The first purpose-built luxury hotel in London for 40 years, the Bulgari in Knightsbridge, boasts not only an impressive range of luxury facilities and an outstanding location, but also superb environmental credentials.
The Bulgari was assessed under BREEAM, a scheme used around the world to rate and certify the sustainability of buildings. The Bulgari achieved the coveted Excellent rating in recognition of its sustainable design and environmental performance in areas such as sustainable management practices, energy and water use, impact on local ecology and minimising pollution.
Geothermal ground-source heat pumps built into the fabric of the building provide substantial carbon savings, while the green roof incorporates boxes for bats and birds, including peregrine falcons. Among a multitude of other features, electric car charging points support environmentally friendly forms of transport, and 20 bikes are available for guests to explore London.
Being green saves money
In the past there has been the perception that buildings focusing on sustainability are necessarily more costly to construct, extend or renovate than those that simply comply with building regulations. But there is a growing body of research that now challenges that perception.
A recent study by Sweett Group and BRE, for example, has applied cost data from real construction products to a range of case study buildings to produce detailed capital and operational cost information. To examine the capital costs of achieving overall levels of building sustainability, the researchers used the costs associated with gaining Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent ratings under the BREEAM New Construction scheme.
They concluded that achieving the lower BREEAM ratings can incur little or no additional cost. Targeting the higher BREEAM ratings, and so more challenging levels of sustainability, incurs some additional cost, but this is typically less than 2 per cent. The investigation of lifecycle operational costs showed that any additional cost can be paid back within two to five years through utility savings.
This can be particularly significant in the leisure sector, as running hotels and leisure centres demands high levels of energy and water consumption, along with the extensive use of chemicals for cleaning, the disposal of large quantities of waste and other activities that impact on the environment. While this presents challenges, it also represents an opportunity to make savings through sustainable building design and practices that reduce resource consumption and waste.
The rise of eco-awareness
It’s not just luxury hotels like the Bulgari that are turning to BREEAM to enhance and demonstrate their sustainability – and to differentiate themselves from less green competitors. With an increasing number of eco-conscious holiday and business travellers to cater for, more than 200 hotels in the UK and internationally have registered for a BREEAM assessment.
Like the Bulgari, a number of these are achieving impressive levels of sustainability. The design of the £22m Radisson Blu hotel at East Midlands Airport in the UK, for example, has been awarded one of the highest BREEAM scores for a hotel to date.
The Radisson Blu uses a range of low-energy technologies to reduce energy demand, such as interior and exterior motion sensitive lighting. These are supplemented by an on-site combined heat and power (CHP) engine with a pure plant oil (PPO) tri-generation energy centre – which exports electricity to the national grid outside of normal occupancy hours. The Radisson Blu has reported that this system delivers an 87 per cent reduction in CO2 and supplies up to 90 per cent of the consumed energy from a renewable source.
Other sustainability features include a surface water drainage system that uses porous paving in the car park, attenuation tanks and a rainwater harvesting system.
Well-known chains are also represented on the list of BREEAM assessed hotels, including Travelodge and Holiday Inn. Whitbread has gone a step further, working with BRE to develop a set of sustainability criteria that is tailored specifically to the company’s chain of Premier Inn hotels. The bespoke BREEAM Whitbread Premier Inn scheme is applied to the development of all Premier Inn hotel buildings.
Furthermore, a new sub-brand, Hub by Premier Inn, launched in 2015. The Covent Garden branch became the first hotel in the UK to receive an Outstanding rating at the design stage. The £30m hotel uses cutting-edge technologies to achieve energy efficiency, with sustainability embedded into the project from the pre-planning stage through the design and construction process and on into the building’s operational life. There are now three of the high-tech city Hub hotels in London, while two more are under construction in Edinburgh.
A growing number of BREEAM-registered hotels are outside the UK, in countries such as Switzerland, France, Belgium and Norway. They include the refurbishment, carried out by Skanska, of the 532-room Royal Christiana in central Oslo – the design of which achieved a Very Good rating.
The project involved the interior redevelopment of the 14-storey, 9,100sqm building. This included improvements to the hotel’s energy and water efficiency, and the installation of a building management system (BMS) that allows resource consumption to be accurately monitored and further savings encouraged. These savings have included an almost 10 per cent reduction in energy use reported by the Royal Christiana hotel.
The redevelopment also included measures to enhance the building’s indoor environment. For example, all of the fluorescent lights were fitted with high-frequency ballasts to provide high quality lighting without the flicker that can cause eye strain and headaches. Thermal modelling was carried out to optimise comfort and each hotel room is provided with individual heating controls. BREEAM acoustics standards have been met to ensure appropriate indoor ambient noise levels. In addition, a large terrace offers staff, guests and visitors access to an outdoor space with seating.
The use of environmentally responsible materials was an important feature of the redevelopment. The stone wool insulation used on the project, for example, was made from naturally occurring volcanic diabase rock, which is a renewable raw material. The insulation also contains around 20 per cent coke and slag materials – a valuable use of these common waste products from industrial processes. In addition, stone wool insulation is also almost entirely recyclable when no longer required.
The project also considered the wider issues of sustainable urban development, for example, by demonstrating the environmental management of storm water – the hotel basement is equipped with an oil separator to avoid contaminating the city’s storm water systems.
Making the difference
Meanwhile, in Spain, the NH Ribera del Manzanares has received an Outstanding BREEAM certification for its environmental management, the first hotel in the world to achieve the rating. The Madrid-based Del Manzanares, which is setting the standard for other locations in the NH Hotel group, was assessed on the categories of management, health and wellbeing, energy, transport, water use, materials, waste, ecological land use, pollution and innovation, receiving Excellent-rated scores.
The carbon-neutral hotel also has to meet the company’s own water-saving and energy-saving targets, which are tracked regularly. LED lighting, an environmentally sound purchasing policy, electric vehicle charging, bike rental and an eco-friendly conference package are further initiatives in place. The hotel also achieved a BREEAM rating of Very Good for the building itself.
In Barcelona, Le Méridien received a BREEAM rating for sustainable construction after the original building was renovated and modernised. It’s aiming to reduce energy consumption by 30 per cent and water consumption by 20 per cent by 2020.
Le Méridien Barcelona has energy and carbon dioxide emissions meters that are constantly surveyed, waste and recycling separation in all parts of the hotel, LED lights and electric car charge points, as well as a “green choice” programme when it comes to conferences and meetings.
All these things can help a building qualify for BREEAM certification, as well as saving money and the environment. It shows, beyond doubt, that in hospitality, small changes make a big difference.