Where: 183 Jiaozhou Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu
Opening Date: June 2008
Number of Rooms: 26
In Shanghaiist’s new Hotelist feature, we take a sneak peek at the various hotels around town that have caught our fancy. This week, China’s first carbon neutral haven: URBN.
As we stepped off bustling Jiaozhou Lu and through the large and heavy wooden gates of URBN, we felt as if we had left Shanghai. The hustle and bustle of Shanghai seemed to have disappeared and already we could feel ourselves loosening up, relaxing. Just through the threshold was a small cobble-stoned, tree-lined courtyard… and to our direct left, decorated with an artful take on bamboo scaffolding, the hotel.
The concierge greeted us as we entered the lobby, a minimalist space in earth tones which was almost entirely taken up by the fusion restaurant and bar, Roomtwentyeight. Local art, available for purchase, decorated the walls and over the sound system: ambient electronic. The kind of music you would expect at a hotel gunning for this cool a vibe.
We sat down with the general-manager, Nicholas Parkinson-Bates, to find out more about the space and its vision.
The hotel, Parkinson-Bates explained, is passionately dedicated to the environment and stands at the forefront of the burgeoning consumer eco-movement in China. It is the first and only carbon neutral hotel in China. URBN tracks the hotel’s entire carbon footprint and offsets it by purchasing carbon credits or investing in local “green” energy development and emission reduction projects.
For guests who want to do the green thing too, they give you the option to find out your footprint during your stay and to pay back the Earth for your long flight over by donating trees to Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots foundation. Last month the hotel donated 61, which were planted to stop deforestation (and absorb some CO2) in Inner Mongolia.
But carbon math equations aren’t the only way the hotel makes environmentalism its motto. All the wood and bricks used for construction were salvaged and recycled from old Shanghai lane houses. Even the elevator is secondhand. The hotel is also currently in the process of installing its own water treatment plant, which will use UV light to treat the water- meaning you’ll soon be able to actually drink from the faucet. In Shanghai. Weird, right?
After walking through a hallway decorated in the same cold, dark gray brick motif found all over the hotel, we entered a garden-view room.
Although very minimalist in design – with stone floors and dark wood detailing – it felt very warm. The queen sized bed dominated the space, though there was also room for a long chaise in front of the flat-screen TV and a stunning sunken tub. That’s right, a sunken tub was inside the actual room. For quicker bathtimes, the bathroom also contained a huge stone walk-in shower (don’t worry, it uses low wattage power).
The garden-view is the second-highest tier type of the 26 URBN hotel rooms. If you economize, there’s also the courtyard-view and studio… and if you feel like splurging a little more, you can get their penthouse.
Besides little oases of eco-calm, URBN also organizes classes ranging from cooking to calligraphy to fortune telling and feng shui. And if you want to see the sights around town, the concierge will help you find a private tour guide. Unfortunately, there were a few minor complaints – the bar, located on the top floor, feels more like somebody’s fancy AV room and their Happy Hour deal on Thursdays wasn’t much of one. Two for one drinks on house pours when the house pours cost 60RMB or over isn’t very exciting – and considering the excellent menu they serve down at roomtwentyeight, we were expecting something with more oomph up there (especially after Parkinson-Bates told us about their collection of delicious organic Australian wine).
Also, the hotel was missing was a gym. They do, however, have an agreement with One Wellness, which also boasts a carbon neutral status but is about a five minute walk away… which means you’ll have to venture outside the serenity of URBN proper.
Still, considering its central location, the thoughtful design and its feel good green mentality, we’re putting it up as a recommendation to anyone with the means to stay there, which – at around 1500RMB – is actually a pretty good price for a boutique hotel of this caliber.