I’ve been on the road for most of the month of March, including two trips to the West Coast – my own version of “March Madness” – and I’ve become more aware of the lodging industry’s high energy usage. When you stop to consider the “24/7” nature of hotels, the variety of services they provide and the transient and somewhat wasteful energy-use habits of guests, energy efficiency opportunities abound. Any savings derived from a hotel property’s energy budget can be reinvested elsewhere.
In 2000, the Alliance to Save Energy reported that the lodging industry was the fourth most intensive user of energy in the U.S. commercial sector. In the United States and Mexico, energy costs in the lodging industry average nearly $2 per square foot. The hotel industry spends about $500 per room per year for fuel and electricity.
One thing is for certain: there is no such thing as a typical hotel. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reported that in 2001, the U.S. hospitality industry was comprised of more than 53,000 properties with in excess of 4.1 million rooms, generating $108.5 billion in revenues.
Energy use and efficiency improvement opportunities for hotels and other hospitality facilities are closely related to the geographical location and the nature of the operations within the facility. Climate is a major factor, particularly in northern and southern locations that experience temperature (and humidity) extremes.
Hotel guests, myself occasionally included, pay top dollar for a home-away-from-home. Personally, it’s hard to top the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, or The Four Seasons in Chicago, but I haven’t spent many nights at either since my corporate days ended.
Regardless of the property or the room rate, we all want and expect certain comforts and convenience in our lodging facility of choice. We want control over room temperatures, the ability to take limitless hot showers 24 hours a day (preferably with a Speakman showerhead), to leave the room set at the perfect temperature whether we are occupying it at the time or not, and to leave the room without worrying whether the lights are still on. We enjoy round-the-clock room service and access to restaurants, business offices, conference rooms, stores, and spas. And the primary focus of the sharpest hotel owners and managers is to deliver those amenities.
A hotel’s services and activities also have a major influence on energy costs, a fact not always understood by hotel management. Many hotels have “energy sinks” that go unnoticed or get ignored because the energy is not accounted for on an individual operation basis. Most hotels don’t really know how much it costs to maintain a pool facility or in-house laundry services, so they don’t consider measures that could reduce energy costs in those operations. They believe it is an essential operation and must be maintained at any cost. This practice tends to overlook the potential savings from improving efficiency.
There are pockets of excellence in hotel energy efficiency efforts. Excellence in energy management is a philosophy that starts at the top and runs through theStarwood Hotels’ owned, leased, managed and franchised hotels, totaling 748 hotels with approximately 227,000 rooms in 79 countries. You know Starwood by its better-known brand names including St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, Sheraton®, Westin®, W® and Four Points® by Sheraton.
Sound energy management is so important to Starwood that its corporate headquarters has dedicated three full-time employees to oversee the company’s energy performance. These employees are not responsible for other facility/engineering issues, and are dedicated solely to improving the energy efficiency of Starwood’s hotels. This group also provides training to hotel general managers and engineers, develops and implements energy projects and investigates new energy efficient technologies and tracking programs.
Starwood’s measurable energy performance goals include basing a portion of the Energy Department’s bonuses on energy consumption reduction, and to have a portion of each hotel’s executive management incentive based on obtaining the Energy Star label for hotels or by improving Energy Star Benchmarking tool score.
Energy efficiency is a priority when purchasing equipment. The Energy Star label was a line-item in the assesment of televisions to be purchased for guest rooms,at multiple properties. Starwood will purchase 12,000 to 15,000 TVs with the Energy Star label. Starwood’s Strategic Sourcing department is currently in the process of specifying Energy Star labeled products, where available, in corporate purchasing policies, with a goal of finalizing new policies by the second quarter, 2002.
Starwood has committed to spending at least $45 million over the next four years on energy efficient projects at all of its owned hotels. Starwood’s 2001 energy achivements include:
- Dedicated $8.5 million to energy efficiency projects
- 10 year contract signed November 2000, to provide commodity and energy efficient projects.
- 38 Ozone Laundries installed, which use Ozone to clean laundry. These systems use fewer chemicals, less water, and little to no hot water. Substantial gas, electric, and water consumption savings obtained.
- Instituted a “Green Program,” giving hotel guests the option of not changing room linens each day.
- Signed letters of intent to install four fuel cells at New Jersey and Connecticut hotels by the fall of 2002.
- 23 VFD’s installed at several hotels, on various motors, and two chiller VFD and efficiency projects complete.
- CO 2 sensors installed to prevent constant fan motors running.
- Seven hotels retrofitted with high efficiency lighting.
- Two hotels retrofitted with Inncom guestroom controls and full EMS to reduce temperature while the room is unoccupied.
- Two hotels retrofitted with Vending Misers to reduce energy consumption on vending machines during low use times
The financial value of Starwood’s energy efficiency accomplishments include:
- Results equivalent to increasing corporate profit margins $3.4 million.
- Energy cost savings equivalent to the salary of approximately 25-50 additional personnel, with benefits
- Results equivalent to renting 9,370 rooms after backing out operating costs.
- A payaback of approximately 2 ½ -years.
There is a wealth of information about energy efficiency opportunities in hospitality facilities and no shortage of case studies about hotel energy savings. Hotel operators need only determine what operations exist in their facilities and then match themselves to similar places where measures have been proven to reduce energy. Several hospitality trade associations have established energy efficiency programs for their members and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed resources directed at such facilities.
Opportunities to save energy and improve the bottom line in the lodging industry seem to be as numerous as the abundance of hotel properties and rooms. The hotel management team that recognizes and plans for upgrades and improvements makes its property more desirable, thus generating higher occupancy rates and revenues, while reducing operating costs. It’s a win-win situation that demands attention. And there’s a hidden benefit: hotels that successfully implement energy-saving strategies and communicate these upgrades to their guests often spark a change in behavior in those guests, too.
The 2001 Lodging Industry Profile, American Hotel & Lodging Association, Washington, D.C., www.ahla.com
Alliance to Save Energy