The art of sustainable hotel design

By Mark van Ogtrop
October 2019
Beacon Sky Hospitality

How do you slash operating costs, gain respect in the community and fill more rooms?
“Go green or get left behind.”
That's the message hoteliers are receiving.


Sustainability is a hot topic in the hospitality industry and will only become increasingly important as travelers demand environmentally aware travel experiences. No longer a nice after thought, green practices are fast becoming an essential part of hotel development and management strategy to reduce the impact of operations on the environment (as well as the budget), and enhance credibility with locals and visitors alike.


Mark Van Ogtrop of Beacon Sky Hospitality’s Trend Watch, met with Armelle Le Bihan, Founder & Director of Green Building Consulting and Engineering to discuss the art of sustainable hospitality design


MVO: Tell me about your company and your ‘brand promise’?
ALB: “We help create high performance buildings that promote people’s well being while preserving the planet. We support our clients in their sustainability journey by designing and defining the sustainability strategy for their business. Our aim is to optimise operational designs by developing concepts and design specifications that meet sustainability standards and international certifications. We develop guidelines that have environmental as well as social meaning. This applies to new builds but also existing buildings (renovation).


MVO: What are some sustainable design construction trends in hospitality?
ALB: “There is a growing demand for self-sustainable or ‘off the grid’ construction. Especially for hotels in rural areas or on islands. Self-sustained means independent from municipal utilities. Built to produce their own energy and water. Secondly there is a shift to a broader understanding of the concept of ‘carbon footprint’. Now, when a business conducts a carbon assessment, they factor in the whole business: operations, the building, the suppliers. We also see an awareness a greater focus on the life cycle of the materials used. How much energy, how much carbon, and how much water is used to manufacture them? Thirdly there is a growing awareness of healthy buildings. For hospitality and offices also. Buildings that have better air quality, better ventilation and access to natural views and nature.”


MVO: Is green construction more expensive?
ALB: “This is a big misconception. It's unfortunate that sustainability is seen as an extra cost in the hospitality sector. If anything it's an investment. The average initial increased cost is less than 2%. People think it's 20%. The carbon trust estimates that you can save around 20% on your energy bills by implementing low cost and no cost measures. These measures payback in less than one year. On top of which, with the increase of environmental regulations, these measures are slowly not becoming an option. Then there is the shift in consumer trends. People want green. Trip Advisor reports that 60% of guests are looking for environmentally aware hotels. Investors need to understand there's a risk of obsolescence in building assets that don't take sustainability measures into account.”


MVO: What do you recommend to hospitality investors looking to start up a sustainable hotel?
ALB: “The first thing is to ensure you bring in the right consultants at the outset of the project. There are a lot of opportunities at the design and architecture phase: the shape and orientation of the building. Architecture that works with the climate to conserve water, energy, light and ventilation.” I would also suggest a local focus. On products and materials. Guests are looking for meaningful experiences. Their business will have a responsibility to the planet so all the solutions for green hotels help guests participate in solving crisis issues like climate change, waste disposal and air pollution.


MVO: Is there a financial advantage as well as an environmental advantage to sustainability?
ALB: “The two major drivers of green development are brand enhancement and lower operational costs. So in terms of marketing advantage, you can enhance your brand and corporate image, which in turn improves customer loyalty and satisfaction. It is all linked. In terms of financial value, of course, you save on the cost of energy and water. But there are less obvious payoffs as well. Higher asset value of buildings, higher occupancy rates. Climate change, air pollution and waste aren't just all environmental issues, they are economic issues and this has financial value.


Beacon Sky Hospitality is an advisory firm based in Thailand, specialising in the hospitality industry. Providing qualified guidance and solutions to owners, developers of hospitality real estate, including hotel, resorts and independent living projects. Beacon Sky Hospitality’s services comprise owner advisory and asset management, development advisory, operations and management solutions, financial advisory and independent living community development.