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You are here: Home  November 2010  Financial News Saving the world, one hotel at a time

Saving the world, one hotel at a time

By Marni Andrews

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Planet Energy wind farm

Renewable energy has come of age. From alternative, fringe status just a few years ago to supplying the majority of some hotels’ energy needs today, renewable energy is just one example of the giant leaps being made by hotels in adopting environmentally-friendly options.

Lori Cote, regional director of public relations, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, says the 554-room hotel has made huge progress in this area with half of the hotel’s energy now being supplied by wind-power plants. The initiative is part of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ 20-year-old Green Partnership Program, one of the first in the industry to set a green example.

Savings equal lighting for 1.3 million houses for a day

The 391-room Trump SoHo New York has been able to go even further. Over the next two years, they have committed to purchasing all their power (more than 5.55 million kWh) from Green Mountain Energy, a U.S.-based supplier of cleaner energy and carbon offset solutions. By purchasing the clean energy, Trump SoHo will offset 100 per cent of the hotel condominium’s annual electricity usage, which generates an estimated 4.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually. The savings represent the equivalent of 1.3 million houses turning off all their lights for a day.

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Trump SoHo New York hotel has automated guestroom HVAC systems

Trump SoHo general manager David Chase says that by locking in a rate for two years, they expect to avoid cost fluctuations, with the primary objective to shift consumption to a renewable resource rather than to cut costs as the hotel could have secured a more favourable rate for “brown power.”

According to Hotel Association of Canada president Tony Pollard, The Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs in Ouray, Colorado was awarded a $10,000 Renewable Energy Grant from the USDA that they will use to ensure that 90 per cent of hot water and building heat requirements for the lodge and grounds are fulfilled  by renewable energy sources. Box Canyon Lodge’s target is to reduce natural gas consumption by 75 per cent.

And in sunny California, Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn recently installed a 990-panel array—the largest solar panel installation for any resort in the state.

Many people put green energy products and environmentally preferable products into two separate buckets, but the truth is that there is a lot of overlap, says Evan Matzen, sustainability manager, HD Supply Facilities Maintenance, which offers a large variety of products and services through their ideallygreen program.

“Although green energy is a great tool, if you install a green energy system to power an inefficient facility, you end up throwing a lot of the money spent on that system through the leaky windows. Making a facility energy and water efficient should be the absolute first step towards reducing our use of brown power,” he declares. “Even simpler, using ideally green products to appropriately seal all gaps and cracks in windows, doors and ductwork can dramatically decrease heating and cooling costs and improve indoor air quality.”

Sustainability measurement now a Hilton brand standard

Hilton Worldwide and its portfolio of hotel brands recently became the first major multi-brand company in the hospitality industry to make sustainability measurement a brand standard.

Their measurement system, LightStay, helps improve hotel performance and drive economic returns while decreasing overall impact on the environment. LightStay measures energy and water use and waste and carbon output at Hilton Worldwide properties around the globe. The system analyzes performance across 200 operational practices such as air quality and transportation, housekeeping, food waste and chemical storage.

They also provide a “meeting impact calculator” feature that calculates the environmental impact of any meeting or conference held at a property. The calculator is considered to be a valuable sales tool to drive business among meeting planners. By the end of 2011, all 3,600 properties in Hilton’s portfolio will be using LightStay.

Carbon offsets, incentives becoming more popular

We are definitely seeing more and more businesses considering green options as part of their marketing strategy, says Christina deVries, director of marketing and communications, Planet Energy Corp., which offers certified renewable electricity as well as renewable energy certificates.

“Our best-selling green products are carbon offsets because they offer the greatest impact for the price. For between $1 to $2 per guest night, most hotels can completely offset all their energy, travel and waste-related emissions. Renewable energy certificates (RECs) are also popular for those who don’t want to change their  current power supply arrangements. The cost of RECs is about five per cent of a hotel’s annual electricity expenditure.”

Toronto’s Delta Chelsea, Canada’s largest hotel with 1,590 rooms, implemented the LivClean Eco-Stay Program in early 2009 to support emission reduction projects across Canada, enable environmental initiatives within the hotel, and assist in the expansion of the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Program.

Hotel guests are asked to donate $1 plus GST upon checkout and all funds are sent to LivClean to purchase carbon offsets on the hotel’s behalf. By the end of 2009, The Delta Chelsea had offset 109 per cent of their annual carbon footprint. They were also diverting 83 per cent of the hotel waste stream to recycling by the end of 2009.

