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

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 in July of this year in Lexington, MA, will serve as what company officials describe as “a working laboratory to test the latest in green construction, products, design and operation.” After that hotel begins operations, the next hotels set to open their doors are: Element Summerlin in Las Vegas, Element Houston Vintage Park in Houston and Element Arundel Mills in Baltimore.

“Leading the way in hotel innovations is part of Starwood’s DNA and fundamental to our success,” says Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen. “With the launch of Element, we’re creating a new way to build hotels and guest experiences through the lens of environmental responsibility. By testing and refining Element in our own laboratory, we are developing an economically responsible LEED-certified hotel concept that is accessible to developers and designed to be replicated, promising a more sustainable future.”

Starwood says its research indicates that LEED certification is achievable at a minimal cost premium. In addition, Element’s research shows the initial investment can be recouped within a few years based on associated operational savings, company officials say.

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