HM on Location: Sustainability in the spotlight at Hotec Design

PALM BEACH ISLAND, Fla. — Sustainability was a key topic at the recent Hotec Design conference held at the Breakers Palm Beach, with several attendees sharing ways that their companies are promoting practices that will benefit local communities and the planet at large.


Christopher Askew, principal of A Squared Design Studio, suggested Nanimarquina’s area rugs as a good example of sustainable design. The company supplies rugs that look and feel like 100 percent wool but are made from recycled plastic bottles. “It's going to allow us to be able to do so much more for design into our world and into all of our projects that we work on,” he said.

Similarly, Jake Steingraeber, director of market development at Prestwick Limited, said his company uses high-density polyethylene plastic from recycled milk jugs to make customized towel valets and towel returns for hotel pools and beaches. 

Askew also cited Mamagreen, an Indonesian outdoor furniture company that sources its teak wood from buildings slated for demolition, as a good example of repurposing materials. 

Upcycling products like plastic bottles and old wood “really [does] help offset the carbon footprint of a lot of the factories,” Askew said. “The more we try to put our efforts toward doing this, I think the better it's going to be for the future.”

Longevity and Locality

Another factor to consider is longevity. Steingraeber noted that the recycled plastics used in Prestwick’s valets will work in a range of outdoor environments due to ultraviolet inhibitors and color that goes all the way through the piece. “It's not wood, it’s not metal; it doesn't fade, dent or scratch.” As such, the piece can remain functional for years rather than ending up in a landfill after the color begins to go. 

The recent surge in fuel prices has made shipping materials from one continent to another cost-prohibitive. Askew said shipping from factories in Europe and Asia can cost an additional “tens of thousands” of dollars, whether the materials are on a container or air freighted. “So what we've done is we've tried to source from local fabric mills that are in those regions where we produce our furniture,” he said. “This is going to help everybody on the bottom line.” 

Sourcing materials locally can also drive the aesthetic of a property. The team at art consultation firm Faulkner+Locke worked alongside Atlanta-based interior design firm Blur Workshop and a local artist to develop an installation for Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel & Casino Resort in North Carolina. The artist, principal Sally Faulkner said, found boulders on the surrounding tribal land and turned them into a piece that reflects the Cherokee origin story. The piece, weighing “several thousand pounds,” had to be installed before the flooring was completed, she added. 

Environmental, Social and Governance

Toward the end of the conference, several attendees participated in a panel on the growing demand for Environmental, Social and Governance—a set of criteria used to screen investments based on corporate policies and to encourage corporate responsibility. Panelists discussed the challenges of not only keeping individual projects sustainable but in promoting awareness of the need for sustainability. 

Sarah Bonsall, regional director & director, architecture & technical services (Americas) at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, said that anyone looking to collaborate with the luxury hotel company has to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold standards as a minimum. Hotels in the brand are also plastic-free, which can pose some unique challenges: Even soap pumps in a bathroom will typically use at least some plastic, she noted. “It’s a lot harder than you might think.” 

As the company has gained ground and as average daily rate has improved, developers have approached the Six Senses team to learn more about their sustainable policies, Bonsall said. “Our standards are just a given now for a lot of the people that we're talking to.” 

Cadiz Collaboration CEO Lorraine Francis noted that new tools are making it easier for experts to accurately determine the sustainability of a product, and thus the overall sustainability of a full project. 

JoAnna Abrams, CEO of sustainability rating company MindClick Global, recalled working on a Courtyard by Marriott in Southern California and developing data around the environmental and social impact of the property’s products and spaces. The company then created a marketing campaign based on that data and shared it with the guests. When the hotel conducted its customer satisfaction survey, they learned that those who paid attention to the campaign and were aware of the sustainability efforts were more likely to return to that hotel and recommend it to others. “We saw a 150 percent increase in the likelihood of choosing that property, referring it to others and their affinity for the Marriott brand name as a direct result of telling the story of how the flooring, the seating, the wall coverings, the casegoods ... were contributing to the health of people on the planet.” 

Awareness of ESG has only grown since then, Abrams noted: “ just completed a study of thousands of travelers worldwide. Seventy percent said that they were seeking locations to stay that shared their values around environmental and social responsibility.”  

Hotec Design is produced by Questex Hospitality, the parent company of Hotel Management magazine.