Sustainable tips, accomplishments from industry experts
 
Sustainable tips, accomplishments from industry experts
06 DECEMBER 2017 8:53 AM

Developers, designers and operators share advice and success stories on how to fit green initiatives into hotels.

GLOBAL REPORT—Sustainability plays a variety of different roles in a hotel or company, from development to design to the ways employees are recruited, but being green isn’t always easy. But some hoteliers have found successful ways to make sustainability a core tenet of their operations.

Here’s a roundup of content Hotel News Now has featured over the last year or so looking at how hotels have implemented those initiatives.

Adding color to a hotel in an urban environment such as New York City can be challenging, but GM Joe Cecala at The Watson Hotel brought his green thumb to the hotel 20 years ago and has found adding his favorite plants during the appropriate season is a great way to spruce up the place.

“The front of the hotel where we have the tree plants and the area around there, 20 years ago I developed those areas and I (make) sure they have an assortment of bright colors and flowers every spring to put down in May,” he said.

Cecala even adds ivy to bring a little bit of color during the winter months, he said.

Independent hotels in locations such as Mexico and Panama have found ways to tie their environmentally-friendly initiatives into the overall guest experience, sources said.

At Hotel El Ganzo in Los Cabos, Mexico, guests can take home reusable shopping bags labeled with the hotel’s name, said Ella Messerli, managing director at the hotel. While the bags result in a cost for the hotel, Messerli said the return on investment outweighs it.

“Yes, it’s a cost, but at the same time you’re helping with sustainability, you’re giving somebody an experience, and you’re giving a souvenir,” she said, “which is fine because these things go on being little brand ambassadors wherever they go.”

Developing a hotel is already a complicated process, but some developers such as OTO Development have taken it a step further by building hotels on brownfields, or pieces of land that have contaminated soils.

Some projects receive funds from local or state governments while others like OTO’s Residence Inn Gainesville I-75 in Florida receive no extra funding and are paid for by the land owner.

The Residence Inn project was made a little easier by county protocols, said Bruce Collins, director of development at OTO, but there were still a few challenges that wouldn’t have come up if the hotel were built on a clean piece of land.

“Prior use of the property—as a thermometer-manufacturing facility and an automotive-repair facility—contributed to its designation as a brownfield,” Collins said. “When contaminated soils are discovered and must be disturbed, the local environmental agency is tasked with establishing the specific procedures for disposal. You cannot simply take the dirt away for someone to use elsewhere; it must be disposed of at a regulated facility that can mitigate the contamination.”

Eco-friendly elements have become a crucial consideration when it comes to the design of a hotel, according to industry design experts.

Eddie Abeyta, principal at HKS Architects, said sustainable design elements need to be visually appealing and contribute to the well-being of the guest.

“We … strive to design environments that perform well from the human perspective in terms of enhancing the health and wellness of hotel guests,” he said.

“There is a strong influence on making smarter material selections when designing spaces and environments, something that we call ‘mindful materials’ at HKS. Being mindful of the selection of materials, products and finishes that eliminate harmful chemical compounds and ingredients that go into materials such as paints, fabrics and woods is critical to our design process.”

Read more from other industry designers and watch the sustainable design video.

Another important part of incorporating sustainability into a hotel is how it can boost a hotel’s top and bottom lines, recruitment and retention of employees and the sourcing of materials for operations and building.

During a roundtable conversation at the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel held this the summer, Hotel News Now met with a panel of industry experts to discuss these issues related to green initiatives in hotels.

Read more about the importance of sustainability and best practices to get there.

Sustainability in the hotel industry also extends to renovations, which can now be funded by a newer form of financing known as commercial property assessed clean energy, or CPACE, lending.

Joseph Euphrat, managing director of Cleanfund, said CPACE financing can be utilized as a tool in the capital stack for the owner of an existing hotel who wants to make energy-efficient improvements.

“Before, capital could come from debt or equity, maybe mezzanine or cash or a combination,” he said. “This is now a complimentary tool that is available to compare and contrast to those other options.”

He added that improvements that would boost the efficiency of the consumption of energy or water are usually eligible for CPACE lending.

Investment and development experts at the recent Costa Rica Sustainable Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference said hoteliers shouldn’t expect fast returns from sustainability efforts.

Investors advised that hoteliers take their time when thinking about sustainability, do their research, be realistic and set up benchmarks for success.

Speakers added that more and more consumers want sustainable practices in place in hotels.

“When you see how people are living today, how they measure what’s important to them, that’s what’s changing,” Cristián Roberts, president and CEO of real estate investment bank Prime, said via translation during a session titled “Financial sustainability: The importance of keeping the business profitable.”

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