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Thu 25 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Sustaining services

Can sustainable engineering techniques be effectively applied in the hospitality sector while maintaining a high level of service?

Sustaining services
The Park Inn, Muscat, is one example of a hotel now implementing sustainable management in its day-to-day operations.
Sustaining services
A standard room at the Park Inn, Muscat.
Sustaining services
Philips LED lights on the Intercontinental Hotels Group properties Dubai Festival City.

Facilities Management Middle East investigates the methods being used by the region’s hotels and their potential benefits.

Providing the comfort, cleanliness and quality expected of the region’s top hotels is the primary role of the sector’s facilities management and engineering teams. Finding ways to do this more effectively and efficiently to meet growing cost and legislative pressures has become their biggest challenge to date.

Many are now looking towards sustainable engineering products and practices to ensure that comfortable temperatures, lighting and sufficient clean water are supplied, while the hotel design and service policies are maintained and waste is reduced. As awareness of sustainability grows and technology improves, so too has the number of products and services which are available locally. As a result, an increasingly diverse range of solutions are being used in Middle East hotels, from water saving devices to efficient lighting and recycling techniques.

The changing market

So what sustainable solutions are proving popular for hotels and how are the market views of green engineering changing?

“Almost every hotel, old and new, is now implementing sustainable management in their day-to-day operation,” said Park Inn Muscat chief engineer Sushant Pawar. The costs and complexity of the solutions chosen as part of this process vary greatly as do the resulting effects on operating costs.

The areas that have been most regularly targeted by facilities managers (FM) to date are of water and electricity use. The reason for this is because they are among the simplest to apply and provide large savings almost immediately. “Lighting and low flow water devices…are the low hanging fruit in this area, with less complexity for installing and solutions are readily available on the market,” explains Tom Lord, hotel manager, InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai Festival City.

“Water faucet devices have been here for a long time and we see a lot of them being implemented, giving controlled water savings,” adds Ashroff Shakoor, director of engineering at Dubai-based Park Hyatt and Hyatt Regency Hotels.

Such devices include water flow restrictors, water aerators, motion sensors and taps with timed flow to prevent them being left on when not in use.

Building management systems (bms); variable speed drive (vsd) systems for pumps to enable them to run on partial loads according to demand; grey water recycling systems; and the installation of energy saving modules (ESM) for chillers are other commonly applied technology said Nadir Celiloglu, director of engineering Rezidor Hotel Group. “Why? Because they contribute substantially to energy and water savings,” he explained.

Lighting has become a key focus for FMs, with any savings made giving a two-fold reduction in electricity use: from the lamp use itself and the lower air conditioning load that is needed by using lower wattage, hence cooler, bulbs.

“Low energy light bulbs are being used in most areas of the hotels, as are motion sensors,” said Celiloglu.

Light emitting diode (LED) lamps are one of the latest technologies to be introduced to the market and one of the most efficient in terms of energy use and long-term operational costs. “LED technology is the most innovative lighting solution in the market; it allows huge savings on energy as well as maintenance costs due to its long lifetime, giving LEDs a very low total cost of ownership,” said Lord. Crucially, the technology also enables compliance with individual hotel design intentions. “[LED technology] also comes with the possibilities to create different ambiences and scenes,” Lord added.

The relatively high capital cost of LEDs restricted their uptake initially, however the lifetime benefits that they offer, including significantly reduced maintenance costs, are now being recognised and their application is increasing. “It’s only recently that LED lamps were introduced to the market and they are expensive at around 75-80 dirhams compared to 7-8 dirhams for a standard lamp,” reports Shakoor. “The ROI [return-on-investment] is 10 months and they are being offered with a three-year warranty, so it’s beneficial, plus the price is dropping, they were 110 dirhams [recently],” Shakoor adds.

In addition to the above measures, some hotels are now taking the move to sustainability a step further, applying more complex systems and ensuring it is an integral part of the hotel design.

“Deployment of solar energy is being increasingly recommended,” said Celiloglu, “and green technology and products have gradually become an increasing consideration in building design,” he added.

Solutions underway

With the wide array of products available and the differing needs of each individual property and management team, the solutions applied by FMs at each of the region’s hotels to increase sustainable operation vary accordingly.

The Rezidor Hotel Group has implemented a number of initiatives across its properties. These include the deployment of solar-driven carts instead of electrically-driven ones; the installation of aerators – water flow restrictors – on all faucets and showerheads in the guest bathrooms; the introduction of motion sensors for lighting control; the replacement of incandescent lights with low energy light bulbs; the use of variable air volume (VAV) air conditioning systems; and the provision of building management systems (BMS) to centrally control the operation of technical systems.

