For today's traveler, the possibilities are nearly endless. Someone vacationing in my homebase of Honolulu, for example, can stay anywhere from a limited-service hotel to a luxe oceanfront resort and spa to a secluded Airbnb.

That same traveler might return for business and make a completely different hotel choice. The hospitality industry contains multitudes of brands and product types, and travelers have never had more options than they do today.

Highgate's portfolio is incredibly diverse: The company manages every class of hotel from brands including Viceroy, Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Radisson and Hyatt; plus independent and boutique properties across the country and world. We're slated to renovate more than 100 properties over the next four years.

Unsurprisingly, my job as head of Design and Construction has never been broader or more varied. Over the last two years, my team and I renovated more than 65 hotels in dozens of markets across the globe. These projects ran the gamut from select service airport hotels to five-star luxury resorts to neighborhood-inspired boutiques-and everything in between. On a typical day, I'll discuss meeting rooms, spas, pools, restaurants, guest rooms and lobbies with my team at LUCID (Highgate's in-house design and construction studio).

Holding space for such a variety of projects is no small task, but there are common threads that tie together each of these projects-regardless of scale, budget or intended use. We approach every project guided by foundational principles of smart sustainability, smart design and smart teams. This approach keeps us laser focused on our purpose and allows us to apply lessons from one project across our entire diverse portfolio.

Smart Sustainability + Smart Design

Change is a constant in the hospitality industry: Hotels typically get refreshed every seven years, and complete overhauls happen every 14 years or so. The environmental impact of refurbishing existing hotels is staggering. The built environment is widely known to contribute 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions-and, while the impact of renovations hasn't been largely studied, it's believed that interior renovations create even more carbon emissions and waste.

With more than 500 hotels in Highgate's portfolio, we have an enormous opportunity to mitigate renovations' impact on the planet instead of simply doing business as usual. And the more our portfolio grows, the bigger impact we can have on the industry at large. We take that responsibility seriously, continually pushing our teams and suppliers to think boldly and creatively in order to lower the environmental impact of the projects we tackle together.

We published our renewed, industry-leading sustainability goals in 2023, formalizing our commitment to driving sustainability across the global hospitality industry. Since then, 119 Highgate Hotels have received eco certification. One of the first renovation projects following this enhanced commitment to sustainability was a full renovation of The Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa. That renovation prioritized furnishings made from recycled, sustainably harvested or rapidly renewable materials, and remains our highest scored project on MindClick. (MindClick is an environmental rating and analytics company that works extensively with the hospitality industry and helps Highgate Hotels measure and score our sustainability and impact.) As part of our sustainability efforts, we were also able to divert all liquidated materials away from landfills by partnering with various local companies and charities to donate and resell all the furniture.

Existing furniture was refinished and reupholstered as part of the Twin Fin hotel's sustainable renovation model

 — Photo by Highgate Hotels, L.P.Existing furniture was refinished and reupholstered as part of the Twin Fin hotel's sustainable renovation model

 — Photo by Highgate Hotels, L.P.
Existing furniture was refinished and reupholstered as part of the Twin Fin hotel's sustainable renovation model  — Photo by Highgate Hotels, L.P.

We're still using the lessons learned from that San Francisco project. Last year, we opened two Romer hotels in the span of six weeks, one in New York and another in Waikiki. Though the name is the same, the two hotels are quite different given the fact that Romer properties are meant to reflect and embrace their neighborhood homes. But the emphasis on sustainability, of course, was a throughline. And, in 2022, The M Social Hotel in New York City partnered with Green Standards to responsibly remove used furniture, fixtures and equipment following a renovation. This partnership successfully decommissioned eight tons of chairs, lamps, curtains and headboard covers, resulting in more than $10,000 worth of donations to local nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newark and Green Tree Textile Recycling in the Bronx. In this case, partnering with like-minded organizations and thinking outside the box diverted 97.6 percent of waste from landfills and reduced carbon emissions by nearly 300 tons.

