In the U.S., hotels spend in excess of $7.5 billion on energy each year according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This translates to an average spend of nearly $2,200 per available room each year on energy by the more than 47,000 hotels and motels in America, which, in turn, accounts for around 6 percent of all domestic hotel operating costs.
Robert Attaway, director of engineering for the Westin Buckhead Atlanta, has been continuously working on making his hotel the most efficient it can be in the past 16 years he’s been with the property.
Over the last five years, Attaway has been collaborating with the hotel's owners to keep energy consumption down.
“If you waste energy, you’re wasting money,” he said. “But with increasing energy efficiency, we can actually increase guest comfort and save money.”
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide recently implemented a “30/20 by 20” program to reduce energy use by 30 percent and cut water consumption by 20 percent by 2020 at all its properties.
“We really think of energy efficiency by data first,” said Andrea Pinabell, VP of sustainability at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. “We track energy, water and waste, and then use that data to develop a multi-faceted approach to reduce our impact.”
Starwood Hotels enabled a third-party energy and water audit in 2011 and looks for a return on investment of less than a year on energy-efficient projects and for capital projects with the lowest initial costs for the biggest impact.
The Westin Buckhead has initiated several low-cost, high-payback measures to save energy, such as using LED lighting throughout the hotel, replacing the kitchen exhaust hoods with those that automatically sense smoke or steam to run efficiently, and only operating the ice machines at night. The hotel has done larger-ticket items as well, such as installing a water pressure system, a guestroom energy management system and an energy recovery unit, which can change the inside air temperatures by up to 50 degrees in the winter and 30 degrees in the summer months, Attaway said.
Mike Prevatte, owner of Wilmington Development, which has a Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites in Wilmington, N.C., is a strong proponent of energy management systems. Prevatte built his properties with Lodging Technologies’ energy management system in place. The extended-stay MainStay Suites has an interface with its cooktops in guestrooms that will automatically turn it off if the guest leaves the room.
“Energy management products have a great ROI, and with the use of cellular activity instead of wiring, you can save a lot on installation costs,” he said.
How design impacts savings
Hotel lighting is accountable for a significant percentage of energy usage, and is something that impacts guests’ perceptions of a space. Lighting is a great place for hoteliers to look when contemplating changes that might benefit both guests and the bottom line.
Ross Burch, project director at design company Wilson Associates Dallas, said that the biggest impact designers can make in increasing a hotel’s energy efficiency is in the lighting choices. “Light-emitting diode [LED] lighting has become a huge component and part of our specifications,” he said. “They have a longer life and use less energy. They require less manpower to replace when the time comes. We now use LED lighting in everything from desk lights, bedside lamps to huge light installations across the hotel.”
While LEDs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, these lamps can often pay for themselves through energy and maintenance savings. Robert Attaway, director of engineering for the Westin Buckhead Atlanta, said his hotel now exclusively uses LED lighting throughout the property.
Many hotel operators now have green initiatives with standards that they require within design. “This is so fantastic to see, because in the past, we as designers were required to take the lead on incorporating energy-saving techniques wherever we could, and now operators are issuing those standards to us,” Burch said. “Products like keycards that shut off lights and A/C when you leave the room, dimmers, electric shade and LED lights all make a huge impact."
How to make a hotel's energy efficiency easier
Many hotels have been able to complete their energy efficiency upgrades through partnerships, rebates and incentives from local, state and federal governments along with power companies. Late last year, the Energy Department announced $9 million to encourage investments in energy-saving technologies that can be tested and deployed in hotels and other types of commercial buildings.
Mike Hardin, VP of asset management for Apple REIT Companies, makes a point to choose energy efficiency upgrades to hotels that have rebates available. “We investigate all the things we can do to lower the overall costs so we can do as many upgrades to as many hotels as possible in a year,” he said.
Hardin uses a third-party utility consultant, which brings the utilities upgrade opportunities directly to him. “Things like solar opportunities, ozone laundry systems—and they constantly review all the utilities for us,” he said. “They will correct bills and notice where we may have leaks or broken meters. It saves us money and stops any bleeding as quickly as possible. It’s definitely worth the relatively low-cost expense that I highly recommend.”
The MainStay Suites and Sleep Inn in Wilmington, N.C., was recently able to upgrade its outdoor parking lot lighting with a rebate and incentive from the local power company, said Mike Prevatte, owner of Wilmington Development. This was a move that Prevatte expects to generate significant savings, especially when the hotel reaches its peak April-to-September season.
The Phoenician, a Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., partnered with NRG Energy, Inc. to integrate clean sustainable energy at the resort with approximately 2,000 photovoltaic solar panels. The installation will offset a portion of the resort’s energy demand, and this project is the first of several between NRG and Starwood. The partnership will also incorporate solar installations at The Westin St. John Resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands and The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka‘anapali.