Hotel Design Trends – Green Hotels

The consumer is going green, and hotels are following suit.

As the environmental awareness in the general public reaches a tipping point (according to one study by TripAdvisor, 57% of travelers say they often make eco-friendly travel decisions), hotels are implementing operational changes to reflect the demands of the consumer.

Operational Shifts

Over 75% of hotels in the US have implemented a linen and towel reuse program, asking guests to help cut down on excessive and unnecessary laundry service. Studies show that when guests are presented with the opportunity to participate in a sustainability program, approximately 2/3 will opt in, resulting in substantial reductions in energy and water usage as well as increasing the lifespan of towels and linens.

Other operational changes include adding recycling bins into guest rooms, sourcing locally grown foods for hotel restaurants and replacing plastic and Styrofoam disposable tableware with biodegradable versions. 60% of US hotels now have guest or internal recycling programs, and studies show that including bins in-room significantly decreases the amount of waste generated.

Small Retrofits

Besides asking guests to come on board with sustainability programs, hotels are seeing dramatic reduction in energy and water consumption from small but significant retrofits to their facilities. Caesar’s in Las Vegas installed high-efficiency laundry facilities and between 2008-2012 they saw a reduction of 30 million gallons of water and savings of $150K-$210K per year, all while increasing their capacity by 40%.

New water-saving fixtures can also dramatically cut down on the amount of water used in a hotel. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average hotel with 150 guestrooms can save 750,000 gallons of water per year just by replacing older, inefficient fixtures. In a market test at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, some low-flow shower heads were installed in a selection of rooms and guests were asked for feedback. Only a few negative comments came back about the lower water pressure, and in fact more complaints came in regarding leaking faucets.

Going paperless is another hot trend in the industry. Hotels are storing guest information on iPads instead of printing out guides, and installing wireless electronic do-not-disturb systems instead of paper hang tags. Newspaper waste is also on the decline, as hotels shift from opt-out to opt-in for guestroom delivery.

Green Infrastructure and Smart Design

New builds represent only about 1-2% of hotels, but those that are going up are increasingly environmentally friendly. When the Best Western Inn-Kelowna built a tower addition in 2010, it became only the 4th hotel property in Canada to receive LEED certification. That number is due to pass 5000 in 2015, a strong indication that environmentally friendly building techniques like geothermal heating systems, large windows to increase daylight and greywater recapture systems.

Large-scale retrofits are also becoming the norm. The historic Savoy Hotel in London installed an innovative heat exchanger in the hotel that reclaims exhaust heat from appliances in the industrial kitchen and uses that energy to heat the water supply, resulting in a 50% reduction on its electrical energy draw.

Living walls have become de rigure as a way to send a strong message of environmental friendliness. The modern master of these living green spaces is Patrick Blanc, a French botanist who has designed and built living walls all over the world. His piece de resistance, the Athenaeum Hotel in London, stretches eight stories high and is carefully crafted with different plants at different elevations. Plants like Asian nettles can be found on the lower, shadier levels while the penthouse floors have hardier scrub-like plants that can withstand the wind that gusts around London. Captures rainwater, cleans the air, regulates the temperature of the hotel.

The green trend is only going to increase as consumers become more and more aware of environmental concerns and in turn demand more from hoteliers. Hotels would be smart to get on board now; in that same study we mentioned at the beginning, while 57% of travelers said they often make eco-friendly travel decisions, a full 71% said they plan to in the next 12 months.