Designing for the Urban Jungle: Ways to Control Expenses When Building Properties in Pricey City Centers

Designing a new hotel is always a challenge in so many ways. But, there are unique considerations in building an urban property, especially in more costly locations. The price per square footage is higher in major cities, versus airport or suburban locations, and that means that guest rooms and public spaces need to be designed more efficiently and often with a smaller footprint. These costs go up even higher in the building of upscale and luxury properties.

Ed Fuller

"While layout is important in designing all kinds of properties, using space more efficiently is particularly crucial in urban settings," said Ed Fuller, president of Irvine, Calif.-based Laguna Strategic Advisors, which provides business consulting services. Fuller also spent 40 years at Marriott, including serving as president and managing director of International Lodging. He is the author of the upcoming 2019 novel, "Red Hotel."

Since a city hotel guest room may be smaller than the more traditional 325 or so square feet, you may see the elimination of items in the room such as the bathtub, and the use of desks with more functionality to save on having to purchase other kinds of furniture, Fuller noted.

"In an urban market like NYC, we explore room templates that are of a narrower bay," said Aliya Khan, vice president of global design strategies for Marriott, who works with the company's Aloft Hotels.

Aloft Hotels also have a signature architectural canopy called the swoof roof. This can be scaled back in an urban setting to address pedestrians versus vehicles, Khan added. In addition to the architectural canopy, depending on the location, in some instances the brand has waived having a pool. Aloft now has 150 properties open.

In the future, urban properties will see more modular design. "The standard design-build process is challenging in urban environments due to zoning regulations, building codes, traffic, etc. "It is time consuming and labor intensive and is already beginning to realize efficiencies through modular design and construction," Khan noted.

Modular design also allows you to retain consistency in the quality of the product, regardless of the quality of labor available, she added. And, modular projects can save up to six months in construction time, which allows a project to turn a profit faster and cut expenses.

Aytan Litwin

"Saving on costs should start with working with providers who can produce unique designs at scale--and at the highest quality possible--at competitive prices," said Aytan Litwin, founder and chief executive officer of White Space, a Reno, Nev.-based supply-chain management platform that works with hotels and resorts."

Litwin recommended that hotels, for instance, invest in one expensive piece in a guest room that allows for some of the other accessories to be more generic -as a way to balance design costs and get the most bang for the buck. He also suggested the use of "elegantly unfurnished" items in city hotels, such as using exposed concrete, sharp corners and allowing natural sunlight into guest rooms.

There also could be ways to save when it comes to the type of beds used in guest rooms, said Patrick Trainor, vice president of projects and facilities for Hotel Equities in Atlanta. Elevated beds look more comfortable and upscale, and they increase the efficiency of the team members making the beds by decreasing the need to bend. The higher beds also ensure that there is enough clearance for vacuums on either side of beds, he noted.

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