Published on 20 February 2012

What is Sustainability? A Overview for Hoteliers

Sustainability has emerged as an important theme for the hospitality industry. However, many hoteliers are confused about the the key issues, benefits and associated costs of the sustainability movement. Phil Benson provides an overview of this difficult issue. 

Sustainability is an important concept that has  gathered momentum over the past decade within the global investment community. This has had a significant impact for new and existing  hospitality assets.

Hoteliers and investors have increasingly grown aware of the social and environmental impacts of hotel operations and development … so much so, that sustainability now leaks into almost every aspect of the hospitality industry.

Sustainability = Cost Reduction

Driven by a desire to reduce operating costs, a more rigid focus on facility operations and development and a changing attitude from investors towards the environment, a general shift towards the idea of sustainability has taken place.

There are other areas of the hospitality sector that are rather more straightforward to record, analyse and interpret, for example, RevPAR, capitalisation rates and occupancy percentages. However, sustainability has continued to be comparatively more difficult to calculate and measure. The issues of sustainability affect nearly all of the hotel management and ownership characteristics, which have forced the need for an alignment of environmental, social and financial issues to encourage responsible long-term business operations.

There has been a noticeable shift towards sustainability, demonstrated by an increase in the number of sustainability programmes and schemes arising from within the hospitality industry through hotel managers and operators, but externally too, throughout the wider environmental community.

Current trend thinking, specifically in facility management and hospitality operations, focuses on the advantages of operational efficiency and its consequential cost savings, primarily in three areas:

  1. Energy
  2. Waste
  3. Water

Sustainability: Energy

Energy is consumed by hotels for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) operations, cooking fuel, lighting and other various power requirements. Reducing energy intensity is the focus from a facility management view, which can be achieved through commissioning, a technical, engineering-based approach. Things such as front of house lighting retrofits, sealing of the building envelope and a minimisation of plug loads are effective.

In back of house, proper sensor calibration, the removal of simultaneous cooling and heating, improved equipment and maintenance of a proper building ventilation system are important energy efficiency measures. In addition, renewable energy technology has improved the economics of using alternative energy sources at individual facility levels.

Sustainability: Waste

Waste is generated by hotels from consumables, durable goods, construction, refurbishments, food and beverage waste, recyclable oil and hazardous materials, such as cleaning solutions.

There are a variety of approaches used by hoteliers to reduce, recycle or reuse a waste stream to decrease the hauling and processing costs. ‘Waste-to-energy’ is a scheme that sees vendors offering a processing service to turn wastes into alternative energy sources, for example, bio-diesel or natural gas, to be sold back to the hotelier for a reduced price.

Sustainability: Water

Water is used by hotels for bathrooms, food and beverages, laundry and the process of water for facility operations. Hotels also collect and treat greywater (produced from domestic activities) and blackwater (e.g. sewage).

Some of the typical water conservation measures introduced by hoteliers have seen towel and linen reuse initiatives, fixture retrofits, the use of recycled/rain water and system improvements for HVAC and plumbing.

There is an obvious connection between the hospitality industries sustainability approach and its financial performance, which is anticipated to strengthen further more over the next few decades.

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