Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

Is India Ready For Energy Efficient Hotels?

Is India Ready For Energy Efficient Hotels?

Indian hotels have realised the value of energy efficiency, and are now counted amongst the leaders in environmental stewardship and best practices globally.

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Hotel industry still has a lot of growth potential in India. Tourism and business travel are both poised to increase significantly over the next decade, consequently the need for hotels to serve them. Hotels are one of the most energy intensive of building typologies. Energy costs can be a significant part of a hotel's operating budget ranging from 15-35 percent, depending on the size and the class of hotel. Energy efficiency ensures that hotels can keep this cost low and at the same time reduce their environmental impact.

Says Tanmay Tathagat, Director of Environmental Design Solutions (EDS), a multidisciplinary consulting firm focused on addressing the issues of sustainable development in the built environment, “People are getting conscious of their ecological footprint when they travel. Many individuals and corporates factor-in the green quotient of the hotel in their decision-making. Energy efficiency is a major component of achieving a green building certification.”

Energy efficiency starts with the design of the hotel. Climate responsive design and selection of materials ensures that the hotel can reduce its requirement for cooling and lighting. A good design, with appropriate use of glass, insulation, proper shading, ventilation and daylighting can cut down the air conditioning requirement by over 30 percent.

“Hotels need to have a significant floor space dedicated for circulation, lobbies, and for back of the house services. The principles of energy efficient design must extend to these areas as well. Some of the most energy efficient hotels have found ways to make these areas with natural light and ventilation, making them more pleasant spaces to be in at the same time reducing the energy use,” adds Tathagat.

The next important step is to use energy efficient technology for cooling, hot water, ventilation and lighting. These technologies are changing rapidly, and newer more efficient and environment friendly cooling systems, and lighting as well as digital controls for lighting and air conditioning are essential to keep the energy use low. Hot water is again a major energy guzzler in hotels, and using solar hot water systems, or recovering waste heat for hot water, or using heat pumps for example can cut down this energy use by over 60 percent. Integration of automation, and centralized controls can further reduce energy use.

Hotels can also produce renewable energy on site through solar, wind, or biomass to reduce their carbon footprint and energy cost. Tathagat says, “An integrated design approach can reduce the construction and operation cost of the building, if the right decisions are made at the very inception of a project. Additional costs incurred due to high performance envelope, air conditioning and lighting and on-site renewable energy are balanced with reduced energy costs.”

Big industry players like ITC, Novotel, Sheraton, Taj group, etc., have entered into green building certification venues such as LEED, IGBC NB, EDGE, ARC etc and achieved tremendous energy saving benefits with platinum and Gold level certification.

“As energy efficiency benchmarks are becoming more stringent it is imperative for Hospitality industry to keep up with this trend and ensure to design their facility to match or exceed the prevailing energy efficiency standards like ASHRAE and/or ECBC. The energy savings can be realised especially in hotels as the occupancy varies and scope for using controls to adjust to the peak and off-peak loads are very high,” says M Selvarasu, MD, LEAD Consultancy and Engineering services (India) Pvt Limited.

Green building certification came into existence in 1990 with the first Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating system. Followed by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in the year 2000 and later by IGBC and TERI GRIHA. Green building certification is a tool used to assess the attributes of a building design and construction with respect to site, water, energy, material and indoor environment. This tool irrespective of the rating system focuses on site selection, energy efficiency, water conservation and human comfort. “The green rating tool is used to perform building performance benchmarking and bring strategies to sustain the performance for the entire life of the building. Energy scores the maximum points in green rating tools,” adds Selvarasu.

While design and technology are important, the key to energy savings is in operating the hotel and its systems efficiently. The best practices in operations and management can save up to ten to 20 percent energy even with no change in equipment. An efficiently designed hotel can still have a very high energy use if attention is not paid to the operations and management. An experienced and qualified operations team can make all the difference.

