SOME hotels pride themselves on their achingly cool design; others trumpet their hip location. The Parkroyal on Pickering is stunning and in a prime location - but prides itself on being green in every senses of the word. You could call it the greenest hotel in town just by colour scheme alone - from the vertical green walls in the lobby to the lush plantings on the outdoor deck, the corridors and in the three sky gardens.
The landscaping was only recently installed, so for now, the plants look a little dull and the frangipani trees could do with more leaves and flowers. Over the next few years, however, as the plants settle in, grow lusher and cascade over the building's contoured facade, the hotel will resemble a hanging garden.
Its architect Wong Mun Summ, one of the founding directors at Woha, says every square metre of land area is backed up by twice the acreage in greenery and water features. "The amount of greenery in the hotel is the same as the size of Hong Lim Park across the road," he says. Parkroyal on Pickering's "hotel-in-a-garden" tagline is more than a marketing pitch. He says: "Research has shown that plants lower the temperatures of buildings by 10 degrees, thereby reducing the load on air-conditioning, and the landscaping gives guests a heightened sense of wellbeing."
But the hotel, which opens on Wednesday, is green not just because of its landscaping. From day one, Woha had also planned for it to be cooled and powered in an environmentally friendly way.
When Woha, which is behind green residential developments such as One Moulmein Rise and Newton Suites, asked the hotel's developer UOL Group about implementing an environmentally-sustainable design concept for the hotel, UOL embraced the idea. UOL is also the developer of the other two properties.
Mr Wong says: "We worked the green element even into the architecture of the hotel." Rather than a large rectangular block, the hotel has contoured terraces, which provide more places to grow plants. Solar panels were installed and rainwater is collected; the energy and water sustain the hotel's greenery. Light and motion sensors have also been installed to regulate energy use.
Full-height glass windows in the hotel rooms let in sunlight, reducing the need for artificial lighting in the day. All of the rooms look out onto the sky gardens.
Of the 367 rooms, only 30 per cent have bathtubs. The hotel's general manager David Sullivan says: "Most guests don't have time to use the tubs; cutting down on them also means we conserve more water."
Where there are bathtubs, these are made of reconstituted recycled stone; bathroom tiles are recycled glass.
Mr Sullivan says: "We have a green hotel and we need to manage it that way too." For example, all guest rooms have two bins - one for recyclable waste and the other for general waste. The hotel stationery is made from biodegradable material. Instead of hard-copy printouts with information for guests, all information is viewed electronically off the TV screen.
In the room and mini bar, water comes in glass, not plastic bottles. And the water is bottled in-house, using a water-purification system, thereby eliminating waste and the unnecessary carbon footprint from the manufacture, transportation and disposal of conventional bottled water.
Asked whether being this green would matter to the guests, Mr Sullivan replied in the affirmative: "Guests who are environmentally conscious will look for us." The former general manager of Pan Pacific Seattle with 25 years of hospitality experience says guests from the US and Europe are increasingly looking for green hotels.
For architects like Mr Wong, building green, "is not being trendy, but something that everyone must do".
"After all, we do want to leave behind something good for future generations."