by Harry Wheeler
Technology is changing the face of hospitality design. It’s evolving the way in which we approach and conduct our work; providing options for new products and ways to leverage mobile apps to improve the design and guest experience; and increasing our accessibility to innovative resources and materials. Let’s look at the many ways technology is shaping a new future for hotel design.
Conference calls and digital presentations have quickly replaced in-person meetings and conventional physical design boards. This makes it quick and easy to collaborate with the full project team, and saves time and money related to meeting travel and shipping costs for physical renderings.
Software programs like Photoshop and SketchUp have taken the place of traditional hand renderings, making it easy to update and modify drawings for design changes made on the fly. They show actual furniture, fixtures, finishes and equipment in elevations and models, helping to streamline the overall design process.
Revit, a building information modeling program, gives hotel designers a completely different way of drafting. We can create accurate 3D designs that show heights, widths, materials, fire ratings, sound ratings and essentially all components of a complete design. Using this program, we can create virtual, living buildings where all design elements are represented and interrelated.
3D printing has emerged as a powerful digital ally for designers. With no tooling required, this resource allows designers to use drawings to create plastic models of any part of our design. This option allows designers to quickly and easily recreate and improve on designs based on project team feedback and consumer trends.
Products & Mobile Apps
Like many industries, technology products are now essential in the hospitality design world. Marriott properties offer guests advanced check-in by using its app for use as guest room keys and to charge purchases. This allows for an easy and seamless guest experience and designers to recreate the traditional check-in desk area in favor of smaller check-in stations, pods, and to expand interactive social common areas.
In Boston’s Envoy Hotel, the hotel’s billiards table features an interactive 65-inch touch screen that serves as a one-of-a-kind entertainment center. It provides guests with the ability to play games, search online, and interact with other guests. The main menu directs guests to informational websites about the surrounding areas and more.
Resources & Materials
Technology has created countless new opportunities for a fresh approach to interior design. Designers can customize carpet designs online and view results instantly. This makes it easy for both designers and clients to make changes throughout the design process and to create customizable options for unique properties.
Using technology for digital printing has gained popularity over the past few years. In the Westin Boston, the back-of-house corridor features a large floral mural printed on wallcovering. It’s even visible from the outside of the building, especially at night when the interior is lit. The Residence Inn Boston Downtown/Seaport features digitally printed images on wallcovering, which are used as the focal design element in the hotel guest rooms.
Glass image printing is also increasingly prevalent in today’s hotels. The Envoy Hotel’s guest room bathrooms are framed with custom art glass featuring historic harbor maps and using the hotel’s signature brand colors.
Finally, combining unique materials with lighting can create a unique and stunning focal point in any design. In the Hilton Garden Inn Marlborough, the main corridor from the lobby to the elevator bank is highlighted by a backlit bamboo wall. The lighting streams through patterned wall perforations using multiple pre-programmed themes automatically changing colors, bringing animation to a high traffic area.
A New Reality
As the hotel design marketplace continues to accommodate changing customer needs and expectations, it’s never been more important to leverage the full potential of technology. For new and industry veterans alike, it’s a fast paced and exciting time where we’re able to create stunning properties for guests craving a personalized and intimate experience.
Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners, based in Boston.