How Hotels Can Approach Technological Sustainability

By Bill Lally President, Mode:Green | April 30, 2017

Green initiatives have become widespread across the hospitality market, often denoted from a sign that kindly asks guests to reuse your towels or use less water. These are small steps that hotels can take, but new technologies are making large-scale sustainability programs possible. This next wave is about more than material conservation; now the whole building is starting to get smarter through design, automation systems, sensor technologies and a fully integrated guest experience.

One of the first aspects that hotels consider when going green is the materials for the décor as part of the branding and custom experience. One example of this is the 1 Hotel franchise, which approaches sustainability from both design and technology aspects. The Central Park location features reclaimed wood, 100 percent organic cotton bed linens, LED bulbs, filters in all taps, sinks and showers, as well as an emphasis on cutting down on the use of paper. The property even has botanists on staff to support the plant life.

The hotel also offers a complimentary Tesla electric vehicle and bicycle valet service to help guests travel in an eco-conscious way. The green and earth-conscious design elements in hotels are aimed to appeal to guests and go along with the overall branding of the hotel as an eco-friendly franchise. But for hotels who don’t have an overall green image, they can benefit from a sustainability program to save energy and costs. Some hotels can save tens of thousands a year on energy through automation. Behind the leafy décor of the 1 Hotel, there is an automation system that management, housekeeping and guests use both for convenience, as well as sustainable and operational efficiency.

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The temperature, entertainment and lighting devices in each room are tied into the system so they can be controlled remotely or pre-programmed to power on or off based on guest check-in or check out or in coordination with an astronomical clock. Scenes coordinate all of the devices for easy activation from management through the system when the room is set to be unoccupied or during long periods of inactivity, or by housekeeping to prepare the room for check-in. Like design, the lighting in a sustainable hotel can benefit both management and guests.

Making lighting part of an energy savings program starts with using low-energy LED bulbs, but can become complex and much more efficient when tied into an automation system. Scenes in hotels can improve the guest experience to help them relax with soft lighting or be more productive with bright daytime lights, but can also keep usage down throughout the hotel. Switching to LEDs might be the first step in bringing energy usage down, but being able to shut down hundreds of bulbs that don’t need to be running – or even setting them on a timer – can make a larger impact. With scenes, the lights can be scheduled to lower brightness at different times of day, or to automatically be shut off based on occupancy. This limits unnecessary device usage on a large scale to save energy across all of the rooms in the building.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.