Paul: You have worked with some of the most glamorous hotels in the world. When designing, what comes first—green or luxury?
Amy: Luxury must be green.
Design-wise, most green features, such as organic linens, FSC-certified wood and recycled content in furnishings are no longer distinguishable from the rest of the materials we use.
The real impact is made with the structure itself. The majority of the green features that are truly integral to the architectural infrastructure of the building, are often features that the guest will never see, so one can be indulgent, live sumptuously, and still be green in the interior.
Paul: Where have you implemented luxurious green design?
Amy: All of our current projects are designed green, including Marriot Marquis D.C., Rosewood Abu Dhabi and MGM Sanya, and we expect our future projects to follow suit, as we see it becoming the norm for every new project to go green.
For example, MGM MIRAGE CityCenter is seeking LEED Certification for the entire complex. We significantly contributed to the interior design of the public spaces, guestrooms, suites and the Sky Suites in Aria, and the tower at Aria, along with the Vdara Hotel, which has already received Gold certification. The property is designed to be a true testament of beauty and sustainability.
Paul: In your opinion, what does luxury mean now?
Amy: To me, luxury is:
1. something that is indulgent rather than a necessity,
2. something that is high-quality and typically expensive,
3. wealth as evidenced by sumptuous living.
At the moment, conspicuous consumption is dead. Customers are scrutinizing the way their money is spent in all sectors and price points, both on the individual level and corporate level. Where does the real value lie and what elements are people willing to pay for? That's being determined as we speak.
Paul: Give us an example of how luxury is applied to design now.
Amy: Luxury will always exist in either the back- or foreground, and that market will indeed re-strengthen. The question, moving forward, is will there be value added. Right now, I think we're seeing a paring back and questioning of materials. Is a six-fixture bathroom needed, or are five fixtures still luxurious? The scale of luxury has increased over the last several years as a means of outdoing the latest luxury property. I don't believe this will hold true in the future; hotels will look closely at what their customer-base values and put their focus on those items.
Paul: How has the recession affected green design?
Amy: I believe the recession has bolstered green design. In the hotel sector, brands, operators and owners are moving forward with green practices as their customers demand it, despite the economy. Green hotels will not only save our natural resources and reduce pollution, but also reduce operating costs while increasing profit margins.
Hotels need to lead this charge as they are also educators; if guests go home and change their energy and water usage, recycling habits, etc. in their home, based on their hotel experience, then the hotel has contributed to the preservation of the environment beyond its four walls.
The fact is most developers are now seeing this as part of their future exit strategy. After all, no one will want to buy a non-green building in the future.
Paul: Tell us something unexpected about yourself.
Amy: I am very adventurous and am, in fact, a licensed skydiver, though I have not jumped in several years. I've incorporated skiing and racecar driving into my adventures instead.