When diplomats from across the world travel to the United Nations each fall to deliberate matters of global importance, they sleep each night in luxury quarters across the street from where they work their long hours. So when One UN New York (formerly the UN Millennium Plaza Hotel) embarked on the first phase of a massive renovation to its 37 year-old facility, they had a lot of work to do with a short and rigid time schedule: There could be no project overrun, because the hotel had to be ready to host diplomats from around the world when the U.N.’s 67th General Assembly kicked off.
This initial phase of the renovation, designed to increase guest comfort and increase the facility’s energy efficiency, was a $30 million renovation of the 154-room West Tower that implemented touch screen-operated control of the various systems in each room. This was done with Vantage Control‘s InFusion control system combined with the company’s ScenePoint Relays and sensors for lighting, thermostat and in-room temperature sensors to coordinate climate control. The touch screen panels, Vantage TPT650 models, offer five languages through which the hotel’s diverse clientele can operate the interfaces. The system is fully hardwired because hotel officials were wary of potential security breaches that wireless could enable. “ONE UN was very pleased to partner with Vantage to install touch screen technology in all guest rooms in our newly renovated West Tower,” says the hotel’s general manager, Paul Wong.
The hotel was built in 1976 and the rooms needed more than just cosmetic upgrades, so there was a lot of work to do. Yet the entire project, including the physical and aesthetic improvements, began May 1, 2012, with the deadline of Sept. 18, 2012, the start of the General Assembly.
“These rooms were very tired, this hotel needed significant renovation,” says Andrew Wale, the vice president of Marketing for Vantage. Many walls were taken down to the studs and the bathrooms were stripped of tile. Yet because the hotel was staying open the entire time, all of the upgrades — cosmetic, physical and technological — so the building’s electrical infrastructure remained in place throughout the project.
This being New York City, the work had to be carried out by union-affiliated workers (Garden City Park, N.Y.-based Striano Electric was the local contractor for the job), so Vantage officials made sure there was a clear installation plan that simplified and specified precisely how the systems had to be installed in each and every room.
“When we do a residential job, normally there’s an integrator who’s Vantage trained and he does Vantage jobs day in and day out,” Wale says. “It’s why we did a lot more work on the planning side of the project to make sure it was pretty cookie cutter for them.”
As always with these types of projects, the control systems were among the last components to go in, after all of the other labor had been done.
For Michaels Electrical Supply Corp. of Lynnbrook, N.Y., the commissioning agent on the project, that meant it was vital to have a comprehensive plan to implement the various parts of the project under chaotic conditions.
“You come to the hotel sort of as crunch time is coming… there’s 400 people in the hallways, the network’s not fully up,” says David L. Greenberg of Michaels. “We had to go room to room, floor to floor with wireless access points, kind of make our own network to do commissioning on certain rooms.”
But despite that uphill, obstacle-hurdling sprint to the finish, everything was fully up and running — at maximum capacity — when the General Assembly commenced and the hotel was fully occupied.
“We really didn’t have any problems of things not working, system-wise,” Greenberg says.
There isn’t a hard read on the ROI on these upgrades, in part because the hotel is a tenant in the building and doesn’t see an itemized electric bill, but the automating abilities of these rooms save on energy consumption as well as employee man hours, says Randy Thomas, the director of Business Development for Vantage. That’s because, among other benefits, hotel engineering, Vantage and Michaels Electric officials can all access and monitor — and troubleshoot — the systems remotely, saving the effort of sending someone up to a room; additionally, maids no longer need to go room-by-room each evening to properly dim the lights as part of the hotel’s turn-down service. “The screens make it easy for guests to control room climate and lighting and even check the weather. Upgraded technology throughout ONE UN reflects our commitment to creating a unique, luxury experience for our discerning clientele,” says hotel general manager, Paul Wong.
A subsequent second phase of the renovation is tentatively scheduled to take place next year and could include whole-room audio and motorized shades. So far, everyone has been pleased with the first phase of the project, says Thomas, and in an industry where end-user feedback tends to come only in complaints, nothing speaks louder than silence.
“We don’t get a lot of guest comments, and I think that’s a good thing,” Thomas says.