Enbridge Gas Distribution offers a variety of incentives to customers for gas, water and electricity, says Cyndi Buscarini, program manager, large commercial, market development. A financial incentive is offered to companies who implement energy-efficient technology and operational and/or capital improvements. For customers in Ontario, Enbridge recently launched an Energy Compass program, which can help hotel operators evaluate the energy efficiency of a hotel’s building portfolio.

Enbridge customers can also obtain a free assessment of their facilities from an Energy Solutions Consultant (ESC). As an example, a consultant would review a hotel’s overall energy efficiency opportunities, analyze gas consumption data and calculate the ROI on the various options.

The 406-suite Great Wolf Lodge with indoor waterpark, which opened in Niagara Falls in April 2006, benefitted from an Enbridge Gas Distribution incentive of $30,000 to install energy-efficient equipment when the project was built. Great Wolf guarantees a year-round water temperature of 28.3 degrees in its 2.5 million-litre waterpark, and they are saving 817,762 m3 of natural gas consumption annually from the equipment (equal to the removal of 340.6 cars from the roads), according to Enbridge. On installation, the $1.6 million expenditure had an estimated simple payback of less than four years.

Building and HVAC provide opportunities in new builds

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A meeting room at the Westin Montreal, which has implemented a number of sustainable measures

During construction, the 454-room Westin Montreal implemented a number of sustainable measures, according to general manager Raymond St-Pierre. A heat recovery system captures heat loss from exhaust vents and uses it to heat water, high-efficiency boilers with four-pipe heating were installed throughout the building, LED and energy-efficient lights and bulbs were installed throughout the hotel, soy-based spray foam insulation was used in existing buildings, and thermal windows with low-e argon were used to improve heat loss/heat gain to reduce energy costs.

“We also coated the glass with Neat coating, which uses UV rays to break down dirt and grime on windows so that rainwater can remove some of the dirt. This reduces the frequency of window washing, which reduces water consumption,” explains St-Pierre.

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Bruce Lang, Southwall Technologies

Bruce Lang, vice-president of marketing and business development, Southwall Technologies Inc., which offers energy-saving films and glass products, says that glass-intensive hotel lobbies and atria are a definite growth market in the lodging industry.

“Greater emphasis on higher performance glass and windows is a major industry trend since glass is the weak link in terms of energy conservation performance in lodging facilities,” says Lang. “The hospitality industry will see the increased use of high performance glass in properties of all sizes as architects adopt higher performing glass technologies that enable them to meet aggressive energy efficiency targets without sacrificing aesthetic objectives.”

Lang thinks the payoff in reducing the cost of heating and cooling and decreasing carbon emissions is to replace existing single-pane and dual-pane glass with super-insulating glass in windows, doors and skylights. ROI can be as short as a few years, he says.

One of the best ways to identify and maximize energy savings is for engineering and building operations people to work together at analyzing daily routines that may be very wasteful or, at the least, non-efficient.

Heat-recovery units, for example, can reclaim waste heat emerging from a building. But one of the biggest areas of waste is air conditioning and heating costs.

AC and heat account for 85% of guestroom energy use

“Air conditioning and heat use 85 per cent of the energy in a hotel room. We know that guests are out of a room 60 to 65 per cent in a 24-hour period on average while HVAC units continue running unabated,” says Bill Fizer, president/CEO of Lodging Technology, which sells the GEM infrared sensor system to hotels.

“During that time, there’s a great opportunity to save energy. We typically recommend setting thermostats back to 76oF [24oC]in the summer and 65oF [18oC]in the winter. Savings are significant at 35 per cent to 45 per cent of room HVAC consumption.”

Fizer invented the infrared sensor in 1980. It detects the body heat of guests in a guestroom as opposed to a simple motion sensor, which can be erroneously triggered by a moving ceiling fan or blowing drapery.

“Electric utilities, under tremendous pressure from public utility commissions and other regulatory organizations to reduce consumption, are providing rebates and other incentives for hoteliers to reduce consumption. This trend will continue until it reaches the point where utilities will be able to remotely turn off guestroom air conditioners, laundry dryers, common area a/c units and other equipment during peak demand periods,” he explains.

While there are many factors that contribute to energy waste, including lights, hot water usage, pools and bars, the elephant in the guest-room is the heating and cooling system, agrees Ellia Belson, vice-president, founder of Energex, Inc., which offers a guestroom energy management system.

