In the Aftermath of Oil Spills and Hurricanes – New Gulf Coast Hilton Rises as a Sustainability Superstar

The newest arrival to Alabama’s sugar-white sand beaches is the $140 million Lodge at Gulf State Park. Set amidst the park’s 6,150 acres, the 350-room Hilton has a remarkable eco-friendly operating ethos.

Owned by the state of Alabama/Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the development was financed by some of Alabama’s earliest settlements from the British Petroleum oil spill. It is built on the site of a former hotel destroyed by Hurricane Ivan 14 years ago. Once certified, The Lodge will be the only hotel in the world with a combination of three high-end certifications in energy efficiency and fortified construction.

Demonstrating its commitment to protecting the environment, the facility targeted some of the most rigorous sustainability goals in the hospitality industry: LEED© Gold, SITES© Platinum, and FORTIFIED Commercial ™ certifications. The overall project was designed by LakeFlato and Rabun Architects with native landscaping by Sasaki Associates. The building footprint was reduced and set back from the Gulf to allow for natural dune movement, and restoration. The buildings are positioned to benefit from cooling gulf breezes and to maximize natural lighting. This design reduces energy use by 32 percent and interior water use by 35 percent.

According to Hilton Hotels & Resorts, some of the sustainability initiatives include:

  • Eco-friendly construction: Fifteen percent of building materials are recycled materials and 70–75 percent of construction waste was recycled.
  • Responsible Water Sourcing and Routing: Condensation from the HVAC system is collected and recycled to replace water in the pool. Additionally, rainwater is collected and directed to a restored wetland on site rather than being diverted to storm sewers. The hotel also features a permeable parking lot using TrueGrid technology that allows rainwater to drain into the ground.
  • Wildlife Conscious Features:  All lighting is shielded away from turtle nesting areas and pointed away from the beach. Lights on the beach side of the property are warmer to be less confusing to wildlife and floor to ceiling glass windows in the main lobby have bird friendly safety measures.
  • Energy Conservation: Guest room air conditioning units were installed with sensors that cut off the unit if balcony doors or windows are left open or ajar, and the full hotel is equipped with energy efficient lighting with motion sensors to reduce waste.
  • Restorative Landscaping: Approximately 75 percent of the site is dedicated to landscaping using native species that thrive without irrigation, chemical pesticides or fertilizers. By planting native species, the coastal landscape is restored, and habitats have been created for native birds, nesting sea turtles and the Alabama Beach Mouse.
  • Food and Waste Reduction: The hotel team recycles all cooking oil and sorts trash into separate bins for composting, animal feed, recycling and more. The hotel also uses plant-based water bottles, Hay Straws® made from reusable bamboo shoots, all of which are biodegradable and made from abundant resources.
  • Conscientious Menus: The Lodge participates in the Zero Single Serve Initiative, which promotes discontinuing single serve items to guests and practices local sourcing and invasive species fish harvesting to help eliminate non-indigenous saltwater species from the Gulf.
    Looney & Associates designed the hotel’s interiors to embrace the outdoors and beachfront with a contemporary coastal aesthetic. Guests enjoy beach access, and public spaces including a 5,500-square-foot outdoor terrace, pool, ballroom and restaurant face the Gulf of Mexico. Original artwork, curated by Soho Myriad reflects both environmental sensitivity and a sense of the hotel’s place in the history of the Gulf. Restaurant and bar offerings include locally-sourced seafood and farm-to-table offerings in Foodcraft, Perch, Roasted Oak Coffee & Wine Bar, and Dragonfly Pool Bar & Grill.

Bray Whaler worked closely with the hotel’s ownership, and its management Valor Hospitality Partners to comply with state regulations to pre-qualify Alabama vendors for all types of FF&E and OS&E items. Bids were handled in a closed bidding processes and vendor selection was a carefully vetted and controlled process. We were pleased to be a part of this innovative project. The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel is located at 21196 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL 36542, and is offering attractive introductory and group rates.


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