Environmental Impact

In the Limelight - Hotel Terra, Jackson Hole - By David Thurnau

From LEED Silver certification to energy efficiency to creative uses of recycled items, Hotel Terra is establishing itself as a place of sustainability among the majestic landscape that surrounds it.

EcoVision Sustainable Learning Center Glistening snow covered slopes, picturesque mountain peaks, a spattering of evergreens, and endless blue skies. Sounds like the perfect getaway for the winter enthusiast. And that is exactly what you’ll see during the ski season, when you visit the Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But the story of this hotel goes far beyond being a hub for skiers and snowboarders. From LEED Silver certification to energy efficiency to creative uses of recycled items, Hotel Terra is establishing itself as a place of sustainability among the majestic landscape that surrounds it. 

Hi Ho Silver!

For the Hotel Terra, the apex of their sustainability efforts is the building itself. Under the guidance of Sustainable Building Services, the 55,000 square foot hotel, completed in 2008, has achieved LEED Silver Certification for new construction.  Utilizing recycled materials extensively for building supplies and creatively considering the surrounding environment during construction contributed significantly to this accolade.

Steel, wood, and concrete – all core building materials, were sourced in large part though recycling.  In fact, over 80% of the steel that was used to build the hotel was recycled material. Some of the wood came from the sturdy beams of old barns and farmhouses. And as much as half of the cement needed to produce concrete was replaced with fly ash, the mostly useless byproduct of coal combustion that usually fills landfills. Even the shingles on the roof, provided by Eco-Shake, make use of material from recycled tires and should last the hotel at least 50 years. To top this off, the Hotel Terra was able to reuse or recycle 50% of the waste produced during construction of the building. 

LEED status, though, didn’t just come from keeping things out of landfills, it also stemmed from an environmentally conscious building design. Over 90% of the interior space of the hotel receives natural daylight while providing guests views to the outside.  Not only is this aesthetically pleasing – I mean who doesn’t appreciate a view of the mountain landscape – but it also reduces energy use for both lighting and heating, which keeps money in the hotel’s pocket. The building design also includes an underground tank, where runoff water is collected on site, filtered and then slowly released back into the natural environment, thereby reducing pollution and flooding of the area waterways and land.

Managing Energy and Water

Hotel Terra’s intelligent design gives it a start in managing its energy, but it has gone above and beyond this to improve its energy efficiency. Throughout the hotel, Mitsubishi CITY MULTI units are utilized in conjunction with the HVAC system to help manage energy use.  These devices operate based on demand, meaning that they slow down or shut down when no one is using a room.  This prevents the hotel from heating and cooling places that are unoccupied.  These devices are also capable of recovering over 80% of the heat from the exhaust air and utilizing it for productive purposes.  Now that is an efficient machine!

To further enhance energy efficiency, the hotel’s parking garage, which is located at the ground level of the hotel, has been equipped with a radiant heat flooring system, which reduces the amount of heat the building loses to the outside. Low E windows have also been installed throughout the hotel. These windows promote energy efficiency by protecting the interior from infrared light and help keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer. Together these measures allow the hotel to use significantly less energy than would be needed otherwise.  And while the hotel is doing its best to reduce the energy use, they have also made the commitment to purchase the energy they do use from renewable sources.

With water use just as important to sustainability as energy, the hotel has made significant choices here as well; reducing water use by 34% each year through the installation of dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, low flow water fixtures and no-irrigation landscaping. This is certainly a noteworthy accomplishment for any hotel.

From Old to Completely New – and Different

It’s only fitting that a building that is constructed with so many recycled and sustainable aspects should be filled with items that further exemplify this, and that is exactly what the Hotel Terra has done. 

  • Hotel soap dishes and bathroom countertops are made from recycled glass, including glass reclaimed from skyscrapers.
  • Mattresses, by Land & Sky, are organic, including their salt-water based flame retardant.
  • Orange and green pillows in guest rooms are composed of recycled plastic bottles.  Who knew plastic could be so comfortable.
  • Old seatbelts continue to provide safety, only this time to the planet; recycled into chairs that are used in the hotels café.
  • Elevator tiles, created from recycled leather from old BMW seats no less, are provided by Ecodomo.
  • Sheets, towels, bath mats, and bathrobes are all made from 100% organic cotton.  Hooray for sustainable fabric!
  • Many of the furniture pieces have been crafted by Environment Furniture, using salvaged, recycled and natural materials. 
At Hotel Terra Jackson Hole, sustainability has become as innate to the hotel as the snow is to the surrounding mountainside. And for that, they deserve a spot In the Limelight.

Contributor: David Thurnau has a background in political science, municipal government, and agriculture with an emphasis in environmental issues.

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