Albuquerque's Historic Hotel Andaluz to Be Renovated with An Eye for Sustainability

Feb. 23, 2009

An architectural icon of Downtown is on track to become one of the first if not the first historic hotels in the country to undergo a thorough green renovation.

The 70-year-old Hotel Andaluz, still known to many as La Posada de Albuquerque, has a strong shot at silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, according to Darin Sand of Albuquerque-based Goodman Realty Group, which owns the hotel.

"We're concerned about sustainable development as a company goal," he said.

The 10-story, 109,698-square-foot hotel is basically being refurbished from the inside out. The renovation is expected to be completed this summer.

"The whole infrastructure of the hotel needed a lot of help, a lot of TLC," said Peter Van Orren, facility operations manager for Goodman Realty. "A good chunk of the renovation cost went to this."

Goodman Realty purchased the property at auction for $4 million in 2005. A key step in financing the renovation was the City Council's approval two years ago of $8.9 million in industrial revenue bonds, which include long-term tax breaks for the property. The company has also applied for historic preservation and sustainable building tax credits.

The entire project, from purchase through renovation, has a price tag of about $30 million.

Archaic Systems
Built at a cost of $700,000 by Conrad Hilton, the building core is made of poured concrete. When it opened as a Hilton Hotel with 160 rooms in June 1939, it was the tallest building in New Mexico. Over the years, a who's who of movie stars and politicians have stayed there.

The inner workings of the building -- wiring, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning -- had evolved over the decades.

Although the hotel opened with very limited air conditioning, the guest rooms only got air conditioning in 1952 when a "huge monstrous machine" was installed in the basement, Van Orren said. "For the time, it was great," he said. "By today's standards, not so much."

The hotel was seasonally heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer; in other words, a guest couldn't turn on a little heat on a cool summer evening.

Since the rooms were not equipped with thermostats, guests had to call maintenance to have the temperature in their room adjusted.

"It was problematic, especially given the climate we have here," Van Orren said, noting the old system wasted energy by heating and cooling empty rooms.

The electrical wiring was also archaic. One 20-amp circuit breaker would serve four or five guest rooms, he said. Two hair dryers operating at the same time would blow a fuse.

Balancing Act
The Andaluz project has been a balancing act between historic preservation and operating an environmentally friendly, energy- efficient building, said Sand, who is Goodman's inhouse LEEDaccredited professional.

The lobby and second-floor mezzanine will maintain the hotel's original ambiance with the tile floors, heavy woodwork and wall murals. The second-floor terrace will return to use after being closed to the public since the 1950s. The exterior will closely resemble the original.

"Historic preservation is mainly concerned about the building's character and the public spaces," Sand said. "That's another one of our goals."

Other components of the original hotel had to be replaced. All of the mullion windows on the upper eight floors were replaced by 192 exact dual-paned replicas. The wood panel doors to the guest rooms will be replaced by similar-looking fire- and sound-rated new doors. All but 26 of the original guest room sinks will be replaced.

As with any LEED construction project, recycling of demolition debris and use of recycled materials are emphasized. A woodworking shop has been set up in what was formerly a first-floor meeting room to rework or refinished salvaged lumber.

Water and Energy

A key component in the LEED renovation is a 73-panel solar thermal system on the roof of the 10th floor. Made by Golden, Colo.- based Novan Solar Inc., the system will preheat the water stored in the hotel's original, but refurbished, storage tank on the roof.

"It will save us 60 percent on the cost to provide hot water," Sand said.

Goodman Realty is also planning to buy 100 percent of its electricity off the grid from green sources, such as wind or solar, Sand said. The purchase of 100 percent green power exceeds LEED program requirements.

The hotel's half-dozen roofs have been replaced with heatreflective and energy efficient thermoplastic polyolefin, better known as TPO, singleply roofing membranes.

The light-colored membranes prevent heat from being absorbed into the building.

"This addresses the 'heat island effect,' which refers to microclimates that are prevalent in urban areas where there's a lot of asphalt or dark areas," Sand said. "It can be 5-10 degrees hotter than out in the country."

Some of the major energysaving steps being taken in the Andaluz project are the same as what any homeowner can do.

"Lighting in a building is one of the largest consumers of energy," Sand said. "We're upgrading all of the lighting with a heavy focus on LED and fluorescent (lights) very energy efficient. They're making great strides with that technology."

Low-flow toilets and plumbing fixtures will also be installed in guest rooms, with automatic low-flow fixtures in the public restrooms. The guest room toilets will go one step beyond the basic lowflow criteria with a dual-flush technology, one for liquids and the other for solids, Sand said.

The result will be saving at least 45 percent on water use compared to conventional toilets and fixtures, he said.

Inner Workings
The inner workings of the hotel ducts, conduit and pipes visible in places as the renovation continues are shiny and new. Some old ducts are being reused if
removal meant damaging the building's original woodwork, Van Orren noted.

A total of 240 tons of new air conditioning equipment and two large air-handling systems have been installed in the basement, replacing the 1952 air chiller and a hodgepodge of rooftop air conditioners that formerly cooled various parts of the hotel. The air handlers use a three-step filtration of outside air.

Individual rooms will have thermostats, which guests can use to either heat or cool their rooms any time they want. In addition, each room will have three circuit breakers.

The building's HVAC and electrical infrastructure will be controlled by a computerized energy management system made by Piscataway, N.J.-based Trane. The Trane system will interface with the building management system to control the some lights and heating or cooling in each of the hotel's 107 guest rooms.

An unused room will basically go into a sleep mode from an energy standpoint. When someone books the room, the heating or cooling will kick in to restore the room to the ideal temperature of about 72 degrees while dim "mood" lights turn on so the guest doesn't enter in darkness, Van Orren said.

If a guest leaves a rented room with the air conditioning cranked, for example, sensors will alert the automated system that the room is empty. The air conditioning will go into a "minor sleep mode," allowing the temperature to slide 2-3 degrees, he said.

When the guest returns, the air conditioning will crank back up again.

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