In The Independent’s travel trends column, Trendwatch, we explore the top trip types, modes of transport and buzzwords to watch out for
“Do the casual traveler care about how sustainable a hotel is?”
That’s a question I debated with a few other journalists on a recent press tour. For many years now, every hotel group – especially in the luxury segment – has outdone itself to beat the competition to claim to be eco-friendly (which is a somewhat familiar term). industry) “green” (ditto) or – these days – sustainable.
We can’t decide if it’s just the travel industry that is tying itself to the problem, or if a sense of sustainability has really passed down to the casual traveler. It’s something I hear a lot about at work events, but less often in my day-to-day conversation about my water cooler.
But recent statistics show that a touristy crowd really cares. An April survey on Booking.com shows that 71% of global travelers want to travel more sustainably next year – a 10% increase on the airline’s 2021 data. In the same study, more than a third (35%) said accommodation providers’ sustainability efforts played an important role in their booking decisions.
Unfortunately, and quite rightly, many hoteliers have been fired for “cleansing” – adding fine-sounding but vague or flimsy details to their hotel as a shiny distraction to wave to potential guests, while refusing to confront the deeper issues surrounding the environmental impact of tourist accommodation. (Read sustainability champion Juliet Kinsman’s story on how to find the real deal between positions.)
One such problem is the undeniable impact of construction. The “built environment”, which includes construction, accounts for about 40% of global carbon emissions. With this in mind, some established tourist attractions are choosing to limit new construction in order to make their tourism scene more sustainable – the Balearic Islands, for example, have committed to no new hotel or rental accommodation for the next four years.
At the other end of the scale is design and construction innovation: the concept of making the impact of a new building, such as a hotel, as light as possible – or even designing it to help make a positive contribution. for its surroundings.
Now, at least one hotel group claims it dreams of being the ideal resort, with minimal impact on: Six Senses Blackis calling itself the world’s first “positive energy hotel”.
A quick lingo lesson: energy-positive buildings (also known as “net zero”) generate as much energy as they need to run or more. In many cases, their developers also aim for minimal energy use and damaging techniques during the construction of the building.
Early designs for the Six Senses utopia in Norway showed it to look like a glittering UFO at one end of a tranquil lake. Initial PR documents said it would be built from “organic materials, low-energy embedded soil”, “sitting on the poles above the crystal clear waters of the Holandsfjorden”, and ” harvest enough solar energy to return to the system” through its roof.
Its placement on poles will “ensure minimal impact to land and disruption of the seafloor” while off-grid energy captured from the building will power everything from lighting and heating to the shuttle train to the resort.
The design is inspired by the Paris Agreement, where countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep climate temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. . Six Senses said: “Such energy-positive buildings could reduce 89 per cent of the 45 per cent emissions required to achieve a scenario where global warming is capped at 1.5 per cent. degrees Celsius,” said Six Senses.
The luxury hotel will also be self-sustaining with renewable infrastructure, recycling and waste and water management; The dining venues will partner with sustainable fishing and farming organizations for ingredients, as well as other like-minded local purveyors. It will feature an Earth Lab and a Design Lab to continue education and innovation in sustainability and conservation.
Lots of considerations for a hotel with a positive energy or carbon net.
Architect Graham Currie, director of the Edinburgh-based design agency, said: “Over the past 10 years, architects and designers have looked at water usage, paint specifications – change from oil-based to water-based paint – faucet and shower limitations. S + Co.
“We looked at how to limit obvious things like people leaving heaters or lights on. Things like key cards where your lights or power or heating systems are off; and gray water use – flushing toilets with rainwater collected on the roof, for example. “
Now, he says, the focus has shifted to physical buildings: “like green roofs – they insulate buildings, prevent heat loss, collect rainwater slowly, and avoid flooding sewers and drains and pollution control”.
Some developers aim to use sustainable materials such as wood, which can be offset by planting new trees during construction or furnishing with premium materials meant for landfill and have locally sourced, usually within a few miles of the new location.
Another big focus is on smart lighting and heating design: “For a particular group of hotels, we started looking at CHP, or a combination of heat and electricity. Hotels consume a large amount of energy. With CHP, you’re using one device to do two things – generate power from the back end of heat generation,” explains Currie.
“Another area is heat recovery technology. If one area of the hotel is hot, you can take the heat from those rooms and distribute it to another side. Or harness naturally generated heat – like warmth from the sun – to deliver it to a part of the hotel where it is needed, such as heating a swimming pool. “
And Six Senses Svart isn’t the only next-generation design that aims to be a model citizen of the hospitality community. In Connecticut, Marcel Hotel opens this month as America’s first “net zero hotel,” powered entirely by electricity from renewable sources. In a major adaptation of a landmark Brutalist building designed by Marcel Breuer, the solar panels on the building will run the lighting, heating, cooling and hot water systems, as well as being a Lighting system “powered over ethernet” aims to cut energy use by about 30%.
Hotels are expected to use 80% less energy than the average US hotels use.
In London, Room2 Chiswick opened in December 2021 with the goal of becoming what management calls “whole net life of zero”. “Ultimately, we said that we need to take full responsibility for the entire carbon footprint of our entire existence, because if we don’t and others don’t, As such, we have no chance of getting anywhere near a net-free future,” Room2 co-founder Robert Godwin told. The New York Times. It is expected to be 89% more energy efficient than the average UK hotel.
While many hotel groups – Iberostar, Accor, Marriott – have recently pledged to go carbon-free by 2050, the Svart project stands out because it was independently designed by property and architecture organisations, Currie said. architecture.
“The exciting thing about this is that it is designed to a new set of energy standards – the Powerhouse Standard. These companies are not governed by a third party, but are formed by a consortium of companies – architects (Snohetta), development company Skanska, real estate agency Entra, corporate consultant Asplan Viak, aluminum producer Sapa Og and environmental non-profit organization Zero,” he explains.
“It’s a standard that has come out of Norway, where the goal is all buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050. It’s the cradle of the grave – or rather the cradle of the cradle – hitting the mark. Certification rates buildings produce more energy over their lifetime than they will use. The ‘duration of existence’ has been set by the group as 60 years. “
It’s part of a broader wave of hotel design that takes into account not only how much damage building a hotel can have but also how much of an impact it can have in terms of emissions or waste in each years of its existence – including the need for future works, repairs or upgrades.
While some in the construction industry have been slow to adopt better practices aligned with climate concerns, Currie is optimistic that thinking in the tourism sector is becoming more holistic, focused more on the concept of “lifetime of a building”.
“Hopefully more people are thinking long-term – in terms of lifecycle costs, rather than an initial amount.”
In this sense, we can see a chicken and egg scenario with hotel maintainability – motels will care, because designers and developers care. And they’re doing something about it.