September 19, 2019
IN 2018, the global hotel industry had a 2.3-percent growth, allowing it to reach more than $1.4 trillion in revenues. According to STR Global, there are approximately 187,000 hotels around the world that offer around 17.5 million guest rooms. On account of this growth, the industry contributed 5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Just picture the environmental impact the hospitality industry has on the environment and the amount of natural resources and energy spent in its construction and operations. Fortunately, an increasing number of travelers are choosing to stay in green or eco-friendly accommodations, according to a 2019 sustainable travel report. It is encouraging to know that an increasing number of people are more conscious about how their travels impact the environment and are opting for sustainable travel options.
How can hotels and resorts go green? The main considerations for green buildings include site planning and development, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and material selection. For site planning and development, hotel and resort developers must be respectful of the natural environment, ensuring the design is harmonious with the natural elements and there are minimal adjustments to natural and biodiverse habitats. Land is among the most precious resources, and through sustainable planning and design, the topography and landscapes can be conserved and protected. Instead of defacing mountainsides and clearing vast areas to provide space for hotel buildings, villas and other amenities, it would be best for developments to highlight or exhibit the natural landscape and the richness of the local ecology as its best asset. At the same time, existing sites, regardless of their improbability to be transformed into hotels and resorts, can be reused or repurposed. The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland Hotel is a great transformation story. What was once an abandoned quarry 289 feet below the ground was converted to a luxury hotel with 336 rooms and 18 floors — 16 of which are subterranean while two are underwater. It is the first of its kind in the world, and the ingenuity of the design melds luxury with sustainable development because majority of the construction was kept within the former mining pit.
Likewise, existing buildings can be adaptively reused to serve as hotels or resorts. My favorite examples are the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore and the Rizal Park Hotel in Manila. Known as one of Singapore’s iconic landmarks, the Fullerton Hotel was previously an administration building where the General Post Office was located. Built in the 1900s, the structure witnessed most of Singapore’s historic moments. Today, after extensive renovations and restoration, it is now a six-star hotel, with the original façade and interiors revived and maintained. In the past, the Rizal Park Hotel was once the Manila Army and Navy Club — the heart of social life during the American occupation. Completed in 1911, it served as the first “American social club.” We at Palafox were honored to take part in the conservation of this historic structure by restoring the façade. Our aim was to give respect to the original post-war design by William E. Parsons, so we retained the Doric column design, floor plan, and beams through retrofitting. The trademark grand staircase, octagonal lobby and porte cochère were revived while a skylight was added to bring natural daylight into the structure, giving the atrium a dramatic effect. We believe historic preservation adds to the appeal of hotels and resorts, and the environmental costs of demolishing and constructing structures are much higher than adaptive reuse.
In order to provide high-quality services and the utmost comfort to its guests, the hospitality industry has become a major consumer of energy, further contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases. Hotel and resorts can greatly benefit from switching to sustainable energy measures like using renewable sources and incorporating passive cooling and heating and energy-efficient lighting, among others. Electricity bills can be substantially reduced to 60 percent. Aside from cutting down on costs, efforts to integrate sustainability in operations produce distinction and a marketing advantage. Hotels and resorts worldwide harness clean energy sources such as solar, hydropower, wind and even geothermal energy to power up their facilities. Passive design, which optimizes spatial planning, strategic orientation, and the microclimate to promote natural ventilation and lighting, can also help reduce energy usage. Through passive design, there can still be good ventilation and lighting without relying on electricity. The structure’s floor plan, orientation, and features like high ceilings, operable windows, atriums, breezeways, landscaping and water features can help maximize wind direction for better airflow for cooling and ventilation and at the same time avoid too much glare for heat gain reduction. LED and smart lighting also significantly contribute to energy savings.
The choice of building materials is a major criterion for eco-friendly hotels and resorts. Sustainable materials may be locally available, renewable or recycled. The idea is to use materials produced with minimal carbon footprint during manufacturing and transportation until end-of-life. Sustainably harvested wood, bamboo, recycled asphalt, precast concrete, thatch, locally obtained stones, and clay are just a few examples of sustainable materials used today. Because they are indigenous to the region, locally sourced and made materials also add to the sociocultural authenticity and uniqueness of structures. Other important environment-friendly elements that hotels and resorts should invest in include water harvesting and water recycling mechanisms, wastewater treatment systems, on-site vegetable farms, electric-powered vehicles and plastic-free initiatives.
As the hospitality and tourism industry grows, it is clear that it is not exempted from doing its share of applying sustainable development and best practices. Its challenge today is to find a way to expand further while doing it sustainably and responsibly to reduce its carbon footprint.
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