The Hotel at Oberlin will officially open on September 13, 2016, a 70-room property designed to be one of the most environmentally sustainable hotels in the world. Owned by Oberlin College, developed by SMART Hotels and managed by The Olympia Companies, The Hotel at Oberlin is the first hotel in the US to incorporate solar, geothermal, and radiant heating and cooling and one of only five hotels in the US to qualify for the rigorous LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.


The Hotel at Oberlin was designed by the Chicago-based architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB); the creative process was led by SCB Principal Jim Curtin, AIA. Curtin explains that “the building had to be visually engaging because of the artistically rich legacy of Oberlin College. The central design metaphor is the image of a treehouse, as demonstrated by the lofted program elements and surrounding landscape. The canted columns supporting the ballroom, with views to historic Tappan Square, are analogous to tree trunks, designed to be playful while reinforcing the sustainable nature of the building.”

“The positioning of the entrance,” Curtin says, “was a critical design decision.” The public entry and atrium directly face the intersection of College and Main Streets, literally the point where town meets gown. “We wanted to make this a transparent, inviting public gateway.”

Interior Design

The Gettys Group are the interior designers of The Hotel at Oberlin and sought to blur the line between outdoors and inside, tapping into the natural surroundings for both inspiration and design elements. Reclaimed wood from a historic farm building became paneling for the bar area, a satellite view of Oberlin's pastoral setting was transformed into an intriguing abstract mural for the dining area, and a color palette of cool browns mated with warm red reflects the ever-changing hues of the landscape. Sustainability plays a key role in The Gettys Group's design and procurement services, with carpet tiles made of recycled materials used in the guestrooms and hallways.

Green Technology

The innovative HVAC system relies on a geothermal well field and utilizes radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels and flooring, as well as ceiling fans. A large portion of the hotel’s power is supplied by a 10-acre photovoltaic array on campus.  The hotel has many other sustainable features, including an on-site bio retention basin to filter storm water, rainwater harvesting for landscape irrigation and exterior automated solar shading devices to reduce heat gain. Fifty percent of the building materials were sourced from within 500 miles. The primary exterior material is Öko Skin, a highly sustainable cement slat wall panel chosen because “the scale and coloration of the material is compatible with the brick and stone of nearby older buildings, “says Curtin.

The Hotel at Oberlin is the Centerpiece of The Oberlin Project

The Hotel at Oberlin  anchors the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, the cornerstone of Oberlin’s Green Arts District, and a vital part of The Oberlin Project, an all-encompassing joint venture by the town and College to create a thriving, sustainable and environmentally friendly community in Oberlin. The Founder and Visionary behind The Oberlin Project is David W. Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College.  Orr, refers to the hotel as “a model of sustainability. It will not only draw people here for important conversations, but it will become an economic driver to invigorate downtown.”

Those important conversations begin this fall with “After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy,” the first major event to be held in the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center. Co-sponsored by Oberlin College and the Oberlin Project, it runs from October 6 -8, 2016.