Published on 6 February 2012

Green Hotels: Sustainable Buildings

Phil Benson explores the green hotels revolution and considers how sustainable buildings and refurbishments could create cost savings for hoteliers.

Upgrading buildings to make them more energy efficient in a bid to reduce carbon emissions has the huge potential for long-term success. Through ‘retrofitting’, hoteliers are now beginning to see this trend as solution to reducing their costs in the future.

Sustainability and energy efficiency is increasingly being integrated into the planning of new buildings, from hotels, offices or residential dwellings. However, new buildings represent just a small percentage of total building stock in the UK, with new commercial structures accounting for just 1 – 2 per cent of all commercial buildings in the country.

There has since been an increased drive to make current buildings more efficient, which will also help to comply with stricter government targets and legislation for a reduction in carbon emissions.

Pressure on the bottom line of the hotel market has also influenced this move towards retrofitting, as businesses look at ways they can upgrade their existing buildings to trim down future operating costs. It has also been suggested that hotels that are not upgraded with a view towards sustainability will ultimately surrender market leadership in terms of operating costs, have reduced productivity, be less attractive to workers and acquire a negative brand image.

The world famous Savoy hotel in London has recently enjoyed a successful retrofit, which has been recognised with a host of green awards. As part of its £220 million refit, new sustainable innovations and technologies were introduced to help the Grade II listed hotel reduce CO2 emissions and slash costs.

The Savoy adopted a central refrigeration plant with a heat exchanger, which will retrieve the exhaust heat from kitchen appliances to be re-used to heat water supplies. There was also the introduction of a £2.7 million combined heat and power (CHP) plant to provide electricity for the hotel to reduce its dependence on the National Grid by around 50 per cent. This was certainly an expensive addition, but it is set to pay itself back within the first five-years.

For hoteliers who do not have a spare £220 million lying around to spend on refurbishments and retrofits, what can they do to help make their properties more energy efficient and reduce their long-term operating costs?

The first place to start is to gather as much information as possible before starting a project and carry out a full audit. It is important to establish when a building was built, what the regulations were at the time and how the regulations have changed since. The building management system (BMS), for example, is one of the biggest technological developments the hotel industry has seen in recent years, as it allows hoteliers to turn off heating, air-conditioning and other equipment when guests are out.

However, the fabric of a building might be so poor that it is pointless installing a BMS. It is key factors like these, which need to be identified to achieve a successful retrofit. Hoteliers need to know what they are dealing with from the outset to ascertain an appropriate payback period and justify the short-term costs for long-term savings.

By Phil Benson

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