Other steps taken are contributing to an overall sustainability policy. “The deployment of digital chemical dispensers for the laundry and kitchen equipment have contributed to savings in the chemical consumptions,” explained Celiloglu. “Also, dispensers for shampoo and body gel are increasingly used in the guest bathrooms instead of using small plastic bottles to store them,” he adds. Such steps have reduced waste volumes and their resultant disposal costs.

The group is now considering further technologies. “The deployment of solar energy in domestic water heating has been considered in many of our properties; in addition, grey water systems based on re-using the waste water coming from the guest bathrooms are being strongly considered in our ongoing hotel projects,” said Celiloglu.

The benefits of solar power are already being gained at Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay, where a solar thermal system is used to produce hot water. “It is a very cost-effective exercise, which gives great savings from hot water products,” said  Arnfinn Oines Zighy Bay Social and Environmental Conscience Officer. “We are now more and more looking into creating electricity [from solar sources] as well…the ROI is great, though it varies from destination to destination depending on electricity prices,” added Oines.

The firm has taken several approaches to water conservation including conventional waste water treatment plants using gravel filtration, aeration system and aerobic digesters, and more natural such as wet land and reed beds. At Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay the waste water treatment system has been combined with a reed bed to provide irrigation water.

The InterContinental Hotel Group has also undertaken a range of steps at its InterContinental and Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City hotels. One of its latest projects has involved a significant investment in LED technology, with the exterior lighting system for both hotels now provided by LED lamps (see box, ‘Making light work of energy savings’).

The new LED, CFL-I and energy saving halogen lamps have reduced energy consumption by 80%. In addition, they will give an estimated 22 times longer life, which will have a significant effect on ongoing maintenance costs. “We will save two million kg of carbon emissions through this and approximately 50% of our total lighting cost throughout the hotel, with the return on investment for the internal lamping equating to 1.5years,” said Lord. “The LEDs have also improved the external lighting effects of our
building, whilst extending our facade lighting lifetime by a minimum of five years,” he added.

A de-watering system has been installed to handle all hotel waste, which reduces water flow to compactors by 80%. This includes a waterless urinal system that alone saves 151,000 litres of water per urinal per year. Further water, energy and personnel time savings have been achieved with a linen conservation programme that enables guests to choose whether they want clean linen – a move that has reduced linen turnaround by 50%.

An aggressive recycling programme that takes in all waste produced in the hotel has led to the recycling of 84.5 tons of paper and card, 24.1 tons of plastics and aluminium and 5.6 tons of glass bottles to date. In addition, the use of Lexus LS600 Hybrid limousines for guest transfers adds to the firm’s efforts, producing 70% fewer harmful emissions than standard cars. And more projects are underway assured Lord: “We are currently investigating more complex systems to further control lighting and air conditioning through movement sensors,” he explained.

Increasing operational efficiency by recycling is also a key focus for the Riyadh-based  Al Faisaliah and Al Khozama Hotels (see box, ‘Waste not want not’). In a scheme undertaken as part of parent company Rosewood Hotels’ VERDES (Value the Earth’s Resources and Demonstrate Environmental Sensitivity) programme, paper, oil, aluminium and glass waste from the hotels are currently being recycled, with moves being taken for plastics waste to be similarly removed. In addition, a recycling centre is scheduled to open in Al Faisaliah in 2011.

A number of other initiatives are in place at the hotels to increase their overall sustainability. “Although in Saudi the power and water costs are low, we’ve started to find ways to reduce our water and energy costs,” said MD Peter Finamore.

An automatic misting system is used to reduce the ambient air temperature around the chillers at key operating times when a setpoint of 50°C is met. “This allows us to reduce the temperature by 5-10°C, so at key operating times of the day this can reduce the energy use for air conditioning by 10-15%,” reported Finamore.

Cascade cooling is also used for the chiller air conditioning plant, which includes a system whereby ice is produced at night during the periods of lower electrical tariff. The cool thermal energy from this ice is used during peak daytime hours when both the air conditioning loads and electrical tariff are higher.

Other technolgy employed in the hotels include electric vehicles; high speed doors in back of house areas to minimise heat loss and gain; water saving devises on faucets; and the use of electronically-controlled window shutters that reflect radiant heat. By closing shutters centrally via the building automation system in daylight hours a “significant amount” of power and air conditioning load are saved. The firm has plans for several other initiatives underway and with room numbers at Al Faisaliah alone due to increase by 50% in 2011, the savings from such measures are set to become even more important.

