Kristopher Wekarchuk may be a relative newcomer to the Hôtel M-Holiday Inn Express & Suites St.Hyacinthe in Quebec, but, as GM of the 94-room property, he’s quickly learned the value of managing Canada’s very first LEED-certified hotel.
Greening has played a big part in catapulting the three-year-old property to number-1 status in the region in terms of occupancy, says Wekarchuk. “People are choosing to stay at green properties. It’s great advertising, because there’s a strong consciousness out there,” he says.
While the green-technology portion of the construction project accounted for a 10- per-cent premium over initial costs, the payback proves it’s a worthwhile investment.
One of the biggest components involved in greening the hotel was the HVAC system, Wekarchuk says. “But the most amazing part of all is the GenTech software behind the mechanical pieces that monitors the electrical usage throughout the hotel.”
The system controls all applications ranging from pool heating and lighting to elevator usage and room temperatures. If extra energy is required to service an elevator, for example, the system will automatically turn off heating to a different wing or section of rooms for a few seconds to bring down consumption.
The software also manages heating and ventilation inside guestrooms. Management can pre-set a range of minimum and maximum temperatures based on room occupancy. In the meantime, the system interfaces with the Property Management System (PMS) so room temperatures adjust as soon as a guest checks in. In-room smart readers follow the European model, in which room keys are inserted into a block to activate heating and air conditioning in each guestroom.
“Even our electric hot- water tanks are connected to the system,” Wekarchuk notes. They also installed 30 energy-saving hot-water coils ($1,500 per coil) throughout the hotel to keep warm drain water circulating within the walls and provide hot water to guests when they need it.
Having the ability to monitor electrical consumption and shift loads automatically is a huge advantage at billing time; if the usage goes over the prescribed kilowatt hours set by the utility, the hotel could be charged double or even triple per-kilowatt-hour for extra usage. “Since we’ve been operating, we have never gone over the threshold,” says Wekarchuk.
While the project at Hôtel M-Holiday Inn Express & Suites may be a testament to energy savings, Derrick Finn, principal with Finn Projects, an energy management services consultancy in Toronto, says many hotel operators are missing opportunities on the energy side. “Depending on the system, energy savings can vary from 15 to 30 per cent, with a five-year simple payback,” he says.
For those considering the investment, there are a number of technology options to consider, including high-efficiency condensing boilers and variable speed drives (VSDs) on fans, pumps, motors, air handlers and chillers. “If you can reduce a fan or pump to 80 per cent of its capacity, you can save 50 per cent in energy costs,” Finn says. Control systems can range from simple on/off switching, to occupancy sensors in storerooms and guestrooms, to units that can control an entire building.
Opting for on-demand ventilation in larger spaces such as meeting rooms is also a great energy saver, notes Steve Kemp, division head and partner, Energy Performance Group at Enermodal Engineering, an energy consultancy in Kitchener, Ont. “That’s where you can get one of the biggest bangs for your buck. Carbon dioxide sensors indicate when the room is full, and the ventilation system is triggered to bring in fresh air. That alone could provide a four-per-cent energy savings for the entire building. For heating and cooling those rooms specifically, the savings would be in the 30-per-cent range.”
High-efficiency condensing boilers operate at 94-per-cent efficiency or higher, compared to the older variety at 80 to 85 per cent or less, Kemp adds. “Basically they work like gas pedals to moderate what heat you need for the building.”
Drain-water heat recovery systems for showers and dishwashers can also save 40 to 50 per cent of hot- water heating costs, Kemp estimates. “You can constantly pump hot water around the building so you’re not using energy or wasting water when guests turn on a tap, because they’re not waiting for it to come up from the basement.” Smarter control systems on recirculating pumps will also ensure they run minimally in off-peak times, such as 2 a.m.
“Whatever you choose, make sure it’s economically viable,” says David Bengert, director of Corporate Purchasing for Jayman MasterBuilt in Calgary. Bengert was involved in many of the energy-saving design and equipment decisions for the new Microtel Hotel property in Estevan, Sask., which opened in September. “Our cut-off point was a three-year payback.”
The first area of focus was lighting, he says. “Even though compact fluorescent is the most widely used in commercial buildings, LED still uses less power and lasts much longer.” He estimates that, while LED cost an additional $6,000, payback in energy savings is 14 months.
Another area of focus was the packaged terminal air conditioner units (PTAC) in guestrooms that provide both heating and cooling. “We found one with the highest efficiency rating available and could tie in with the thermostat controls. It cost about $100 more per unit, but payback is about 24 months,” Bengert explains. Another critical investment was double-glazed, argon-filled windows with a high insulation rating (costing an extra $2,000).
Not every operator has the luxury of working on a new build. That doesn’t mean, however, opportunities for energy savings don’t exist. As Craig Norris-Jones, VP of Operations for Coast Hotels in Vancouver, says, “Energy costs never go down, so we’re always looking at them.”
Over the last year, Coast Hotels has been substituting halogen lighting for LED in public areas in selected properties. “While it’s early times, the results are dramatic: 10-per-cent savings in kilowatt hours converts into just over $6,000 per quarter,” Norris-Jones says.
The cost of the new lighting for one property was $28,000, including a rebate from B.C. Hydro. “When you know it’s a quick ROI, it makes it easy to execute a plan like this.”
Some properties have also switched from traditional hot-water boiler systems to hybrid heating systems from Enbala Power Networks Inc. The system automatically switches between gas and electric heating, depending on demand and the cost of fuel. The system is pre-programmed but is also monitored remotely from the supplier company. It can also be manually over-ridden on-site by property managers. For example, if the hotel requires quick heat in the morning, it will switch to natural gas. To maintain heat throughout the day it then switches to electric heat; it all depends on demand.
“We try to purchase smart and buy energy-efficient technology,” Norris-Jones says. “We have to be careful though. You still need to look at design considerations because not all equipment is created equal. You can get into a tough spot if you wind up making a retrofit that isn’t engineered properly.”