Renovations, too, present an opportunity for mitigated environmental impact. At the Twin Fin hotel in Waikiki, for example, we partnered with Remanufacturing Design Group to refinish and re-upholster existing furniture, diverting several tons of waste from landfills. Rather than designing, procuring and shipping all new furniture from around the globe, the team was able to create something truly unique. And, of course, we significantly reduced the renovation's environmental footprint. By reusing and refurbishing existing dressers, nightstands and bathroom vanities, the design team created a totally refreshed look at a reduced budget (without sacrificing design). This sustainable model worked so well that it's become a catchphrase within Highgate and LUCID. We ask ourselves, "Can we Twin Fin this project?" as a reminder to stretch our imaginations and consider how we might be able to breathe new life into existing goods. We're now considering a similar approach at several Highgate properties.

And, though working on large-scale and new-build projects is certainly exciting, I get just as much joy and satisfaction from small, nimble and highly sustainable projects like this one. We were able to completely refresh the hotel for a minimal spend, and with almost no carbon footprint. We're making these changes not just to get a gold star for Highgate; we're trying to create a ripple effect and help change how the entire industry thinks about hotel renovations for the greater good of the planet.

We can activate sustainability and smart design in big, visible ways at some of Highgate's luxury and boutique properties-like at Twin Fin, which is home to an oversized art installation made of ocean plastic and hosts regular beach cleanups.

But, of course, not every renovation can be a Twin Fin or an M Social. Building and remodeling branded select service hotels, for example, tends to be a much more prescriptive process. But the same foundational principles apply, and even less-glamorous projects offer the opportunity for sustainability and creative thinking. We approach each renovation with the same mindset and fundamental principles: We gather the right partners at the table at the right time, push our suppliers to bring eco-friendly solutions and negotiate and set up contracts in the same careful way. This foundational process leads to a successful outcome, regardless of hotel class. Additionally, much of our sustainability efforts on select service projects take place behind the scenes, incorporating features like low-flow fixtures, LED lighting and EV chargers.

Each renovation and new build is an opportunity for us to reduce emissions all across our supply chain, and the bigger our portfolio grows the more sway we have on suppliers-the power of purchasing, if you will. Given the size of our platform, we feel a need and a responsibility to build things in a more environmentally friendly manner. With size comes a certain degree of power, coupled with responsibility: If we push our suppliers to bring more sustainable solutions, they'll likely present a similar solution to other hospitality companies they partner with-especially if that solution has a similar cost to the old way of doing things. Often, they realize that the more environmentally friendly approach might even save money in the long run.

We are constantly challenging the common belief that incorporating sustainability means spending more money. If sustainability is a core element, and embedded into a project from the onset, it doesn't have to translate into higher project costs. A project's budget or scale doesn't preclude you from having the same intentionality about design and sustainability. In fact, we track all our project costs very closely, and Highgate's "cost per key" on renovations hasn't been materially impacted since we began this sustainability journey several years ago.

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa renovation prioritized furnishings made from recycled, sustainably harvested or rapidly renewable materials

 — Photo by Highgate Hotels, L.P.The Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa renovation prioritized furnishings made from recycled, sustainably harvested or rapidly renewable materials

 — Photo by Highgate Hotels, L.P.
The Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SoMa renovation prioritized furnishings made from recycled, sustainably harvested or rapidly renewable materials  — Photo by Highgate Hotels, L.P.

Smart Teams

One of my duties as head of Design and Construction is to know when our team needs to sprint and when we can take the time and space to think and design in a more creative way. And, thanks to LUCID's small but mighty team, we actually can do it all. Highgate will renovate 29 select service hotels this year alone, while simultaneously re-imagining luxury resorts, urban boutique hotels, spas and restaurants. In all, we're currently juggling 65 active projects, but our commitment to sustainability and smart design help inform both our process and the outcome.

I spend a considerable amount of time interviewing candidates, since none of this is possible without an incredible and diverse team with wide-ranging talents. It's not just about the right resume and experience; it's also about the courage to innovate and the ability to combine left-brain power with right-brain creativity. Right now LUCID's team of 12 people is working on several model rooms in Portugal, a new restaurant build in London, four hotels in Hawaii and multiple other hotels in California, Las Vegas, Miami and New York.

And, like many teams, we're geographically diverse-with team members in San Francisco, New York, Portugal and Hawaii. I reviewed more than 100 resumes in order to create this team-a focus that some may consider obsessive, but one that has paid off in spades. Hiring smart people who believe in our vision means we share the same values and commitment. From there, anything is possible.

As I remind my team on a regular basis: Our mission is much bigger than renovating as many hotels as we can. We're trying to make a difference for the entire hospitality industry, and that's a responsibility none of us take lightly.