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 decor 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 decor 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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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.