Efforts to optimise energy use at Dubai’s Hyatt Regency Hotel have been ongoing since the hotel opened. “Energy consumption at the hotel from 1981 to today has dropped despite the addition of new and additional equipment and technologies,” said Shakoor. “This has been achieved by installing a bms; automated control of the air conditioning systems; and sometimes by the [updating of] equipment, for example 50W halogen lamps have been replaced by 5W LED lamps; these give 30,000 hrs instead of 3,000 hours operation and the labour cost for maintenance is reduced,” added Shakoor.

Water use at the hotel has been significantly reduced by the application of a number of innovative methods (see box ‘Water waste reduction’). These include the collection of air conditioning condensate water for reuse in the chillers, that has resulted in savings of 10,000 gallons/day, a daily cost saving of AED450.

The installation of a reverse osmosis plant at the firm’s sister hotel Park Hyatt has been so successful it will now be emulated at the Grand Hyatt. As well as water savings, low maintenance is one of the benefits of this system said Shakoor: “It doesn’t need much attention and the suppliers give back-up,” he explained.

Future plans for the hotel include the application of heat reflecting films to the windows. With extensive areas of glazing on the Hyatt Regency, minimising solar gain is one way in which air conditioning loads can be greatly reduced. A trial period involved applying different films to five different rooms and monitoring the effect of each said Shakoor. With the results now analysed the final film has been chosen and is due to be applied throughout the hotel.

“Last year we saved 14% of our total energy use by fine-tuning equipment throughout the hotel, which equates to AED1.4 million,” said Shakoor. “We are targeting a further 5% saving this year, with 3% achieved so far, and are looking for a further 10% next year if we put in the water plant,” he added. To ensure this is achieved a staff member is employed full-time to monitor energy and water use on a daily basis. “By monitoring daily, if the water use suddenly shoots up due to a leak it can be found immediately; if we don’t monitor use then it may not show up until the next bill arrives, by which time the damage is done,” explained Shakoor.

The efforts of the FM and engineering teams at the Hyatt properties have seen them receive several awards including Emirates Environmental Group Glass Recycling Awards and Recognition for Electricity and Water Conservation by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). The latest accolade came from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, which recently announced the Park Hyatt as winner of the Dubai Green Tourism Award for 2009.

The engineering team at sister hotel, the Grand Hyatt Dubai has successfully applied a large number of sustainable engineering systems throughout the hotel and has yet more planned for the future. Existing solutions include a system of treating Municipality effluent water for cooling tower make-up that provides cost savings of 75% and a reduction of 50,000 gallons/day of potable water consumption. A solar thermal system is used to provide heating for hot water boilers, reducing the amount of time that the hotel’s diesel-fired boilers must run. This saves 250,000 gallons of diesel/year said Grand Hyatt Dubai property manager Philip Barnett.

Further savings include 22% power achieved by kvar motor optimisation; 12-15% savings by use of an Enerkeeper hybrid trafo power saver; and the replacement of 60W incandescent bulbs with 18W energy saving alternatives.

A solar bollard installation is currently at the testing stage and condensate recovery system is in progress said Barnett. The later is expected to produce savings of 20,000 gallons/day by recycling water collected from the large air handling units for reuse as cooling tower make-up. A laundry water recycling system; grey water treatment for toilet flush; chiller optimisation unit; and water-to-water heat pump for the pool heating are all planned.

The Park Inn Muscat regards sustainability as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). As such it has a CSR committee that meets monthly to drive initatives such as energy conservation methods. The second hotel in the Middle East to win the Green Globe award, it undertakes a number of initiatives according to parent company the Rezidor Hotel Group business policies.

“The benefits [gained] are saving electricity with less than two years payback on investment; saving on water consumption with less than a year payback on investment; and saving on waste management by organising the waste collection trips as per the requirement,” said Pawar.

Potential benefits

The reasons for applying sustainable techniques in hotels vary from consumer demand to economic advantages, with the benefits gained from such systems widely recognised, but challenges still exist.

“One of the big challenges we face is the low cost of energy, which makes the ROI on energy efficiency and renewable energy quite long; this obviously makes it harder to persuade owners/investors to put in the funds for it,” said Oines. “However, low carbon drives are not just about energy consumption,” he added. Six Senses is among those that advocate an holistic approach to energy consumption figures, including travel and waste.

“I believe that for those companies embracing new, efficient technology operating costs can be vastly reduced,” said Lord. “Cost savings can be achieved, more dynamic systems with longer lifetimes can be sourced, therefore maintenance on systems reduced,” he added.

