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WHITE PLAINS, NY-In what company officials say is an industryfirst, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. pledges to haveits entire new Element hotel brand built to green standards.Specifically, the hotelier says present and future developers ofthe Element hotels will be required to pursue the U.S. GreenBuilding Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) certification.

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Starwood plans to open 20 Element hotels by the end of 2009,including LEED certified properties in New York City, Chicago,Orlando and Las Vegas. The brand's flagship, scheduled to open inJuly of this year in Lexington, MA, will serve as what companyofficials describe as "a working laboratory to test the latest ingreen construction, products, design and operation." After thathotel begins operations, the next hotels set to open their doorsare: Element Summerlin in Las Vegas, Element Houston Vintage Parkin Houston and Element Arundel Mills in Baltimore.

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"Leading the way in hotel innovations is part of Starwood's DNAand fundamental to our success," says Starwood CEO Frits vanPaasschen. "With the launch of Element, we're creating a new way tobuild hotels and guest experiences through the lens ofenvironmental responsibility. By testing and refining Element inour own laboratory, we are developing an economically responsibleLEED-certified hotel concept that is accessible to developers anddesigned to be replicated, promising a more sustainablefuture."

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Starwood says its research indicates that LEED certification isachievable at a minimal cost premium. In addition, Element'sresearch shows the initial investment can be recouped within a fewyears based on associated operational savings, company officialssay.

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.