Kyle Rogg, President & COO, Value Place

Three years ago Value Place's executive management team decided to take a critical look at our building designs and see how we could make each hotel as efficient as possible. Terms like "green", "smart buildings", and "sustainable design" came to mind that guided parts of our quest. Like other hospitality brands, business owners, and corporate citizens, we value green certification and sustainability initiatives. But the recurring mantra that dominated our executive board room conversation "operating efficiency" - making a building that, as a whole, enhances operational performance and opportunity. Our goal was to design a building, top to bottom, that would result in real savings to help provide our guests quality, comfortable rooms at competitive rates. We needed to honor our core values - being clean, safe, simple, and affordable but still raise the bar on return on investment. It was not easy but we did it. Smart design, as we call it, has proven to be the driver behind cost reduction, staff efficiency, and maximum return on investment for our franchisees and investors. The following are just some of the many examples of how focusing on decisions and execution in the early stages of design and construction, make a positive impact in the eventual bottom line later in the process.

LED Lighting Saves on Energy and More

We have 600 ceiling lights in the average Value Place property. Our traditional design used compact fluorescent light fixtures. That meant staff members periodically had to climb ladders to remove glass coverings and clean out debris including insects. Certainly not a job any one likes to do and not something that is attractive to our guests. Perhaps as importantly, it is not a good or efficient use of our staff's time. Our change to LED (light-emitting diode) lighting made the difference. LEDs use 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, last five times as long as fluorescents, do not require special disposal due to hazardous chemicals (like neon, lead powder, mercury, etc.), and without glass coverings, there are no trapped insects to clean.

There were added benefits, we found, to LED conversion in the construction process. The slim height profile of the light, with about one inch of protrusion verses the six to eight inches of allowance required for fluorescent fixtures, makes the hallways feel taller, more spacious, and more inviting for guests.

LEDs represent a smart design choice that saves our franchisees during construction, operations, and incur on average just 20 percent of the electricity costs associated with traditional lighting. We install them in every new build and are even retrofitting some of our existing properties.

Smart Design Tip

A smart design is a flexible one. Technology changes quickly in today's world. Five years ago LED lights were not as affordable as they are now, so while the switch wasn't a strategic option before; it is a clear choice today. Disciplined build processes are critical to maintaining high quality construction. However, overly rigid practices and non-dynamic construction processes make it difficult to embrace new technology as it becomes practical and available.

Wood Grain Vinyl Flooring Outperforms Carpeting

Guest reviews and ratings confirm that nothing makes a hotel seem past its prime like a worn-out carpet. Spot-cleaning is time consuming, ineffective, expensive, and frustrating for employees. Stains and odors sometimes resist all attempts at removal, ultimately demanding room by room replacements that are very expensive on an operations budget, even if planned.

Our solution was to virtually eliminate carpeting throughout Value Place properties, replacing it with wood-plank-appearing vinyl flooring popular for its efficiency, durability, and maintenance ease in Japan and Europe. Similar to carpet, the new flooring has an acoustical underlayment to greatly reduce noise at the properties. The padding also provides a softer underfoot experience for guests, and offers a richer, more appealing look than carpet. From an operations perspective the benefits are clear. If flooring is damaged, individual planks can be replaced, costing far less than it replacing a section or certainly an entire guest room carpet. Staff time for cleaning is reduced and even equipment costs are diminished since vacuums and shampoo machines (part of our promised cleanliness for carpeted properties) are no longer needed. This new flooring is not porous or absorptive so it resists stains and won't even be penetrated with water from leaking faucets or overflowing toilets and it simply needs a sweep and a quick, sanitary mopping to be ready for the next guest.

Smart design, in this case and many others, is not without challenges. Moving away from carpet to this material requires a shift in planning and greater precision in construction. Wood plank vinyl flooring can expand and shrink so it has to acclimate at normalized, operating room temperature before it can be installed. This construction step changes the timing of a build, since PTAC units must be installed and operating in a room before the flooring is laid. Floors must also be nearly perfect when using this material. The thin profile of the product, even with the padding layer between, shows lumps from poor concrete pours. These challenges and considerations are not barriers and are the right thing for our brand's pursuit of better operational efficiency.

