The idea that luxury hospitality can be environment-friendly was once seen as a non-starter. The attitude of 'if you need to ask the price, you can't afford it' was common and extravagant offerings in opulent surroundings, got the star grading. However, responsible customers are encouraging service providers, to review practices to shift towards environmental consciousness. Backstage, there is growing motivation as sustainability practices are cutting running costs, thereby extending sustainability in account ledgers too!
The Indian hospitality experienceThe hospitality sector in India is a major customer for real estate development, ahead of commercial developments like malls and office spaces. The push comes from the mission to attract tourists for entertainment, business and for medical tourism too. In the backdrop of the global slowdown, the dipping of the Indian Rupee and several natural disasters, the industry discovered the potential of the domestic traveler market. The expectations, according to the Planning Commission, are that by 2016, the country may be handling 11.24 million foreign tourists and 1,450.46 million domestic tourists; room requirement is expected to be close to 50,00,000, which translates into a 45% growth on 2010 requirements. Prioritizing meeting accommodation requirements and promoting growth, the government policies are offering Hotel and Tourism sector several tax incentives, for the new star graded budget accommodation. Interest rates have also been tailored for the sector by separating it from other commercial real estate. Foreign Direct Investment inroads have also been cleared of several speed breakers.
While all these incentives paint a rosy picture, the ground reality is that the sector has to deal with several operating clearances and tax commitments. These are often mitigated by lean and green measures incorporated right from the design stage.
Building for energy conservation
That said the extent to which hotel architecture and design is actually based on green principles, is doubtful. Owners are concerned about the additional costs and the perceived lowering of quality of guest experience, when compared to traditional definitions of luxury. Many hotels are self-declared green as they take in superficial modifications in fixtures or furnishings.
Sharing benefitsMost luxury properties have now incorporated these practices, as they opt for the Ecotel status or LEED certification in the building design. Though the initial costs are likely to be higher with the choice of materials and addition of waste recycling equipment, the operating costs are estimated to see reductions of 20-25%. Most ethical conscious businesses share these benefits with their customers.
Besides getting better room rates, ecofriendly hotels offer an involved experience to visitors as they are designed to safeguard neighborhood environment. So the walking green, bird sanctuary, lake or reserve forest sets the atmosphere for the stay. So the D Caves boutique hotel in Hyderabad designed by Sanjay Puri Architects, has developed itself around large boulders from the natural landscape. City based hotels like The Orchid at Mumbai is a zero garbage hotel that keeps the neighborhood clean too. In a metro, that is a huge relief. The hotel is Asia's first certified eco-friendly five star and the world's only Ecotel to be certified as ISO: 14001 (Environmental Management Standard).
Lighter on the pocketThe fresh design trends are cutting on utility costs by offering a wide scope for natural lighting and climate control. Glass facades and walls are the easiest tools to light up areas. These glass products have addressed the challenge with innovations for color lighting, solar energy capture and other conveniences. Using the roof space for solar panels is almost a norm. Power consumption is remodeled for solar lighting and heating. Choosing energy efficient luminaries like LED and CFL with sensor technology and compact lighting products show the way. The ITC Group is a leader in adapting green architecture for its constructions across the country. Their ITC Hotels are credited with pioneering 'Responsible Luxury' in the country. Projects like ITC Royal Gardenia, with its LEED India Platinum Rating, have gone on to actually build its own wind farm for renewable electricity.
Water, another precious commodity, is both conserved and recycled. Plumbing fixtures efficiently cut water use, while preserving the experience for guests. Separating black water and grey water, rainwater harvesting and recycling water are practices that sanitize the area and the environment too. Use of ozone over chlorine additives in areas like swimming pools keeps the water safe and makes recycling more effective. Keeping out the Indian summer are vertical gardens and other foliage covers that thrive on recycled water. That they pretty up the facades, keep interiors cool and fresh works for all involved.
Other initiatives include CFC free air conditioners, minimizing use of stationery and plastic, linen reuse and due diligence for product sourcing. Garbage management concerns work backwards to dropping the usage of foil and plastic. Business hotels like the Ginger brand have included several measures to reduce consumption. Their spaces are easy to clean as are their furnishings. Opulence is substituted with efficient services to keep guests comfortable.
The new face of hospitality is accessed by technology from booking to checkout. Operations are designed to work for ensuring minimum wastage of food and material. These are the small touches that the hotel industry is applying to extend their hospitality to the environment.
Ecotel® Certification for Environmentally Sensitive HotelsEcotel® Certification or the 5 Globes is based on five areas of environment responsibility. A hotel must earn at least 2 Globes for certification.
The Five Globes:
- Energy efficiency
- Water conservation
- Employee education and community involvement
- Solid waste management
- Environmental commitment