The lower maintenance needs of many systems mean in the long-term the FM workload is reduced, saving personnel time as well as the cost of repairs and enabling staff resources to be used in other areas of the hotel to improve efficiency. The installation of LED lighting, for example, produces large savings in maintenance needs. “Previously we had needed two people for changing lamps in the hotels, now we need only one so there is less labour involved and less guest disturbance,” said Shakoor. “I can now use my technicians in other areas rather than lamp replacement,” he added.

In addition to reduced maintenance, the initial, relatively large financial investment needed for systems such as LED lighting is recouped in other ways. “Landscaping lighting has sealed units that need to be opened for each lamp change, which wastes the seal and reduces the lifespan of the unit,” explained Shakoor. “With long life LEDs they need replacing less often so the holder doesn’t break as quickly,” he added. “The operation cost reduces without compromising the quality of the service with the sustainability management,” said Pawar.

Some surprising savings are also possible with recycling initiatives. As well as lower waste disposal costs, hotel property that would otherwise have been lost is being recovered during the waste separation process. “Forks, knives, glasses etc that has value ends up in the bin as well [as rubbish], so hotels can make savings if they’re recovered during the recycling process,” explained Finamore. “Depending on the type of operating equipment used, for example if its silverware, savings can be significant,” he added.

In addition to financial gains, improved company image, better marketing opportunities and better overall environmental preservation are all advantages of applying such technology. “Operational costs have been reduced over the past years through the implementation of these measures and at the same time there has been a growing self-consciousness and awareness among the staff on environment protection,” said Celiloglu. “The better quality of service affects the overall guest satisfaction; that in turn means more business and more profit for the company,” Celiloglu added.

Economic issues

It is inevitable capital cost is a key factor in determining whether a product or technique can be used. And with the ongoing worldwide economic downturn focusing minds on costs across the board, what has this meant for the uptake of green products in hotels?

Market reports indicate that firms are tending to take the long-term view, with those solutions already budgeted for going ahead and those delayed expected to be resumed in the mid-term. “The economic downturn has had some impact on some of the special green application projects, which resulted in a delay in their commencements, however, we do not believe that this will have a substantial effect on the long-term [plans],” said Celiloglu. “Preserving our environment can be achieved in controlling and reducing energy and water consumptions, therefore green and sustainable projects will always get the required support and attention, even in downturns,” he added. “The downturn did not affect [product uptake] much because every investment has its own payback time and savings in the operation cost,” said Pawar.

Indeed, the potential benefits of such solutions are currently being highlighted as even more important. “I believe that where the investment capital is available, using green initiatives is a great way to combat the downturn,” said Lord. “Greener solutions can achieve great cost savings within properties and therefore help to ensure continued returns,” he added. “It’s [the FM and engineering staff’s] job to convince the management that investment is needed and the ROI is worth it,” stressed Shakoor. Legislative demands will also help this process, said Finamore: “Generally speaking, when times get tough companies cut anything that takes away from the core business…The government and private sector need to work hand-in-hand to make this a success across the whole culture.”

The global climate has, however, produced some unexpected advantages for FMs and engineering staff that are considering sustainable products. “In Dubai there is lot of competition between companies, so they provide good after-sales service and support,” Shakoor explained. “Over the past eight months this support has risen because there are not many jobs and they are trying to keep their products selling,” he added.

The number and quality of products available also remains good despite rising demand and cost pressures. Celiloglu said: “Occasionally shortages of some products have been encountered, but overall no major change in their standards has been noted.”

Extending benefits

Overall, there are a huge number of ways in which sustainability measures can be used in the hospitality sector to achieve lower costs and improved operations. Raising recognition amongst both guests and the general public about the importance of such issues and the benefits to the environment as a whole is one of the most important ongoing tasks to be tackled.

IHG DFC has found a novel way of doing this, creating fun out of recycling and raising funds for local environmental causes. In association with Mourjan Marinas IGY and Dubai Festival City, on November 26, IHG DFC will hold the third annual Whatever Floats Your Boat recycled boat race competition. For details email Sebastien.Delteil@ichdfc.ae

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Eco Futurelab FZE 9 years ago

Implementing energy efficient lighting systems and installing Solar Technology to reduce the consumption of Electrical Energy while being seen as an expensive commodity while Water and Electricity seem cheap and you have a full stream of customers that is giving the you the margins you are aiming for.
How ever just think how much you would be making with renewable technology systems.We implemented in Hotels and offices in U.K energy efficiency and energy saving systems as far back as late 80's, where as as one hotel engineer told me last year "Electyricity is so cheap I cant be bothered" that was of course before the proce hike by DEWA.