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The Caterer

Hotels that blaze a green trail

25 October 2007
Hotels that blaze a green trail

Thousands of hoteliers have already put green initiatives in place and many more are making plans. But as Caterer‘s Green Month nears its end, how many will continue along the green path? Architect Jeremy Blake takes a look at several hotels that are setting a fine, long-term example

Global warming, spiralling energy costs, water shortages and alternative energy are all very topical generally, as well as more specifically within the hotel and construction industries. The real estate adjustments to hotel property portfolios after 9/11 have highlighted energy costs as a significant area to maintain competitiveness and demonstrate environmental responsibility.

Statistics that reveal the earth has lost 30% of its natural habitat in the past 30 years and that tourism destroys wildlife and natural landscapes are compelling hotel operators to find eco-friendly alternatives.

Genuine interest

Eco-friendly, eco-tourism, sustainable tourism, responsible travel - it all comes down to the same principle of hotels and resorts giving back more to the community and environment than they take away. Hotels don't become "green" just because notepaper is recycled or towels aren't replaced daily, although fortunately there are now hoteliers with a genuine interest in recycling and minimising damage to the environment.

This year's International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Conference doubled its attendance at the Responsible Hotels Seminar. Chaired by Lyndall de Marco of the Prince of Wales Foundation, it has been responsible for delivering a practical handbook to motivate and encourage the industry into a more sustainable future.

Hilton International has initiated "We Care" throughout its hotels, making staff environmentally aware of energy issues within their control. The first year saw a reduction of CO2 emissions by 5.1% and energy consumption by 6.7% not only benefiting the environment but also delivering a cost saving of £1.7m.

The City Inn in Amsterdam and Travelodge in Euston Square both incorporate ground-source heat-exchange systems and other energy-saving measures to deliver a greener and more sustainable hotel using renewable energy. All new buildings, including hotels, currently have to achieve at least 10% renewable energy on site to secure planning consent and this is likely to rise to 20% in the next few years.

The Kimpton chain in America has gathered celebrities to design eco-friendly rooms at Hotel Triton, San Francisco, with 10% of profits going to environment-related charities of the celebrities' choice. Its national rollout plan at all 39 hotels is overseen and managed by Kimpton Eco Committee to encourage green thinking through its hotels.

A hotel's impact on the environment should also safeguard local habitats. Local produce and labour should be used whenever possible, reducing the environmental impact of transportation and sustaining local communities.

Products in hotels should be carefully selected and recycling of refuse is essential. All cleaning agents should be environmentally friendly, and recycled paper should be more widely used for napkins and toilet paper, and not just stationery. And energy-efficient lamps, including LEDs, should be integrated with sensor-activated circuits.

Rodas Ecotel uses pens, pencils and paper from recycled materials, herbal products without animal testing and fat, and bedroom slippers for guests handcrafted from natural reed. Separate recycling bins are placed in each guestroom and the use of reusable cloth laundry bags further reduces waste.

Lasting contribution

While all these measures ensure good environmental practice, it's in the design of hotels that a significant and lasting contribution to the environment can be made by hoteliers and designers. The key areas for consideration are the selection of materials, the designed use of energy, the source of that energy and the hotel's consumption of water.

The selection of timber from sustainable sources is now common practice, but the continued use of cement-based products and building components that require high energy and generate CO2 emissions or other pollutants during manufacture are fundamentally overlooked at the early stages of design.

The Ariston in Milan is an ecological hotel incorporating building materials, fittings, mattresses and fibres, paints and glues that are natural and non-toxic. To avoid damaging the environment, the hotel provides differentiated refuse collection, cleaning products are strictly biodegradable and only recycled paper is used. Also in Italy, the Vigilius Mountain Resort sits comfortably with its surroundings and has renewable sources such as wood and glass to create a bold exterior. Adjustable wooden louvres regulate the amount of sun entering the building thereby controlling the internal temperature.

The resort uses wood chips for alternative energy, a local and renewable source supplied by the farmers of the surrounding woods.

The Bowood Hotel & Spa in Calne, Wiltshire, is set in a Grade 1-registered landscape adjacent to four listed buildings. It incorporates a biomass boiler with heat exchangers and reduced glazing to provide an energy-efficient and sustainable solution. Wood chips come from the surrounding estate.

With sensor-activated, energy-efficient LED lighting, reed beds, lime render and a sedum roof over a UV pool, this hotel may yet prove to be the UK's greenest on completion next year.

The Hat & Feathers hotel in Clerkenwell, London, is considering generating all its electricity by wind turbine on land owned by the client in Wales. This would be supplied to the national grid and then bought back by the hotel. Such remote-site options are also a genuine solution to alternative or renewable energy sources to hotel chains whose portfolios include rural estates as well as city-centre locations where alternative energy options are more limited.

A 150-bedroom hotel and spa with conference facilities being developed in Norfolk is designed to be both carbon-negative and sustainable. The use of lime hemp walling, ground coupling, solar hot water heating, wind-turbine-generated electricity, biomass boiler, UV pool with infinity edge, rainwater harvesting and a sustainable urban drainage system with reed beds, all combined with energy-saving and monitoring devices, illustrates a new breed of hotel now being developed in the UK in response to a growing awareness of environmental responsibility and good commercial practice.

The additional capital investment associated with greener and more sustainable hotels generates substantial cost savings after a relatively short payback period and the realisation of this commercial advantage is an additional incentive.

• Supplied by GS Magazine in association with Design Link at Hotelympia. Jeremy Blake heads up Shh! Sustainable Heritage Hotels and is a principal at Purcell Miller Tritton. Meet Jeremy and other design professionals at Hotelympia 2008 at the Design Link, in association with GS Magazine. For further details contact 020 7833 3772.

Considerate Hoteliers Awards
The annual awards for the Considerate Hoteliers Association will be presented at the Design Link at Hotelympia 2008, hosted by GS Magazine. Categories include the Water Challenge, the Waste Challenge, the Energy Challenge and the Food Challenge. Hotels and guesthouses large and small are invited to enter and entrants are judged on their individual environmental improvements or menu choices over a three-month period.

The four winners will then explain in detail the plans they put in place and the savings they made, and they will be available to discuss these issues with you after the event.

Hotelympia will be held from 17-21 February at ExCeL, London. For more details on the awards, visit www.consideratehoteliers.com.

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