This article is part of gb&d‘s Green Typologies series, Four of a Kind: Green casinos upending the stereotype.


Location Las Vegas
Size 35,000 ft2 (addition)
Completed 2012
Cost $12 million
Program Hotel and casino


Owners Derek and Greg Stevens
Architect/Interior Designer Gensler
Lighting Design Illuminated Concepts
Geothermal Hardin Geotech


Certification Not applicable
Materials Locally sourced Las Vegas rock, reclaimed wood
Energy Otis Gen2 elevator reduces energy by 40%, geothermal heating and refrigeration, automated climate control activated by motion sensors

The Golden Gate is the oldest casino in “old” Las Vegas on Fremont Street and is also owned by the Stevens brothers, Derek and Greg. To update the building, the pair added a 16-room tower to increase the casino space, lobby, and offices, which was the first major expansion on the casino in more than half a century. A mini museum of artifacts recalling the Fremont Street staple’s storied past contrasts with cutting-edge technologies that bring down energy costs and green-up the building. Two-way mirrors that once allowed “security” to keep an eye on guests, whiskey bottles found behind walls that withstood Prohibition, and original guest ledgers are just some of the history on display.

The vintage Vegas starts and ends with the decor—the new guest rooms operate on automated conditioning and plumbing systems, and two major mechanical updates bring the 100-year-old building up to date. The most impressive green feature the property is its Otis Gen2 elevator. The lift replaces a 1950s-era machine with a big motor and big energy demands. The Gen2 generates energy as it descends, is about 40 percent more efficient than a typical elevator, and the innovative elevator is a first in Nevada and the 16th of its kind in the world.

With no shortage of competition within walking distance, the Stevens men knew the importance of differentiating their property. Casinos, because of their never-ceasing hours of operation and high concentration of cigarette smoke, present a unique challenge with the strain they place on HVAC systems. To achieve as close to perfect conditions as possible, the brothers worked closely with Siemens to install independent, strategically placed ventilation units whose sensors give the most attention to hot spots and direct fresh outside air where needed. In a climate like Vegas’s, this can present a second challenge—temperature and humidity—but the Golden Gate responds in kind.

Because he has a background in mechanical engineering, Greg says he geeked out on the geothermal system. “There were many nights I just read as much as I could on refrigeration to learn how it works and about the efficiency of using water to move heat around the building,” he says. “The mechanics are kind of my forte. I don’t know if it’s a gift or a curse.”

Calling upon their Detroit roots, the Stevens brothers took a manufacturer’s approach to the project, constantly seeking the most efficient processes and design. “I like to ask a lot of questions and force a detailed answer out of people,” Greg says. The answer he got was a three-part, closed-loop system that allows the Golden Gate to operate with almost no use of natural gas. And the hotel’s signature shrimp cocktail is kept cool by a variable-speed refrigeration system that saves 65 percent of the energy of a multiunit configuration.

This article is part of gb&d‘s Green Typologies series, which in each issue explores a single type of building. For more of our most recent collection, Four of a Kind: Four of a Kind: Green casinos upending the stereotype, choose from the list below: