Being energy efficient can pay dividends, improve the guest experience and create goodwill through environmental and social responsibility. But, improving energy efficiency requires planning and thought when it comes to investing capital dollars. While technology is now the norm in efficiency programs, Gary Graham, manager, Programs and Operations at Green Key Global — the Hotel Association of Canada’s environmental-sustainability certification body — believes more operators understand the value proposition of energy-saving initiatives. “Putting in high-efficiency equipment represents a big opportunity,” says Graham. “But there’s a bonus for sustainability.”
MAKING OLD NEW AND MORE EFFICIENT
Sunray Group focuses on energy-efficient operations because it’s one of a hotel’s highest operating costs, according to company director Gaurav Gupta. The company evaluates energy efficiency in new builds, renovations and additions.
“Depending on the scope of work, we decide what energy projects make sense,” says Gupta, citing factors such as roof condition, PTAC modification, lighting, roof-top units, windows and balconies. “Hotel balcony sliding doors are energy inefficient,” says Dan Burgess, Sunray’s Construction director. “[When renovating,] we build a new exterior wall that enlarges the room and adds new windows and insulation to bring it up to the code standards of an R20-insulated wall.”
Similarly, retrofitted roof panels have benefitted the 76-room Motel 6 in Moosomin, Sask., according to Melissa Stober, senior Marketing manager at Realstar Hospitality. The investment in these panels, which capture the sun’s energy for heating water, has reduced operational costs, decreased the property’s carbon footprint and reduced natural-gas costs by 30 per cent. Panel construction is such that the harsh Saskatchewan winters have minimal effect on system efficiency.
Graham also points to LED-conversion as another obvious strategy. “What was once a hard sell is now in budgets.” Retrofits can see payback in less than a year, adds Gupta. “Hotels have lights on all the time. It’s one of the highest operating costs for us.”
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
Simple light bulbs fit into more complex networks that improve operations and predictive maintenance. There has been substantial improvement in auditing, real-time monitoring and data tracking — and via smartphones, too — Graham says. “It allows operators to monitor usage, but make immediate adjustments if there is a spike at a particular time each day for consecutive days [and investigate] what’s going on at that time that can be addressed in the interests of energy savings.”
Networked systems provide real-time data about guest activity and energy consumption. Efficiency can be increased if you integrate a thermostat with a PMS: when guests check out, the system adjusts room temperature to a specified setting; before guests check in, the system sets the room to a comfortable temperature.
“You can tailor an energy program to provide more efficiencies and savings,” Gupta explains. Sunray Group’s Gupta claims “a 35-per-cent potential energy savings.” In most cases, significant upfront costs have seen an ROI in a fairly short period, he adds.
PLANNING AND TRAINING
Operators recognize the need to be green, which can lead to energy-efficiency savings and often meets customer expectations, Graham says.
But, it’s more than buying EnergyStar equipment and implementing protocols in housekeeping manuals. “It’s an overall approach where there’s room for opportunity throughout the hotel.” However, capital outlay requires careful thought, adds Gupta. “Consider potential savings and your payback period, [as well as] what incentives are offered by local hydro companies.” Any investment requires management-level follow-up. “There’s no point in investing money in an energy-management-and-control system that links to your PMS if it’s not used properly,” Gupta says. “The right training and support for staff is needed to make sure it’s being used to its full effectiveness.”
Warren by Andrew Coppolino