Brighter Planet Takes Look at Entire U.S. Lodging Industry’s Energy, Carbon Efficiency

4/30/2012 By Glenn Hasek

SHELBURNE, VERMONT—Using data on 46,000 U.S. hotels provided by Northstar Travel Media, and building energy data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, sustainability technology company Brighter Planet has applied its own lodging model to determine the best and worst performing hotel chains when it comes to energy efficiency and carbon footprints. Brighter Planet’s model predicts natural gas, fuel oil, district heat, and electricity use based on local climate, number of rooms, number of floors, construction year, and air-conditioning coverage, and adjusts for the presence of various amenities such as swimming pools, hot tubs, and minibars.

Matt Kling, science analyst for Brighter Planet, says restaurants were considered in the calculations although restaurants were not mentioned in Brighter Planet’s report entitled, “Hotel Energy & Carbon Efficiency.” Kling says whether or not a hotel has its own laundry facility was not factored in the calculations.

Brighter Planet looked at 80 percent of U.S. hotels with at least 15 rooms. Not factored into its calculations were conservation efforts at the individual property level—e.g., whether or not a hotel and a guestroom energy management system in place or whether it has energy efficient lighting.

Vagabond Inns Tops Brighter Planet’s List
As part of its report, Brighter Planet released a ranking of U.S. hotel chains by energy and carbon efficiency. Vagabond Inns topped the list of 75 chains. JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts is at the bottom of the list. Strongly influencing a chain’s ranking in Brighter Planet’s report is where its hotels happen to be geographically located. If properties happen to be concentrated in areas where the electricity produced is “dirty,” the chain’s ranking was negatively impacted.

The report concludes that modern hotels use significantly more energy per room night than older hotels—primarily because hotel rooms have gotten larger over the years. Throughout its report, Brighter Planet calculates energy/carbon efficiency on a per room night basis. “Among currently operating hotels, properties built in the 2000s use more than twice as much energy per room night as properties built from 1965 to 1975, and emit almost 2.5 times as much carbon,” the report says.

A Carbon Measurement Working Group with representation from most of the leading hotel chains is currently working to standardize the methodology and metrics used to calculate and communicate carbon impact. Brighter Planet, in its report, appears to advocate a “per room night” measurement.

Where LEED, Energy Star Fall Short

“LEED and Energy Star hotel carbon calculations fall short for lodging industry sustainability accounting because they fail to take into account the number of rooms that are fit into a hotel,” the report says. “Measuring hotel energy use and emissions per room night rather than per square foot is more relevant and actionable for business and travel managers.”

Robbie Adler, director of business development and strategic partnerships for Brighter Planet, says one of the main goals of the report is to jumpstart conversation about energy efficiency and carbon measurement.

“We did a similar study in the aviation industry,” Adler says. “We got a strong response. We saw a similar opportunity to look at carbon and energy efficiency in the hotel space.”

To locate the entire report to download, click here.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


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