By Dr Sabine Schaffer, co-CEO & managing partner, The Pro-invest Group UK & Europe
I’m sure the irony of Glasgow’s hotels bulging at the seams, their heating, lighting, and water systems working at full capacity, will not be lost on the majority of the 30,000 delegates to COP26.
All have come to Scotland hoping to play their part in helping to save our beautiful planet. They will be good, well-intentioned people but they have travelled from 120 countries, using planes, trains, boats, and automobiles, leaving a vast cloud of greenhouse gases in their wake.
The Goliath-size Carbon footprint will just keep getting bigger now they’re in Glasgow. In their accommodation they will eat, shower, read, write, use computers, watch television, use the mini-bars, the lifts, the swimming pool, the sauna, and so on.
And while Glasgow is being listed as one of Europe’s top green cities, the question remains: Have the delegates chosen their accommodation depending on the ESG rating of the hotels? Was there consideration given to which hotels are using the latest technologies to minimise the carbon footprint of events such as COP26 and help us protect the globe?
Hotels are historically high energy emission operations. But as property developers and operators, we must play a bigger part in making the world greener and more efficient.
There is much that can be done, and we owe it to today’s eco-conscious customers to do everything in our power to be Green. Sustainable design and development can bring the benefits of cleaner, greener energy to owners, employees, and customers.
I am proud to say that The Pro-invest Group’s recently completed Holiday Inn Express in Newcastle, Australia, has now become the first hotel there to obtain Carbon Neutral certification under the NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) Climate Active pathway.
It is testament to the company’s ability to challenge conventional thinking, to adapt to change, try new things and build and manage hotels to target high sustainability.
It starts right at the very beginning, looking at the best way to demolish an existing property, about the greenest building materials to use and even how the builders, engineers and our team actually get to the site.
There’s always an environmentally friendly way to bring down the cost of a commercial property development, whether a hotel, a shopping centre or any type of building. With building materials, you can decide in varying degrees what is greener – for example choosing something like laminated timber, which compared to steel or concrete construction is a low impact material and therefore has a much lower carbon footprint.
Then we ask how do we use the sunlight? In some places you want to be sun oriented and in others not. It depends on the climate and how much energy you need to keep places hot or cold.
We can ensure the BMS (Building Management System) runs as efficiently as technology will allow. For example, when a guest leaves their hotel room, we can automatically shut down the lights, the heating and television. All common, simple things these days, but if you don’t take them into consideration the energy costs are higher, and the environmental friendliness is lower.
The Pro-invest Group has introduced the “green stay” initiative in our Australian hotels. When a customer checks in, they are asked questions such as ‘would you like your room to be serviced when you stay for more than one night?’
By not offering those cleaning services you are going to do the right thing – less washing of sheets and towels means using less energy. The guest will be happy because they will be offered say more reward points or a drink at the bar – and the owner is happy because this is a more cost-efficient way to room clean – it’s a win-win.
What about the more luxurious hotels where guests will expect such features as swimming pools and spa facilities?
Normally the hotels that have fewer of those facilities tend to be more environmentally friendly. A swimming pool has huge energy costs – heating it in Europe but keeping it cool in places like the Middle East and Australia. But even with swimming pools you can look at making them greener and more efficient. For example, we can install solar panels to generate at least enough energy to heat the water.
Even lift systems can now help to keep energy costs lower. We can harness kinetic energy from the elevator system. Every time it goes up and down there’s energy generated, so we ensure we install those systems where we can.
Building Green makes commercial sense too. The European Union now has taxonomy for sustainable activities. It’s a classification system established to clarify which investments are environmentally sustainable, in the context of the European Green Deal. The aim of taxonomy is to prevent greenwashing and to help investors make greener choices.
As an investor or developer, you need to ensure your portfolio achieves a certain level of rating, otherwise it will have a seriously negative impact, or you will be forced to let go of the investment altogether.
Above all though, it’s not about money is it? We owe it to our children and the generations to come to do everything we can to protect and preserve planet Earth.