Sustainability is fast becoming a new benchmark in the hospitality sector. What initially started with the lofty goals of the UN Global Compact in 1999 has since evolved into a consensus in the corporate world of the value of CSR strategies and a whole new approach to green building certification of construction, refurbishment and repurposing, BREEAM, LEED and DGNB.
Guiding this climate-friendly development are not only the visions of policymakers but also a burgeoning awareness among industry decision-makers that sustainability is increasingly in popular demand. Booking.com carried out a large international survey in 2017, which showed that hotel guests prefer sustainable accommodation.
A total of 68 percent of more than 11,000 respondents said they were more likely to choose a hotel if it were eco-friendly, and 46 percent considered themselves to be sustainable travellers. Sustainability has become a competitive industry parameter, offering unique opportunities for investors and hotel operators alike.
Consumer preferences are not the only reasons why green building certification makes perfect economic sense. Certification also guarantees the value of a long-term investment in a building by ensuring that it enjoys greater flexibility of use throughout its lifecycle.
“If a building can be repurposed more easily in compliance with future building standards, which are expected to become tougher, then having your building certified is a way of future-proofing your investment and revenues,” says Director of Green Building Council Denmark (DK-GBC), Mette Qvist, to GUEST magazine.
From an operational perspective, costs are also considerably lower. The perception has traditionally been that sustainable buildings are costlier to construct, extend or renovate than buildings complying with standard building regulations, but a growing body of research now challenges these established ideas.
Complying with leading green building certification almost comes at no extra cost, according to a recent study by the Sweet Group and BRE Academy in the UK. They compared regular construction cost data with BREEAM-certified case study buildings to examine the capital costs of achieving different levels of sustainability, grading them either Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent under the BREEAM New Construction certification programme, which is a tried and tested scheme launched in 1990.
Their conclusion was that the lower BREEAM ratings (requiring approx. 30 percent compliance) incur little or no additional cost to construction. There are some additional costs with the higher BREEAM ratings, although typically less than 2 percent. When taking utility savings into consideration, the higher initial investment was paid back within two to five years.
Cost-cutting benefits for operators can particularly be significant in the hospitality sector that requires high levels of energy and water consumption along with extensive use of housekeeping chemicals and where large quantities of waste and other maintenance activities impact the environment.
One recent example of the considerable operational savings offered by BREEAM-compliance is AccorHotels. A client satisfaction survey had showed that 60 percent of their guests indicated a preference for sustainable accommodation. They were even willing to pay more to minimise their carbon footprint. Thus encouraged, AccorHotels adopted a strategy whereby all newly constructed brand hotels are to be BREEAM-certified starting in 2020.
Piloting their new strategy, the recently constructed Novotel London Canary Wharf Hotel is designed to lower CO2 emissions by 30 percent compared to regular buildings. Rainwater is recycled and waste has been reduced by 30 percent, too. All in all, AccorHotels has defined 65 concrete measuring points for sustainability for the London hotel, which is expected to achieve the highest possible BREEAM-rating. With such clear savings on utilities there is arguably little reason why guests at AccorHotels should ever need to pay more for sustainability.