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Many people see a doctor at least once a year, but how good are we about tracking the health of our buildings? If your hotel or resort hasn’t had an energy audit or retrocommissioning in the past two to three years, you’ve likely accumulated tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in added utility costs per year. An energy audit is a detailed analysis of energy and water usage, resulting in a list of no-, low-, and high-cost energy conservation measures (ECMs) appropriate for your site. The goal of an audit is to reduce a building’s energy and water usage by evaluating building inefficiencies. In addition, a thorough audit is likely to address guest comfort issues, and will include benchmarking and energy procurement recommendations.
Maybe your hotel is in an area impacted by drought and under water restrictions. Or it’s not, but drought is a concern for your guests, and you want to demonstrate your commitment to conservation. Or maybe you just want to save energy and money, but you’ve already addressed the low-hanging fruit. In any case, better managing water use is a viable strategy that saves resources while enhancing the guest experience. Linen and towel reuse programs have long been a way for hotels to save water and energy. A recent study by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University found that 79 to 88 percent of resort guests surveyed participate in these programs.
According to a recent National Sleep Foundation survey, 91 percent of all people identified the pillow as being most important to a good night’s sleep (second only to the mattress at 93 percent). Yet very few hotels actively manage their pillow inventory. Currently, most properties leave it up to the subjective opinion of their housekeeping staff to pull pillows out of service when they no longer meet the hotel’s standards. This works for pillows that are obviously stained, or are flat, or lumpy. However, this practice does not allow a housekeeper to know what might be on the inside of the pillow. We all know that dust mites accumulate in hotel guestroom pillows over time, despite the use of pillow protectors.
Hospitality is not just about offering a place to sleep. It comprises the entire experience of travel, from transportation to lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment. Leaders in hospitality recognize a guest’s experience begins when planning their trip, before a single reservation is booked. This is the ideal time to start making an impact on their traveling decisions, and sustainability can and should be a core part of the message to guests. At Paladino, we approach our work in sustainability through an abundance lens. We first evaluate the abundance of resources and opportunities within an environment or situation to determine the prospect for change and then center a sustainability strategy around these opportunities.
Ecotourism began in the 1980s as people developed an awareness of the cultural impact of globalization, tourism, and political conflict in places such as El Salvador and Colombia. Over time, this trend began permeating the way people think and their responsibilities in everyday life. Now is a great time to reevaluate our values as property owners—especially as the manager of a large lodging property such as a hotel or resort. The immediate need for water conservation is starkly apparent, these days, in many areas around the country. In Boise, Idaho, for example, the snowpack from the foothills and nearby mountain ranges is the lowest it’s been in years.
In January 2014, Jonathan Pickering wrote in this column about Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, as a way for hotels and resorts (and other commercial and, in some cases, residential properties) to obtain innovative financing. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the hospitality industry in general has been (excuse the pun) keeping PACE with the program. PACE is now enabled in 31 states and the District of Columbia, and provides for the financing of energy efficiency improvements, water conservation projects, renewable energy installations and upgrades, and—in Florida, where we live, work, and play—for wind resistance projects (hurricane hardening, for example).
Sustainability isn’t always what springs to mind when one envisions luxury lodging accommodations. It’s true that the two haven’t always gone hand in hand: for some, sustainability paints a stark picture of austerity, while luxury tends to bring to mind lavish extravagance. Thankfully, that paradigm is shifting. Today, travelers increasingly see sustainable and responsible design as a strong selling point when looking for hotel accommodations; a 2013 Travel Guard survey of travel agents proclaimed that “green travel is here to stay,” finding “24 percent of those who responded noted that interest in green travel is currently the highest it’s ever been in the last 10 years, and 51 percent reported that interest has remained constant throughout this time period.”
One glance around a hotel lobby and the trained eye can see many opportunities for flexible and rigid polymeric materials necessary for efficient, effective and safe construction. It would seem that Cliff Goldman, author of the guest column in January entitled, “A Hotel Industry Future Without Vinyl Products,” would have these potential opportunities exclude vinyl as an option, for reasons he may not fully understand. Most professional designers and engineers know the benefits of flexible vinyl, including its inherent flame retardant advantages, UV resistance, stain and scratch resistance and low VOC properties, not to mention recyclability. These characteristics all fare very well when compared to other polymeric materials.
The first hands-free, motion-sensing electronic faucets were installed in airports in the 1950s. Over the decades, they have made their way into more commercial locations such as hotel properties, and today they are the fixture of choice in many facilities. There is a good reason for this. Faucet handles specifically can be a hotbed of germs and bacteria. According to one study by the Hygiene Council, which does ongoing evaluations to monitor infection threats, 60 percent of faucets and faucet handles fail tests of basic hygiene standards and criteria due to heavily concentrated levels of bacteria, often from feces. Another study by the council found more than 6,000 bacteria per square inch in an examination of 35 bathroom faucet handles. Toilet seats, in comparison, were found to have 295 bacteria per square inch.
If you had to stay in a hotel room with an unpleasant smell, poor air circulation or loud noises from the air-conditioning unit, you would likely want to change rooms. You might even vow to avoid the hotel or add negative feedback to a review site to warn other travelers. Today, it’s easier than ever for hotel guests to share details of their unpleasant experiences on the Internet using social media. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to a hotel’s reputation and the bottom line. A successful hotel operation will ensure that service and customer satisfaction are at the forefront to keep negative experiences from ever occurring. One way to keep guests happy is through proper maintenance of air-conditioning (A/C) units, which can cause unpleasant odors.
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