Inspired by old architecture from 1920s and 30s Shanghai, URBN Hotels, China's first carbon neutral hotel, pays homage to the city's past and present while taking an innovative step towards ensuring its future. This chic boutique hotel is the brain child of owners Scott Barrack and Jules Kwan, who hope to create destinations of comfort and style while simultaneously promoting environmental awareness, protection and sustainable building within the hotel industry.
The first of what Barrack and Kwan hope to be many hotels is strategically located in a renovated 1970s factory warehouse, just two blocks from Nanjing Lu amidst the leafy streets of Jing'an. Barrack and Kwan worked with designer Raefer Wallis of A00 Architecture, using reclaimed hardwood and old Shanghai brick to create a striking urban oasis. From inside, the lobby beckons with incredible warmth. The wall behind the reception counter is made entirely of time-worn, leather suitcases, evoking a more romantic era of travel. "A lot of heart has gone into this hotel," says Katya Sawyer, director of sales and marketing for URBN.
Heart, and brilliance in design. URBN focuses on recycled and locally sourced materials and uses passive solar louvers, Icynene insulation and double-paned windows among other energy efficient techniques. The hotel is also in partnership with Climate Bridge, an international intermediary that tracks a company's carbon footprint and helps neutralize those effects by finding eco-friendly solutions and "green" energy development projects for the company to invest in. Hotel guests can also purchase carbon credits to offset the environmental impact of their air travel.
URBN is not just about preservation but participation as well. Barrack plans to visit local schools to help educate youths about environ-mental awareness. Additionally, guests can take beginner's Mandarin and Chinese cooking classes, as well as Tai Chi and yoga. "The mission is to get [the guests] involved in the community while doing our part to help build environmental awareness and, as we appreciate the community, impact it in as positive a way as possible," says Barrack. Those fearing eco-arrogance or that a stay at the hotel means making reservations on a political bandwagon can rest assured. URBN is intended to bridge gaps, not widen them. "No one can be 100 percent carbon neutral," says Sawyer, "but we are trying where we can."
Location: 207 Jiaozhou Lu