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Hilton Austin Goes 'Green' with INNCOM for Guest Comfort and Energy Savings

Hilton Austin recently transformed the challenge of a strict local energy conservation code into a triple win. Their solution added to guest comfort, improved the property's bottom line, and helped the environment. The hotel launched a $22 million renovation, primarily to simplify guest comfort and boost energy efficiency. Now, the property's state-of-the art energy management system (EMS) not only meets--but exceeds--Austin's green mandate.
Known for its strong environmental commitment, Austin mandated that commercial buildings that are 10,000 square feet or larger must conduct an annual conservation audit and report their energy rating to the city. Austin's subtropical climate presents a challenge to energy efficiency. Average summer temperatures rise to the high 90s, with routine readings over 100.
When Hilton Austin decided to renovate its 801 rooms, management checked in with city officials to ensure the project would meet codes for lighting, plumbing, and energy use. "We have a good relationship with the city," says John Culp, Hilton Austin's director of engineering. "We call them before renovations – especially in this case, when we planned to update guest room furniture, lighting fixtures, and Integrated Room Automation Systems (IRAS) equipment."
Effective energy management was only one goal of Hilton Austin's renovation project. “Guest comfort is the top concern," Culp said. The hotel chose INNCOM by Honeywell's Deep Mesh Network with wireless IRAS integration because it handles both priorities. "INNCOM promotes, encourages, and supports system integration that benefits the property and its guests." 
Business travelers and Austin Convention Center event attendees comprise the property's largest demographic. Guests can now experience the ultimate in high-tech luxury and convenience in their room. An INNCOM bedside controller lets guests adjust room temperature and lighting without changing wall switches or thermostats.

INNCOM’s controller also sends privacy and "request service" messages to housekeeping for prompt assistance. "We were concerned about ease of use and our guests’ technology learning curve," says Culp. "But we found that the controllers are intuitive and easy to use. Guests clearly like them because they don’t have to move around the room to control their environment."
The INNCOM Deep Mesh network wirelessly links in-room lighting, thermostats, energy systems, and the property’s Saflok RFID guest room door locks. Sensors monitor when a guest enters or leaves a room and sends an alert if the room is vacant and the door is ajar. This feature is a major plus for guest security and safety. “The system alerts us if a door is left open for a specified period of time so our staff can respond. This is the future of hotel systems and a comfortable, convenient guest experience.”
This reduces costs when multiple systems like energy management and door locks use the Deep Mesh network backbone. “Maintenance is simplified when there is only a single network to manage. Also, the data the INNCOM system provides on occupancy, energy use, and equipment status increases staff productivity,” he said.
The INNCOM network monitors all guest room energy systems. "The system automatically notifies us when equipment needs attention," Culp added. Occupancy sensors detect when the room is empty so the property can dispatch one of his 26 engineers to address equipment issues while guests are out. "We can solve a problem before people even notice it.”
 Because Culp's team can keep systems operating at peak efficiency, Hilton Austin can pocket major energy savings while staying ahead of the City of Austin’s conservation mandates.
"We've taken a big step up from the 'dumb' thermostats we replaced," he said. "They were energy wasters and could not manage energy use or detect when a room was occupied. The new networked INNCOM thermostats automatically revert to our energy-efficient setback temperature as soon as guests leave a room. When they re-enter, the system automatically returns to the setting they selected." When no guest is checked in to a room, the energy management system reverts to the setback temperature until another guest registers at the front desk.
"In the two months since installation our units have worked perfectly," reported Culp. "None of our guests have mentioned their room temperature. As any hotelier can tell you, that's a big win."
The property prints daily reports from the INNCOM system to make sure room systems remain within the property’s pre-configured temperature and operational parameters. "If I see that a room varies more than two or three degrees from our optimum settings, it's a red flag. We can quickly check the equipment and provided maintenance before guests notice or it hits our bottom line." 
Hilton Austin plans to integrate its meeting space into energy-efficient lighting and the INNCOM EMS in the future. The property's guests will have one more way to keep their cool in one of the hottest travel destinations.
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