Water Management Lowers Costs

At Value Place we also consider plumbing design in the build process. Hotel designs that maintain a consistent plumbing location, minimize the chances for future problems. Low flow faucets save us about 1,000 gallons of water a day in our average, 124-room hotel. These fixtures are specifically designed to mix air and water in a way that minimizes consumption while providing the guest the feeling of high volume flow. This allows us to reduce water costs without sacrificing the guest experience. Smart design, again, comes in to play for us here. To operate properly, care must be given during the plumbing build for eventual low flow faucet usage. Even small amounts of sediment in the lines could clog low flow faucets, degrading the guest experience and, in some cases, requiring fixture replacement. Diligence when connecting to the main water line ensures sand, dirt, and other particulates are not and will not be introduced. Later in the process, debris from PVC pipe cutting and fitting could eventually find its way to the faucets and create problems. This requires professionalism from plumbers, a line flush before installing low-flow faucets, and diligence over time to protect the hardware in the long term. Maintaining consistency in plumbing design can help other crews in the construction cycle minimize these errors and events, ultimately improving the guest experience at the sink and operating efficiency overall.

A Word about Geographic Design Methods

A smart design is flexible to account for variances by location. Winter is cold in North Dakota. Sometimes a flair for the obvious can lead to smart design changes that can benefit locations across the country. When we modified our materials to use 2" x 6" studs for exterior walls to provide more room for insulation to keep the harsh Northern winter cold at bay, the quality of the thicker insulation resulted in a slightly higher build cost but a 2.8 percent reduction in energy needed to heat the property. That smart design is now the standard across the brand and it helps with heating and cooling. Another example of geographic/regional factors is hurricanes in Florida. We use concrete blocks for construction as required there. This consideration does not have universal applicability so we did not make concrete a standard but we have figured out how to modify our plans to accommodate this weather extreme while maintaining efficiencies should we build in other markets with similar challenges. Considering regional requirements and factors within the context of smart design and operational efficiency can sometimes drive beneficial changes in just one place or for all locations.

Cost Savings Are the Bottom Line

Does smart design pay off? Yes. In the three years since we began implementing changes from our smart design approach, we have seen savings of approximately $55,000 per property, per year, for our average 124-room hotel. That's money that flows straight to the bottom line. The savings realized every time a staff member cleans a Value Place floor, starts at the construction design drawing board. But to achieve the dozens of operating efficiency benefits, well beyond what is outlined here, we had to communicate, take some calculated chances, plan for changes before construction and properly execute during the build. Then our staff has to honor our commitment during day-to-day operations.

In terms of ROI, the additional build costs and fixtures we have added over the last three years pay off in between 1.5 and 2 years (on average). It's been an easy decision to roll these design changes out across our Brand. Sustainable, green, smart design is an important aspect of the future for Value Place. These initiatives drive our approach, adding value for our guests, franchisees, and the communities in which we serve.

Kyle Rogg is Value Place’s President and Chief Operating Officer and is responsible for the operating performance of each of Value Place’s divisions including Value Place Franchise Services (VPFS), Value Place Property Management (VPPM) and the 44 Value Place company‐owned properties. Value Place’s 185 franchised and company-owned properties make it the largest economy extended‐stay brand in America. VPPM is one of many high‐quality property management companies which serve Value Place’s fifty franchise groups. Jack DeBoer, Value Place’s founder and Chairman, added Mr. Rogg and CEO Dan Weber to Value Place’s executive leadership team in 2011, to drive Value Place’s next phase of franchise and company property growth. Prior to Value Place, Mr. Rogg spent 15 years at CLC Lodging (formerly Corporate Lodging Consultants), the nation’s largest negotiator and payment processor of workforce lodging rates, most recently as Senior Vice President of Business Development. Mr. Rogg led the development of the company’s SMB business line, expanding CLC’s customer base from 200 to 50,000 companies, charitable organizations and governmental entities and was a member of the private‐equity backed leadership team, which sold CLC to Fleetcor Technologies in 2009. Mr. Rogg can be contacted at 316-631-1370 or franchise@valueplace.com Extended Bio...

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