“Whether there is a PTAC unit, heat pump or fancoil system, the heating, cooling and ventilation systems will be using at least 60 per cent of the energy in the room. We target the heating and cooling systems as the best opportunity for a hotelier to save energy and money. It has become an industry standard to include an energy management system from the ground up,” he says. “We usually see a one- to two-year payback time on our occupancy sensor system installations. In addition, many regions have rebate programs in place to help mitigate costs.”

Fine line between cutting costs/customer satisfaction

Chase of the Trump SoHo New York says the hotel has automated guestroom HVAC systems that interface with the hotel’s property management system to set back temperatures when no one is in the room. He notes that there is a fine line between cutting costs and being too aggressive, with the end result of the latter being customer dissatisfaction when the temperatures vary too much. However, he notes that even two or three degrees Fahrenheit [one or two degrees  Celsius] can result in an overall savings of 10 to 15 per cent if properly administered.

“In Europe, when you enter a guestroom the lights come on and then turn off when you leave the room. However, most guests realize that they can override the card system by leaving a secondary card in the slot as they leave. In North America, occupancy sensors make more sense. They are automatic, have comfortable settings and the guest doesn’t have to do anything to make the system work,” adds Belson of Energex.

LED lighting now delivers flattering “warm whites”

While many hotels are now exploring every aspect of their buildings to identify wasteful consumption, for an immediate and significant reduction in operating costs there’s no question in Paul Toris’s mind that one of the best first steps is upgrading lighting to energy-efficient technologies.

The director of business development for Power Save Solutions says that switching from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) can bring energy savings of up to 15 per cent. And while replacing 1,000 incandescent lights with CFL will cost about $5,000, the payback period is only two years.

Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is even further along the curve. Converting from incandescent to LED can reduce energy consumption by as much as 90 per cent, and it has a much longer life span. Advances in chip technology now allow LED manufacturers to achieve high enough light output to be a viable replacement for traditional incandescent and halogen lights.

Perhaps most importantly, LED lighting can now deliver the flattering “warm whites” that are the closest aesthetically to incandescent lighting. High prices were the prohibitive point in the past for LED but in the last 18 months the average market price of an LED lamp has been cut in half, according to Toris.

Toris also notes that upgrading lighting can improve the appearance of suites immediately, potentially “taking years off the age of the décor.”

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is using CFL and LED technology to replace bulbs such as the MR16, and five-watt exterior Christmas lighting has been changed to energy-efficient LED.

According to Tracy Ford, public relations director, and Brian Benson, director of property maintenance for The Delta Chelsea in Toronto, dimmable lighting and sensors have been installed throughout meeting space (approximately 23,000 sq. ft.) as well as in all five restaurants and lounges. Exterior lighting and signage are on timers. More than 85 per cent of guestrooms have high-efficiency CFL and there is CFL in 75 per cent of the meeting space and the hotel lobby. Guest elevators are being converted to LED lighting from MR16 halogens.

Bathrooms & water

Toris of Power Save Solutions says that bathrooms are an excellent place to cut down on energy costs by not only investing in low-flow toilets and showerheads, but using solar or geothermal technology to heat water.

Matzen of HD Supply Facilities Maintenance says that installing a top of the line 1.5GPM WaterSense Certified showerhead will pay for itself in less than one year through reduced water consumption and reduced electricity or gas to heat the water.

“To put that in real numbers, if you own a 100-unit hotel, and replace every showerhead with a 1.5GPM model, you should see a savings of over $4,000 a year in water and energy consumption. That more than pays for 100 great showerheads that do not sacrifice guest comfort, and you will continue to save $4,000 year after year.”

Low-flow toilets, showers and tap aerators have been installed in all guestrooms, public areas and staff residences at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Additionally, all buildings are sub-metered and water consumption is monitored weekly. All staff must complete environmental training on energy and water conservation during orientation.

At the Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn, the first certified sustainable hotel in Costa Rica and the only one to achieve a perfect score on the Sustainable Tourism Certification Program, one-gallon flush toilets are used throughout the property and the swimming pool is cleaned by a copper/silver ionization system rather than chlorination. Finca Rosa is managed by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, which was just named by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as the world’s most socially responsible small hotel chain.

To conserve water, The Delta Chelsea has installed low-flow toilets and low-flow showerheads in all guestrooms, according to PR director Ford. The hotel also implemented a one-month pilot project for light housekeeping to conserve water and energy. Results will determine future plans.

