There is no doubt that with its new grey water system, solar panels, heat recovery units and 100m² ‘green wall’, the Holiday Inn Southwark Express is at the cutting edge of eco-innovation in the UK hospitality industry.
With costs running to £4.5m, this has come at a considerable price, but Mark Dempsie, property manager for Redefine|BDL Hotels, is confident that the long-term benefits will ‘far outweigh’ the up-front investment.
“The measures are set to vastly reduce energy consumption and ultimately save the hotel money,” he explains.
“We also wanted to spend money putting really robust methods in place that would have a significant and genuine impact on the hotel’s carbon footprint. For Redefine|BDL Hotels, this is part of a group-wide goal to reduce energy consumption across the board and ensure we are environmentally aware and ethical hoteliers.”
Installing the green wall and other eco features required significant planning and consideration, and Dempsie says his team considered every facet of the building plans in order to guarantee the sustainable measures they wanted could be included in the extension.
“We worked long and hard with our architects, engineers and the Council’s planning department to work up a great design which lay the foundations for a sustainable hotel that does not compromise on guest experience,” he says
The biggest challenge in terms of design was room and window placement, with the installation of the green wall ruling out windows on an entire side of the new extension.
“We had to carefully consider the layout of the floors and orientation of the rooms to ensure guestrooms and walkways had sufficient access to light,” Dempsie explains.
“As well as creating a brighter hotel, free light is another great way to save energy so we had to ensure we positioned as many windows and solar panels as possible in a south facing position in order to exploit this.”
So what are the long term benefits of the eco-measures installed? Demspie explains that the green wall will contribute to air quality in the surrounding area by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, as well as trapping dust and other pollutants.
“The green wall also safeguards wildlife. It is specially constructed to include various types of plants and grasses creating an eco-system and safe habitat,” he says.
Benefits for the hotel include an extra layer of insulation from the plants, which will reduce energy bills and help reduce noise within the building.
“In the summer the wall also acts as a sun screen which keeps the building cool, reducing the need for air-con and other expensive electrical methods of air cooling,” Demspie adds.
The hotel’s new grey water system will harvest rain water from the roof to flush the building’s public toilets and dramatically reduce the hotel’s water usage, while the solar panels will provide energy for the entire building.
Heat recovery units on every floor will use the air that naturally flows in and out of the hotel to provide fresh air and improve climate control.
“As with the green wall, this reduces our need to heat or cool the building as necessary. The units also neutralise any pollutants and as a result improve the quality of the air within the hotel,” Dempsie explains.
Finally, a building management system operated by the reception team will enable the hotel to monitor all of its equipment to ensure that it is not wasting any energy.
“This in turn will further reduce our carbon footprint and help us keep abreast of any unnecessary energy consumption,” says Dempsie.
Of course in hospitality, everything comes down to the guests. Dempsie says that so far, the eco-measures have been extremely well received.
“So far our guests have been extremely complimentary about the eco measures we have put in place,” he says.
“Aesthetically, the green wall makes the hotel stand out and look really appealing and this is something all of the guests comment on.”
He hopes that in the long run, the eco-measures will help drive customer loyalty and encourage both new and return visits.
“Many of our customers are very conscious of the impact they as individuals are having on the environment so it’s increasingly important to them that the hotels they stay in promote the same ethos,” he explains.
“For a lot of our visitors, the fact the hotel now has so many sustainability measures in place seems to be a big plus point.”
Top tips for hotels looking to invest in eco-design
- Do your research – you will soon find that there are many eco options out there that can be used to transform an every-day hotel into a hub of sustainability.
- Educate your staff – make sure they are aware of energy consumption and what can be done to reduce its efforts, so they can make the most of the features put in place.
- Form a strong relationship with a quality architect and engineer – working alongside a firm who have the expertise and experience to guide you through the process gives you the confidence to implement their designs and recommended technologies.
- Consider simpler installations – the likes of low flow shower heads, dual flush toilets, LED lighting, key card energy switches, pipework insulation, timer switches, PIR sensors and thermostatic radiator valves are all lower-cost eco-design features which will still have a positive impact on a building’s energy consumption levels