Facility Retrofit: Toward Energy Goals

In Nashville, TN, the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel has undergone a series of energy improvements to reach reduction goals.

In Nashville, TN, the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel has undergone a series of energy improvements to reach reduction goals.


Through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, Loews Hotels & Co. set a goal in 2015 to reduce energy use across all of its hotels by 20% in 10 years. To date, its Nashville property has seen energy consumption decrease by 22%.

Joe Thomas, vice president of engineering for Loews Hotels & Co., discusses the Nashville project.

By Facility Executive Staff
From the August 2016 Issue

What are your responsibilities for Loews Hotels & Co?.

I am responsible for the quality assurance and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) of all Loews Hotels’ assets, energy management, utility procurement, 10-year capital planning, training and development of directors and chief engineers, and sustainability efforts. I also oversee tracking energy reduction, recycling and composting, due diligence of new and or future acquisitions, new construction of MEP systems, building envelope maintenance, and life safety systems.

Joe Thomas, vice president of engineering, Loews Hotels & Co., gives a tour of the new chiller space at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel to representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and the City of Nashville. New controls (at right) were installed as part of the project. (Photos: Loews Hotels & Co.)

Please describe the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, as well as the scope of the energy retrofit project there.

The structure is a mixed-use facility, comprising a 351-room hotel and an attached office building that is currently 100% occupied. The Loews Vanderbilt Hotel year-end occupancy was 79%, and the office building was 94%. The total square footage for the entire structure is 550,000. This is a convention/business hotel with two large kitchens, a bar and restaurant, 24-hour room service, full in-house laundry, a health club, and 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

At this Nashville property, we’ve reduced energy consumption by 22% within two years. This effort has been part of Loews’ participation in the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge.

Since joining the Challenge in 2015, at the Loews’ Vanderbilt Hotel we’ve upgraded the public area lighting fixtures to LED lighting, installed new direct-drive elevator hoist motors on seven passenger elevators, and installed a new, more efficient water system. We also installed new variable frequency drives on the existing chilled water and condenser pumps in order to further enhance HVAC efficiency and replaced the water distribution media inside the cooling tower. Additionally, by enhancing and insulating the hotel façade and ballroom roof, the building’s overall R-value (insulation effectiveness) was improved by 20%.

A significant part of the energy retrofit efforts was to replace two 750-ton centrifugal chillers with re-sized, highly-efficient 500-ton chillers. The motivating factors to pursue this were equipment age, condition, and inefficiencies. We removed the two 750-ton Trane centrifugal chillers, and our MEP consultants evaluated and sized appropriately new equipment. We replaced the previous equipment with two 550-ton Trane VFD chillers, a new VFD condenser, and chilled water pumps with all new controls.

These new chillers have improved efficiencies throughout the building—meeting cooling comfort with less energy consumed and lower electrical demand.

We evaluated and re-engineered the cooling system in August 2015. In November 2015, we purchased the new chillers, which arrived in March of 2016 and were installed three weeks later. The start-up and system tweaking was completed by April 15, 2016.

What have the results been?

As mentioned earlier, energy consumption has decreased by 22% over the past two years. All areas of the hotel were rebalanced after the new chillers were installed, allowing the space temperatures to be achieved much faster which creates a more comfortable environment for our hotel guests, office building tenants, and team members.

We track monthly energy savings through EnerNOC metering devices, and have averaged between $28,000 to $32,000 in electrical savings per month.

Totaling 550,000 square feet, the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, TN is comprised of a 351-room hotel and an adjacent office building. (Photo: Loews Hotels & Co.)

Additional Comments?

The most critical components in reducing energy costs and consumption in a facility are having a clear understanding of how your facility is consuming energy, proper metering, and the development of an energy reduction plan based on equipment or system inefficiencies and return on investment.

More about this Facility Retrofit…

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel’s efficiency upgrades resulted in benefits beyond energy savings, and these include:

  • Reduced cooling tower make-up water and spend on cooling tower chemicals;
  • Enhanced guest experience and comfort level by reaching and maintaining desired room temperatures much faster;
  • Improved TripAdvisor GreenLeaders status to Bronze level;
  • Improved the hotel’s ENERGY STAR score from 45 to 68, indicating the hotel is now operating 18% more efficiently than the average ENERGY STAR-rated hotel;
  • Contributed to Loews achieving corporate-level recognition by ENERGY STAR in 2016;
  • Participated in the “How Loews Can You Goes” internal ENERGY STAR building energy performance competition in 2016; and
  • Recognition for the Directors of Engineering through Loews’ internal Gold Wrench Award. In 2008, Loews Hotels & Co. introduced the Gold Wrench Award to recognize leadership among its engineering managers across the country. In addition to criteria covering all aspects of building operation, the Award incentivizes Loews engineers to find energy saving solutions proactively and contribute to the company’s sustainability goals. The award highlights employees in the engineering department who have gone above and beyond performance standards.

To learn more about energy and sustainability actions at Loews Hotels, visit www.loewshotels.com/good-neighbor-program. And for more about the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge, visit https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/solutions.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove@groupc.com.

A BOMI-accredited session on Creating An Energy Roadmap will be held at the inaugural Facility Executive Live!, a new one-day conference presented by Facility Executive magazine on October 3rd in Chicago. Click here to learn more.