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When our company first developed energy management technology back in 1992, an occupancy sensor paired with a PTAC controller capable of dynamic setback was significant. Now, 20 years later, “energy management” refers to more than just basic HVAC control. A current energy management solution can integrate with a property management system, remotely monitor every drop of power that flows into a room, produce detailed savings reports—and go completely unnoticed to the average guest. In unoccupied and unsold guestrooms, a single energy management solution can take complete control of the space. An energy management system can set back the room temperature, and disconnect lights and “energy vampires” like televisions.
Imagine a hotel recognized and supported by customers for its responsible environmental practices. A hotel where employee and customer satisfaction rankings, along with occupancy rates and margins, are consistently above average.Yes, this IS possible. All it takes is a well-managed sustainability program. Until recently, many hotel managers were content to task sustainability initiatives to employee-driven green teams; voluntary groups of enthusiasts with a personal mission to “green” operations. Using this approach, hoteliers quite often saw some successes. Real, consistent and measurable sustainability results however, require a much more strategic approach to sustainability. This level of change requires a fundamental shift in the way people think and operate throughout all levels of the organization.
It might seem a bit strange to find an article advocating green cleaning in a publication whose readers already understand the merits of cleaning and operating their facilities in a more environmentally preferable manner. This is even more true when discussing the value of green cleaning to the lodging industry, which has been at the forefront when it comes to implementing green cleaning. However, the truth of the matter is that there are still a number of negative perceptions about green products—specifically green cleaning products—that make it hard for some hotel administrators to accept them. In fact, some distributors of cleaning chemicals still report that in certain quarters, just the mention of green cleaning is enough to get the door closed in their face. One possible concern involves costs.
Was your property built before 1993? If so, chances are you’re losing money with every flush and use of the sink and shower. After all, you can’t control your hotel guest’s use of utilities. However, you can control your operating costs, and through simple, environmentally friendly renovations to plumbing and electric, you can significantly lower expensive water/sewer and electric bills. Let’s say that you have a 25-year-old, 100-room property with a 50 percent occupancy rate that hasn’t had any updates to toilets, shower heads, sink aerators or continuously operated common area lighting. A guestroom toilet is flushed 15 times a day on average, using up 52.5 gallons of water per day based on an older, 3.5 gallon-per-flush toilet. Multiply that by 365 days and by 50 rooms and that’s 958,100 gallons flushed in a year.
One of the major advantages of being a green hotel is that the reputation of the company will attract like-minded people who are interested in working for an eco-conscious employer. Even in an employment market where jobs are scarce, today’s workforce is searching for a meaningful work experience where their personal values are in alignment with their organization’s values. The ability to find and employ quality candidates that fit into the company culture can be strengthened by effectively communicating green practices during the recruitment process. A company’s reputation for social and environmental responsibility is becoming an important decision factor for job candidates. According to a survey conducted by Lightspeed Research, 80 percent of U.S. workers believe it is important to work for a company that implements green practices.
Window film is making a big difference in energy savings for hotels all over the country, and now it is making big news because of its proven energy savings. California recently incorporated window film into its state building code, making it the first state to recognize window film as a practical way to save energy through reducing solar heat gain and improving window insulating performance. This code change takes effect in January 2014. Window film was also recently found to be the most cost-effective choice for energy savings in retrofit applications. An independent study compared window film to other traditional energy-saving techniques like updating HVAC systems, air sealing and caulking, and adding R-38 ceiling insulation. Window film came out on top as the most economical way to save energy.
Doing more with less is a common theme for many industries, but few more than lodging. This industry was hit hard, and funding in the shape of bank loans or other external capital was simply not available for hotels needing to renovate, purchase new furniture or redesign rooms. While anxious hotel owners and managers waited for available financing to flow again, it wasn’t uncommon for corporate hotel brands to put their Product Improvement Plans, or PIPs, on ice. Suspended PIPs were a short-lived financial relief, but hotel owners and corporate brands are now reinstating mandatory improvement plans. Many hotel owners now feel they are finally emerging from the depth of recession only to face new financial concerns over how to replace less-than-perfect furniture, and overhaul lodging décor.
From independents to national chains, U.S. lodging facilities are bringing greener hues to their rooms and services. Yet for all the improvements, there is still much more that can be done. One important example relates to their supply chains. From coffee to bath tissue, where do all the elements that fill hotel rooms come from? What is required of their disposal? With their continual and broad purchasing, upkeep and disposal of so many kinds of goods, lodging facilities carry tremendous power—and responsibility—from an environmental standpoint. The issue is so important that it stretches well beyond the walls, extending to outside suppliers, transporters and disposers that comprise the organizations’ full end-to-end supply chains. Bookkeepers pay detailed attention to whether lodges are in the red or black, but who’s looking to see when it’s “in the green?”
Implementing and promoting green, sustainable energy initiatives is a proven strategy for marketing a hotel to environmentally-inclined guests and meeting planners. But do these efforts contribute to the property’s value in the investor’s portfolio? The U.S. Green Building Council has found that “green” hotels enjoy a 6.8 percent to 10.9 percent property value premium. Hotel managers and owners are constantly looking to ensure that improvements and capital expenditures made to the property’s energy infrastructure can make the hotel a more attractive asset, improve the cash flow and net income. There is a growing opinion that properly selected and implemented energy efficient technologies can directly increase a property’s value by improving four key metrics.
A company in the hospitality industry may want to enhance its sustainability profile because it wants to save money, target a green customer base, develop a corporate responsibility program or genuinely become a more environmentally and socially responsible business. No matter the reason, changing behaviors, operations or physical infrastructure most often requires some amount of capital investment. Fortunately, a lot of these investments pay for themselves very quickly. Often called the low-hanging fruit, these include no-brainer improvements in areas such as energy, operations and waste efficiency. But a myriad of other methods exist to help to finance larger and more in-depth projects. With a small amount of extra attention and innovation, hotels can see real returns on sustainability investment.
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