That was just one conclusion from a recent Cornell Hospitality Research Summit (CHRS), held at the Ithaca, N.Y., university. As explained in the proceedings, “The contradictions involve finances, operations, and marketing. Hotels and restaurants would save money from many sustainable practices, but often lack the capital to invest; operators that wish to improve practices lack measurement and benchmark standards; and guests expect hotels and restaurants to operate sustainably but don’t use that as a decision factor in choosing a property” where they would want to stay.
In general, here were some of the results:
• No sustainability program makes sense if it does not have a favorable cost-benefit ratio. For new hotels, sustainability starts with design. Hotels can be designed with the greatest possible efficiency, and that assists with sustainability even in the absence of outright green practices. An efficient design not only conserves resources, but it can make a hotel more viable (and profitable).
• When design is focused on sustainability, whatever emerges should appeal to guests of all types, regardless of whether they are concerned about sustainability. Energy management should be integrated into hospitality operations so that it responds to actual building use.
• The industry is still struggling to find benchmarks for green operations. Guest room energy management must be at the forefront of sustainability efforts, without interfering with the guests’ convenience and pleasure.
• Food-service operations also face sustainability issues, complicated by guests’ interest in healthy food and local sourcing.
TALKING THE GAMEThe hotel decision makers who attended the Cornell event voiced support for processes that factor in HVACR contractors’ installation and service work.
For example, Gerald Lawless, executive chair of the hotel developer Jumeirah Group, said even luxury hotels should “minimize carbon footprint by applying the latest, most efficient technology, and complying with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” He called it providing a “luxurious hotel stay in a responsible fashion.”
Paul Hamilton, vice president of energy efficiency at Schneider Electric, said all hotels should consider energy management to be as high a priority as quality assurance has been over the years; suggesting someone involved in energy management should be on the executive committee of a hotel or hotel chain.
“Although hotels and restaurants have been tightening up their energy conservation efforts for decades, there’s still room for more conservation. Hotels can use software that integrates energy use into business practices - for example, a wireless heating or cooling and lighting system,” he said.
GETTING SMARTLindsay Anderson, an adjunct assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell, said he has been examining ways that hotels and other businesses can integrate renewable energy into systems. This includes so-called “smart buildings,” which integrate energy infrastructure with the data on the user preferences and occupancy levels.