It’s Check-In Time for Hotel Energy and Water Management

May 19, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

hotelFrom an energy efficiency standpoint, hotels seem to have much in common with office buildings. And they indeed do: Hotels and office buildings generally are large structures that often are managed in portfolios. Increasing energy efficiency at a hotel involves many of the same technical steps as doing so in an office.

But there are significant differences. MACH Energy, a company that offers energy and water management software and related services, released a survey this week that highlighted the needs of hotels. In the process, it pointed to the things that make these businesses unique.

The findings created an interesting contrast to a similar survey conducted last fall that looked at office building energy management attitudes and practices, said Wei-En Tan, MACH’s Vice President of Research. Both found that the leading driver of energy and water management programs is the desire for cost reduction. This was the primary goal of 80 percent of the respondents to the hotel survey.

There are differences between what an office and hotel wants to get out of its programs, however. Water management programs are a higher priority in hotels, Tan said. It makes sense. Hotels are, in essence, wetter places. “In an office building you are going to have leaks, but the cost of water is exponentially higher in a hotel where you have guest rooms” and laundry requirements, she said.

Water and energy programs are gaining traction in the hotel world. MACH found that 61 percent of respondents ruan sustainability such programs. Twenty-nine percent did not have program and 7 percent were unsure if there was a program in place or not.

There seems, according to the survey, to be a lot of room for improvement. Sixty-five percent of hotels don’t have energy management systems (EMS) or similar systems. Instead, key energy efficiency steps are rudimentary and labor intensive. An example, Tan said, is a reliance on employees to pull drapes open and closed in conference rooms to control heat and cooling.

The idea that energy management is in its early stages – and thus has a big upside – in the hotel industry seems to be validated by the survey. A key finding: Forty-two percent of respondents that report having a sustainability program in place are unsure if it is successful or not. That seems odd: Why take the trouble to run a program if it is so unimportant that its results are neglected? The reason cuts to the core of the challenge: Tan said that hotels often put programs in place not because they save money or are environmentally sound. Instead, the driver are to fulfill requirements for the hotel to be considered for government meetings and conferences.

Another finding that points to the lack of sophistication about energy management involves hotels’ common areas. The survey says that almost all – 92 percent – of respondents know the size of their common areas. However, only 30 percent of these folks reported knowing the utility costs of these areas.

That’s important: While it is possible to control guest room energy and water use through a variety of means, from low use water systems to occupancy sensors (which 26 percent of respondents  called the most important step to increasing efficiency), the opportunities in common areas are just as potentially helpful. And there are lots of common areas in hotels: Hallways, stairwells, restaurants, pools and exercise facilities and meeting and conference rooms. These areas are in many ways more accessible and capable control than guest rooms. “Those [expenses] can be huge,” said MACH CEO Jon Moeller. “There are a lot of mechanical and HVAC [equipment] in lobbies and conference rooms and hallways.”

While the findings from the report focus to some extent on where hotels are falling short, there is at least one bright note: Moeller said that interest appears to be high. Thirteen percent of respondents were C-level executives – compared to about 1 percent of respondents to the earlier office survey.

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