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Technology: The Trojan Horse for Hotel Sustainability

Image credit: Mode:Green

Technology has been quickly evolving into many markets such as clothing, food, health and home, and hotels are certainly no exception. As the industry is disrupted by more privatized options such as AirBnb and VRBO, Bloomberg reports that technology has become “top of mind for hotels,” as they seek to compete by providing amenities and new services for luxury vacationers and business travelers. Many hotels are adopting technology that enables more engaging, customized and immersive guest experience; these systems have become a Trojan Horse for the hotel industry to embrace higher-tech sustainability practices.

Conservation is being increasingly embraced in hospitality, and it’s proving to be important to guests; a survey by Bouteco shows that “the youngest and oldest among us care most about sustainability when choosing a hotel.”

At the lowest level, eco-friendly practices in hotels show up as placards in the rooms asking guests to shower quickly and reuse their towels. But for years, few other resource-saving practices were visible to guests and often only implemented by hotels doing so for economic or brand mission reasons. New technology is constantly enabling hotels to further reduce and manage their consumption while also engaging guests to be active participants. Previously, hotels would have to choose between sustainability or guest amenity initiatives with regards to technology, because the systems had separate function, cost, implementation and ROI.



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But this is changing. As technologies such as voice assistants and streaming music services become ubiquitous in the home, hotels are responding by embracing voice control, mobile entry, entertainment access and more. Now, hospitality technology is more sophisticated, where one platform can house all of the benefits that the hotel seeks, including energy management. Many of these features can be added without hugely impacting design and implementation costs as it had in previous years, and these combined costs and different layers of ROI from one system to the next, provide more initiatives for hotels to add smart lighting and HVAC systems to their technological upgrades.

These systems combine through a building-wide automation system tailored for each hotel to make each light, TV, HVAC system and more in the rooms and public spaces manageable from a single interface. The systems are becoming increasingly popular, and they can be found in the world’s top hotels, such as 1 Hotel, Kimpton Seafire, and Baccarat — with many more are being added to the list each year.

Automation systems reduce energy usage in hotels through building-wide device coordination, using the aggregated information to throttle back central systems while turning off devices in unoccupied rooms.  Automation facilitates efficiency more so than a simple programmable thermostat by providing centralized control for the staff to manage the temperature in all of the rooms and other common areas in the building, while also using occupancy patterns to preheat and precool various spaces.

Energy usage can also be mitigated through automated correspondence with the hotel’s PMS and locking systems system. Upon check-in, the in-room lighting, temperature and TV will turn on to a “Welcome” scene when guests arrive at their room. After checkout, lights turn off, drapes close, and the HVAC system goes to a minimal operating level without any staff action.

Sensors can also be used to refine this process by triggering automated device activation based on guest occupancy or other room conditions. A motion detector placed next to the door will turn on the lights and air conditioning only when a guest enters the room. More advanced systems shut the air when a sensor detects an open window or lanai door. Sensors can also be used to provide data that can be used for room service, housekeeping and maintenance — ex: tracking humidity levels in more tropical locations. The ability to perform proactive maintenance ensures that all room technology is functioning properly, providing assurance a guest will not have to change rooms after check-in.

These systems are tailored to each building and hotel brand, and they can be leveraged to achieve better building energy usage over time. A backend system can even show hotel operators the energy usage of each device in each room — to analyze the way the hotel operates to find new ways to mitigate energy usage from devices — while continuing to provide the other benefits sought by the hotel, such as technology for guest satisfaction and/or operational efficiency.

An example of this is the 1 Hotel brand, which touts itself as “an eco-friendly hotel” and “a natural oasis.” Two of its New York locations feature building-wide automation systems that provide device-level data for guestroom energy usage, so it can be tracked and reduced over time. Inside the rooms, the guests benefit from an automated experience: One button press will activate multiple features with lighting set to different levels, all curated by a lighting designer. Lighting control adds a better level of convenience for the guest as they don’t have to become familiar with fixtures and interfaces during a short stay. From an energy perspective, a “Master-off” helps to ensure that no lights are left on when a guest leaves the room for the day. This is quickly becoming energy code in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

Improved energy management in hotels will continue to grow as technologies continue to converge and as greater adoption is supported by other features that hotels are using to attract guests.


Bill Lally is the president of hospitality integration firm Mode:Green. A serial entrepreneur, Bill has extensive experience and a unique background in a variety of areas ranging from commercial audiovisual and control systems to energy management, broadcast, recording,… [Read more about Bill Lally]


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