Photo of Ottawa-based hotel-ownership group Stolat
Photo Credit: Jessica Deeks

By Amy Bostock

The Hyatt Place Ottawa West, owned by Ottawa-based hotel-ownership group Stolat, was built from the ground up with sustainability in mind. The local ownership of the new hotel, which opened in June of 2021, conceived, planned and built the hotel to minimize its impact upon the environment and then made the decision to operate the hotel with a true spirit of corporate social responsibility.

For Stolat, the decision to build a sustainable hotel from the ground up was a no-brainer.

“There were two pillars to the decision. The first was it’s just the right thing to do, isn’t it?” says Cal Kirkpatrick, partner & VP of Stolat Hotels. Kirkpatrick and his team are no strangers to green initiatives, with two outposts of its retail store, Terra 20, which specialize in environmental and environmentally sustainable products, currently open in Ottawa.

The second pillar, he says, is that financial modeling proved building the hotel was a good business decision. “With new construction, there’s an empirical argument to be made that it makes good business sense in terms of the initial capital investment and your ability to recover those costs over time.”

Nuts & Bolts

The 140-room Hyatt Place Ottawa West, the winner of Hotelier’s 2024 Green Leadership Award, is one of the few hotels in the world to open up with a Five Green Key Certification, thanks to its many sustainable features. The building has 225 solar panels on the roof and the carbon capture is equivalent to planting 38,225 trees annually or slightly less than an entire tree for every guestroom, every day. It also uses earth-friendly, geo-thermal heating and cooling, which required the drilling of multiple, extremely deep boreholes under the future parking lot to utilize the constant temperature available deep underground. 

Extensive piping is used to transfer this earth-based energy to the hotel, thus reducing or eliminating the need for energy-intensive heating and cooling. All public spaces are equipped with motion sensor lighting controls to reduce energy consumption. Multiple EV charging stations are available for guests. Meeting space window blinds are kept closed when possible, during the summer to lower air conditioning usage. Construction of the hotel was done using tilt-up construction which can significantly reduce CO2 emissions during construction and over the life of the building.

And the results speak for themselves as the initial investment in solar panels and geo-thermal heating and cooling has significantly reduced the operating costs of the building. According to Hyatt Hotels, the hotel is currently saving approximately $25,000 to $35,000 annually on energy costs compared to a similar hotel without the same level of sustainability. 

“The combination of earth energy and our solar panels allows us to have a renewable energy source that means writing a smaller check to hydro every month,” says Kirkpatrick. “Our analysis said we would get a seven-year payback on our initial capital investment. It’s probably going to be more like nine, but in the lifecycle of a hotel, which is 40 to 50 years, a nine-year payback period made a lot of sense to us.”

He says he’s had the debate with appraisers and consultants over the years, even before opening the Hyatt Place Ottawa West, around whether sustainability drives revenue, increases occupancy or grows ADR. “The answer is difficult to directly trace, but by reducing utility costs, it certainly improved the bottom line,” he says, adding it does drive brand loyalty from some corporate accounts whose sustainability practices align with those of the hotel.

Team Effort

The team at Hyatt Place Ottawa West, comprised of 62 employees from 20 countries, is led by general manager Alison Hunter, who met the challenges of opening a new hotel in the middle of a pandemic head-on, including supply-chain challenges, labour shortages and a lack of awareness in Canada of the Hyatt Place brand. But as she looked to take the next step in her career, that of general manager, she was drawn to the project.

“When I met this ownership group, I saw that my morals and values aligned with theirs so tremendously,” she says. “And what they were doing on the sustainability front was honestly the deal sealer for me.” 

Hunter says the importance of sustainable choices shouldn’t be limited to hotels; it should be in every business and in every home. And while the task can seem daunting, she says every small change makes a difference.

“I think sometimes people look at [sustainable practices] and think ‘we can’t do it, we can’t put geothermal in our six-year-old hotel.’ No, but if you make one small change in one small area, and one small change next month, there are so many small things that if, as an industry, we all change, we can help literally change the world. I know that sounds a little corny. I’m kind of a corny person. But it really comes down to having the confidence to know that making small bite-sized changes isn’t only a good thing for the planet, but in the end, it’ll make operational sense. It’ll make economic sense.”

The industry is sitting up and taking notice of what Hunter and her team are accomplishing. The Hyatt Place Ottawa West stands as a shining example to business people and hotel owners that it makes economic sense to build and operate in an environmentally friendly manner. 

Its commitment to environmental sustainability, including the installation and operation of a beehive on the roof, makes the property immensely more attractive to a client base of corporate clients as they seek to reduce the environmental impact of their travel programs. Within the past few years, major corporate accounts and meeting planners are insisting that hotels answer questions regarding their environmental programs prior to acceptance into travel programs. 

In addition to Hotelier’s Green Leadership Award, the property has received accolades as Hyatt Best New Property Award 2021, Best Performance in Sustainability by Best Ottawa Business Awards 2022, Hotel Association of Canada Green Key Environmental Award 2022, Ottawa Tourism Awards of Excellence Finalist in Sustainability Category 2023 and Canadian Museum Of Nature 10th-Annual Nature Inspiration Awards Finalist 2023.

While Stolat was behind the hotel’s development, Kirkpatrick was quick to credit Hunter and her whole team with the property’s success. “This was an ownership-led initiative before we had a hotel-management team in place. But it would be fair to say that they’ve completely embraced the idea − Alison in particular,” he says. “It’s one thing for us to have a certain philosophy and a policy, but somebody else has to execute on it and they do that every day. So, kudos to them.” 


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