Hotels exert a substantial impact on the environment, mainly through their consumption of energy and water. Each year, America’s 47,000 hotels spend $2,196[ii] on average per available guest room on energy alone. They also produce 1% of the world’s carbon emissions,[iii] which is projected to increase, according to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. While 1% may sound minuscule, hotels will need toreduce their absolute carbon emissions[iv] by 66% by 2030 and by 90% by 2050 to avoid a corresponding increase in carbon, based on the predicted growth of the industry by those milestones.
The good news is that sustainability initiatives and carbon reduction goals – aimed at cutting costs as well as obtaining sustainability certifications – have become a priority for hotels. Sustainability upgrades that improve energy and water efficiency can measurably reduce utility bills as well as make progress toward energy and carbon reduction goals and the coveted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a globally recognized distinction for commercial buildings.
Hotels can take steps that will not only help them achieve these goals but also improve the guest experience: Establish a baseline of current energy consumption, deploy data analytics technologies throughout each building, and implement a guest room management system that improves both sustainability efforts and guest experience.
Step 1: Establish a Baseline of Current Energy Consumption
A good starting point for a sustainability strategy is to establish a baseline of current energy performance and then use it to identify areas for improvement. The primary targets will likely be heating, cooling, lighting and plug loads but the challenge will be to cut energy consumption without detracting from guest comfort. Hotel management will also want to enhance employee productivity and well-being. Balancing guest comfort and employee productivity against energy use can be a moving target as utility rates, weather and occupancy vary continually.
Burning natural gas or fuel oil on site will make it difficult, if not impossible, for a hotel to achieve carbon neutrality, which means shifting to all-electric heating and cooling is likely an essential part of the equation. While an electric HVAC may indirectly generate more emissions today if it draws power from the grid produced by a gas- or coal-fired plant, grids are rapidly becoming cleaner as they shift increasingly to renewable energy sources. Hence, an all-electric HVAC system is a more attractive option, particularly one that uses heat pumps, which use less energy than AC compressors and help decrease on-site emissions.
Step 2: Deploy Data Analytics Technologies
Data analytics are an essential tool for increasing efficiency and productivity as they can be used to find areas where optimization is needed in areas like operations, energy management and guest engagement. Analyzing data helps a property optimize settings for its specific needs and can also alert management to potential problems before they occur.
As hoteliers turn to analytics to improve facility operations and guest experience, it can put a strain on staff members who are charged with monitoring energy-using devices, aggregating data from them and running manual analyses. A better solution is to integrate data-collecting software in the building’s infrastructure and deploy an automated platform that monitors and controls building devices from a single dashboard. This gives managers a holistic view of the property’s energy performance that helps them efficiently reduce its carbon impact and facilitate preventive maintenance – all while enhancing the guest experience.
Step 3: Implement a Guestroom Management System That Improves Both Sustainability and Guest Experience
Controlling technology from a single, centralized platform not only provides visibility into the building’s current operations it can also alert management to energy performance issues across the hotel from a single location. An automated energy management system[v] can potentially help reduce a hotel property’s energy costs by double digits.
Such a system incorporates technologies that can play a key role in both reducing energy consumption and enhancing guest experience:
- Indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring: Monitoring IAQ in common spaces as well as guest rooms helps improve the guest experience as well as protect the property. Even if a guestroom is idle, hoteliers should monitor IAQ to reduce potential damage from mold, mildew and related hazards. A dashboard can also reduce operating costs by helping maintenance teams improve the quality of their manual room checks.
- Climate Control: According to Energy Star, heating and cooling alone account for almost 40%[vi] of the electricity and more than half the natural gas used by hotels. With the right technology, hoteliers can adjust an individual room’s temperature on a ‘just-in-time’ basis before the guest’s arrival to provide comfort but avoid unnecessary energy use.
- Lighting: Sensor-enablednetworkedLED lighting can help keep costs down by reducing energy waste in unoccupied spaces. LED bulbs also use 75% less energy and last much longer than incandescent lighting[vii].
- Sensors: Infrared sensors can determine in real time whether a guest is occupying a room and alert housekeeping or maintenance when it’s appropriate to enter. Other sensors can gauge motion, temperature, light, proximity and smoke, all of which can enhance a guest room management system and make it more powerful.
A sustainability strategy should start with realistic baselines of current energy performance and an unflinching look at existing infrastructure. Beyond that, it requires creative thinking, investment in new technology and a concerted, holistic effort across the hotel property or chain. With building and guestroom management technology, hotels can monitor and track data, creating richer information that better equips managers to make sustainability goals a reality. It’s not just about guest experience but also the overall impact to a hotel’s brand as more travelers choose to stay at hotels that prioritize sustainability efforts. Brands that ignore this sustainability imperative risk being left behind.
[ii] Energy Star, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, Hotels: An Overview of Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Opportunities [Accessed March 11, 2022]
[iii] World Tourism Organization United Nations Environment Program, Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges, 2008 [Accessed March 11, 2022]