Greener housekeeping and laundry products worth cost

A customer-driven linen reuse program helps cut down on energy and water consumption and is a great tool to advertise a hotel’s commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, says Matzen of HD Supply Facilities Maintenance.

“We are seeing more and more large hotel chains mandating the purchase of efficient products because they understand that using those products, while perhaps slightly more expensive up front, will significantly decrease operating costs in the long term,” he says.

“In addition, switching to environmentally-friendly cleaning products can help increase guest comfort while decreasing the hotel’s environmental footprint. A hotelier can advertise this switch by also offering environmentally-friendly, customer-facing products such as shampoos and bath gels in biodegradable packaging or compostable cups and plates.”

It is difficult to calculate the return on investment for environmentally-friendly cleaning products, soaps and shampoos and biodegradable cups, however, they are front and centre of the guest experience, and can help paint a broader picture of the hotel’s commitment to the environment, adds Matzen.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise recognized the opportunity to present a greener image and produce a demonstrable benefit to responsible tourism by partnering with Clean the World to recycle hotel soaps and shampoos for children and families in need, according to Gregor Resch, general manager of The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

“Each day in Canada alone, more than 50,000 pounds of hotel soaps are discarded after guest use,” says Shawn Seipler, executive director of Clean the World. “That’s more than 18 million pounds of waste per year that we can help divert from landfills.”

Clean the World is currently working with more than 400 hotel and resort partners in North America and has distributed more than six million bars (375 tons) of recycled soap to impoverished families since 2009.

Christoph Hennefeld, segment manager Horeca, Electrolux Professional business unit laundry system, which offers commercial kitchen and laundry equipment globally, says that North America has historically used hard-mount washer extractors with rather low extraction speeds. This means a higher moisture content remains in the linens and towels, which requires higher amounts of energy to dry them. He notes that Europe has, for a long time, realized the massive saving potential of much more energy-efficient equipment. However, North America is quickly realizing the trend to higher-efficiency equipment and this is opening a potential market for energy-efficient suppliers.

“More and more hotels are switching back to high efficiency in-house laundries to save money and to be more environmentally resourceful,” says Hennefeld. “The question remains as to whether [the in-house laundry] includes flatwork items, as this obviously adds the large and costly ironer and folder, which account for approximately 50 per cent of the entire investment. In countries with high labour costs, running costs are significant.”

Coinamatic Commercial Laundry Inc.’s most exciting green energy product is their Enviromatic Advanced Laundry Oxidation System, according to Mike Pilolli, director, commercial laundry. It uses the disinfecting power of ozone to reduce both operating costs and environmental impact. The system converts air into 90 per cent pure oxygen, which is electrically charged to form ozone.

The ozone is injected into the wash water to enhance the performance of chemicals and shorten the wash cycle, says Pilolli.

“Typical facilities can save as much as 85 per cent in hot water, 85 per cent in natural gas, and 35 per cent in total water consumption. Facilities also typically experience extended linen life due to shortened wash cycles,” he says. “A typical facility can achieve a ROI within nine to 18 months.”

Waste & general environment

After helping Robert Redford create his ecologically renowned Spa at Sundance Resort in Utah in 2001, David Hansen found his way to the 400-suite Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort where, as chief engineer, he has helped his hotel reduce its costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. One of the biggest areas of savings was waste hauling costs, which he managed to cut in half from $125,000 per year to about $60,000.

His biggest coup was convincing the hotel to spend $200,000 at the beginning of 2009 on a number of energy-efficient improvements. He promised them a payback on investment of two years. It happened much sooner. A mere seven months later, the hotel had saved an astonishing $322,000 on energy-related costs. From LED light installations to an ozone laundry system, motorized dampers on outside vents and a web-based energy management system, electricity usage was cut by 30 per cent and fuel by half. Comparing the first six months of 2009 against the first six months of 2008, electricity consumption dropped by 575,000 kilowatt hours ($98,902 savings) and natural gas consumption by 9,314 dekatherms ($67,709 savings).

It is clear that considering the needs of the environment does not need to run against profits or a healthy bottom line. Perhaps the time has finally come when the desire to take care of the environment has gained enough traction that business is backing the efforts. Demand for green energy products is finally dictating that profits fall in line and they are.

David Hansen of Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe sums it up succinctly. Although an American statistic, it can be easily converted to its local equivalent anywhere in the world.

“Lodging uses 25 per cent of all the energy in the U.S. If we can attack this sector of the economy, think how much energy we could save.”

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