Where Construction and Amenities Meet
The Greening of the Hospitality Industry
More and more hotels and resorts are adopting a linen reuse program for guests staying more than one night. That’s a green strategy guests recognize — they may even think it’s the only one in place — but it turns out there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes as hotels and resorts “go green” and turn to the construction industry for help getting there.
Asking guests to indicate their willingness to reuse sheets and towels for a second night and explaining how it’s part of the hotel’s overall plan to reduce carbon emissions by reducing the amount of daily laundry is an easy first step for management. It’s one which benefits the environment while at the same time benefiting the hotel by reducing laundry costs by as much as five percent, according to the Green Hotels Association, formed in 1993 and based in Houston, Texas.
With the exception of the one-time cost to purchase printed cards explaining the policy, and towel racks, which the association is supplying to hotels ranging from major chains to independent B&B’s across the continent, there’s no additional cost to implement. Moreover, it’s good PR, as more and more people, alarmed about the effects of climate change, are making lifestyle changes.
Some travellers purposefully seek hotel and resort accommodation in facilities where owners and managers take eco-friendliness seriously. In fact, according to Booking.com, 68 percent of tourists prefer to book an eco-friendly accommodation, meaning that it makes good business sense for the hospitality industry. And it’s not all about eco-lodges in exotic or wilderness locales; it’s about business travellers and conference organizers searching for urban hotels where management is proactive in the quest to reduce their carbon footprint and impact the environment positively in other ways as well.
Some hotels, for example, are now installing charging stations for electric and/or hybrid cars as well as keycard master switches or occupancy sensors in guest rooms to control lights, electronics, blinds and temperature settings – and those savings can be passed on to the consumer through lower rates.
While some of those changes are now almost standard, other hotels are taking truly innovative ecological approaches, such as the Fairmont chain, which has introduced a honey-bee program into several of its hotels.
It began in 2010 at the five-star Fairmont San Francisco, out of concern for the dwindling bee population worldwide, a result of Colony Collapse Disorder. First, a 1,000 square foot culinary garden filled with herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, chives, cilantro and lavender – was established on the rooftop of the lobby level and then, in partnership with Marshal Farms, nine hives, home to 20,000 bees, were installed. The hotel was recognized with the Green Leader Gold Award from Trip Advisor and the 2016 Green Key Eco-Rating Program Level 4 Status.
Green Key, with headquarters in Ottawa, founded over 20 years ago, is recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), “for its graduated rating system designed to recognize hotels, motels, and resorts that are committed to improving both their environmental and fiscal performance. It supplies members with a guide on how to unlock opportunities to reduce energy consumption, waste, emissions, and operating costs,” according to its website.
Another Fairmont hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Lodge in Alberta, located inside Banff National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) has twice received the highest possible rating from Green Key, in 2005 and again in 2016, as well as recognition from the 26th Annual Emerald Awards, which recognized its outstanding environmental achievements relating to sustainability.
What did the Fairmont Chateau do? It implemented a “No Net Negative Environmental Impact” incentive, purchases half of its total energy from wood biomass-generated green power, and uses energy-efficient heating sources. 80 percent of the hotel operations use energy-efficient lighting, holiday decorations use LED lighting, free parking is awarded to guests driving hybrid vehicles and every year to celebrate Earth Hour, all the lights on the property are switched off for one hour.
Our research led us to a number of helpful websites, including Green Lodging News, edited by Glenn Hasek who enjoys sharing all the good news about the greening of the industry. In the most recent posting, for example, he writes about The Agrarian, a LEED-Certified boutique hotel that opened this past June in Arroyo Grande, CA.
Hasek also provides a list of over 80 hotels with strong green programs, including most of the major chains. It ranges from Accor, with 4,800 addresses in 100 countries dedicated to sustainability, to Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which has a truly impressive list of ‘firsts.’ Perhaps most significant is that it was the first hospitality company in the U.S. (and the eighth in the world) to commit to an absolute reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions through a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and the Centre for Energy & Climate Solutions. It’s now at the halfway point of meeting its goals. It was also the first to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
For hotels, motels and B&Bs needing to get up to speed, there are many resources offering suggestions for going green. There’s the site Hasek edits, Green Lodging News; there’s Global Stewards; the Green Hotels Association; Green Hotelier; and Green Biz, and together they offer a plethora of ideas on how to accomplish a green strategy.
Obviously, every construction company would like to win a bid on a brand new, ground-up LEED certified hotel complex for a major chain – and some do of course. But opportunities abound across all sectors in the industry for improving, renovating, and retrofitting existing buildings.
There are opportunities for landscapers, for example, to substitute natural ground cover in place of lawns that are expensive to maintain, require irrigation, and can even harm the environment if they require pesticides. They can resurface parking lots with permeable surfaces that will allow water runoff to drain, can plant shade trees and culinary gardens, and can install green roofs.
Construction professionals can work with owners to get buildings or operations certified through LEED (LEED operations and maintenance); they can install a renewable energy system or switch to a certified renewable energy provider; they can replace the existing HVAC system. Increasingly, owners are turning to heat pumps, geothermal technologies, waste heat recovery, cooling towers and/or variable speed ventilation fans. And there are energy management and/or building management systems available that can tie in air handling units, HVAC and lighting to prevent use in spaces when it’s not necessary.
To reduce water use, buildings can be fitted with a rainwater harvester or greywater system for needs such as irrigation, toilet flushing or fire suppression systems. Low-flow showerheads, sink aerators, an ozone laundry system and low-flow or dual-flush toilets can be installed.
In terms of building structure modification, recommendations from the green experts include using recommended levels of insulation on roofs or, in hot sunny climates, radiant barriers, if not switching over to a green roof. They also recommend installing window film to lower heating and cooling loads and reduce glare in guest rooms, and adding overhangs on south-facing walls to further reduce energy used for heating and cooling.
The green hotel movement is truly a triple win. It’s a win for the hospitality industry, because of the long-term savings in operational costs which it can re-invest in guest amenities; it’s a win for the construction industry because it’s providing employment opportunities, especially in times when new construction slows down; and it’s a win for planet Earth.