Existing hotel can also use all of these strategies to become energy efficient, and there are many examples of hotels cutting down their energy use significantly by following this approach. The energy use of a hotel can be compared to other similar hotels in order to assess its efficiency. There are various platforms like Energy Star Portfolio Manager, ARC platform where one can measure the performance of the hotel in comparison to other hotels of similar area and occupancy. The benchmark includes all energy use; from electricity, diesel, oil, cooking gas to the charcoal used for Tandoors. Design and operational efficiencies of all equipment and systems need to be audited, analyzed, and benchmarked.

Tathagat explains, “There is a wide variation in energy use of hotels depending on the size, location, design, and operations. This is often measured in terms of energy use per guest night or energy use per unit area of the hotel. This range can be as large as 150-450 kWh/m2/year. An energy efficient hotel can be identified and benchmarked by its actual energy use.”

Hotel guests now have a greater sensitivity to issues like energy wastage, water wastage, use of plastics, recycling and others. The guests want to be reassured that their economic footprint is not expanding their carbon footprint. Initiatives like 100 percent clean energy source, zero-water discharge from the premises, zero-waste to the land-fills are helping in reducing the environmental impact of the hospitality sector.

Air quality has always been a concern in India, and indoor air quality has become even more important because of the pandemic. Hotels with green certification have appropriate amounts of fresh air, better filtration, and use indoor paints and materials that produce low or no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound). Hotels have started displaying the indoor air quality to the guests to assure them of a healthy environment.

Affordability of energy efficient hotels

Energy efficiency has proven to deliver a very high return on investment. Incremental cost for new hotels can be negligible, when designed appropriately. There is definitely an additional cost incurred for energy efficient materials, equipment, and controls, but a good design can result in a smaller size of air-conditioning, considerably offsetting this increased cost. Incremental cost is in the range of three to five percent for new hotels. This additional cost has a short payback period of two to three years in most cases.

For existing hotels, says Tathagat, “The investments in energy efficiency typically have a payback of less than three to four years. While hotels benefit largely from technological interventions, most energy savings in the hotels come from behavioral changes – both those of the staff as well as the guest. More than the cost of implementing energy efficiency measures, the real barrier to sustaining these initiatives is the conventional approach to building and managing hotels. Hotels have to re-write the standard operating procedures and train the engineering team, operational staff, and managers.”

Position of India when it comes to energy efficient hotels

Indian hotels have realized the value of energy efficiency, and are now counted amongst the leaders in environmental stewardship and best practices globally. Leadership in Energy and Environment (LEED) is the most widely used green building rating system across the globe. Currently 74 Hotels in India have been certified under LEED.

Says Tathagat, “ITC hotels have emerged as undisputed leaders, with all the hotels being certified LEED platinum. With having both, the world’s first (ITC Maurya Delhi) and the largest (ITC Grand Chola, Chennai) LEED Platinum certified hotels, ITC is are amongst the most energy efficient hotels for the class, globally.”

The Government of India has taken several initiatives to enable energy efficiency in the hospitality sector. Hotels with an annual energy consumption of 1,000 Mtoe/year or more are regulated by the Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme. With the inclusion of Hotels under the government Perform Act Trade (PAT) scheme in the last two years, energy efficiency in large hotels is being regulated and more hotels will need to target a reduction in their energy consumption.

The key challenge lies in the large numbers of medium sized and small hotels, which still have a large opportunity in energy efficiency. These hotels need better technical expertise and financial support for the up-front investments in order to design, build, operate, and upgrade energy efficiency. Since this is the largest section of the hotels in the country, and is poised to grow the fastest, the focus needs to be in supporting them to be energy efficient.

Allen Machado, COO, Niraamaya Wellness Retreats which is located in many cities in India and goes by the concept of energy efficient resort says, “Niraamaya’ s brand philosophy from its inception has been that looking after the environment is in itself a true catalyst to making the world a beautiful place. At Niraamaya Wellness Retreats, we are deeply committed to sustainability. It is our responsibility to take care of our environment, natural resources, and communities. Thereby, we make an attempt to preserve and protect the natural values of the destinations that have our footprints. We are doing our bit for a better future.”

(Credit: The story is being published as part of CMS – BEEP Media Fellowship Program)