As an international trade consultancy firm, with clients abroad, we have helped pave the way for many foreign products into the Indian market. One of our areas of passion is introducing sustainable products and solutions in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry, in particular, is infamous for its exorbitant pressure on resources as it caters to thousands of guests each year. However even in such a resource consuming industry sustainability can be both practical and profitable. In this blog, we share some tips from the forerunners of sustainability in the field. The ITC Gardenia in Bangalore has the reputation of being the world’s first largest LEED Platinum rated hotel for following outstanding sustainable parameters.

Ajay Kumar Nayak, Chief Engineer at the ITC Gardenia gave us a peek into the hotel’s environmentally conscious choices. He walked us through the hotel’s energy control room located in its basement called the ‘Heart of The House.’ It is here that the hotel’s energy efficient equipment that powers it is housed. He also took us through the hotel’s thoughtful green spaces and its helipad that overlooks its specially painted heat reflective roofs. He then spoke to us about the key efforts of the hotel that have led to its success as an example in ‘responsible luxury.’ Here are some valuable lessons in sustainability to be learnt from ITC Gardenia:

USE RENEWABLE CLEAN ENERGY

The ITC Group has the largest self-owned wind farms (29.5 MW) by any hotel for captive consumption. This means all the power consumed by ITC Gardenia is renewable wind energy produced by ITC’s windfarms. Mr. Kumar’s office notice board has a paper pinned on it with the wind energy production per month by the group. It also indicates how much it has saved the hotel in terms of cost. Not only is this non-fossil fuel energy sufficient for all the hotel’s energy needs, but the Group can now sell excess power to others. The hotel also incorporates solar energy and currently uses it to heat water.

BE ENERGY EFFICIENT

ITC Gardenia manages to use 40% less energy as compared to other luxury hotels. Air conditioning is a major component of energy consumption in any hotel, he explains. The ITC’s waiting lobby is designed to be open air without AC. Mr. Kumar shows us the chillers used to provide air conditioning to the building, the equipment has been carefully picked for its low electrical consumption, 0.4 units of electrical power consumption for 1 tonne of air conditioning, he explains. Even the AC pumping system used saves more than 10% of electrical energy vis-à-vis conventional system. He points out that the ACs used have sensors that gauge CO2 in a room and self-regulate the energy output.

The use of multi-glazed energy efficient windows means the building doesn’t heat up as much, reducing the need for air conditioning. Another effort to keep the hotel cool is the special solar reflective paint used on its roofs to keep the building cooler. LED dimmable lights are used throughout the hotel to further reduce energy use.

CONSERVE WATER

The hotel is water-positive which means it replenishes more water than it uses. Thrice a day, Mr. Kumar receives two bottles of recycled water – black water and grey water with details of its quality. It is important to keep a constant eye on the quality of water we are discharging, he says. Water is also independently tested by the municipal authorities every few months to gauge its quality.

The hotel’s original plan includes rainwater harvesting pits. In its rooms, the hotel has ensured water efficient equipment such as sensor operated waterless urinals. Treated recycled water is used for all cleaning activities and flushing. To water and maintain its garden recycled water is used for drip irrigation. The hotel also boasts of 100% reduction in water consumption usage for air conditioning.

SOURCE SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS 

The hotel makes all efforts to source sustainable and wherever possible local materials with the least environmental impact. Up to 60% of the hotel’s ongoing consumables such as stationery in guest rooms as well as offices are either sourced locally or recycled. In its guest rooms, the hotel also uses 100% bio-degradable room cleaning supplies, toiletries made from organically grown oils as well as guest robes made from Organic cotton. Mr. Kumar points out that throughout the hotel, energy efficient LED lamps with no mercury content have been utilised. The hotel also uses Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints that are non-toxic and non-polluting. Any wood used by the hotel for renovations is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood grown primarily for commercial purposes and not from primary forests.

To reduce its water miles, ITC Gardenia like other ITC hotels bottles its own water within the hotel called ŚūnyaAqua. Wherever possible there are efforts to acquire local produce for culinary use, menus indicate locally sourced ingredients with an LS (Locally Sourced) sign.

INCORPORATE GREENERY

The ITC Gardenia is synonymous with its beautiful vertical garden wall that incorporates ‘green’ right into the hotel’s waiting lobby. At the time of construction, 60% of the trees that were originally in the area were protected and those that had to be uprooted were transplanted carefully ensuring little impact on the site, he explains.

LET NATURE INSPIRE DESIGN

The hotel is designed in such a way that it can make the best possible use of available sunshine. More than 80% of its space has access to direct natural light as well as the view. This greatly reduces the use of artificial lighting during the day. Its waiting lobby is wind cooled rather than air conditioned. He points to the Lotus Pavilion, the hotel’s lovely open air restaurant with a roof garden and says it does more business than any of its air-conditioned restaurants.

MANAGE WASTE RESPONSIBLY

More than 99% of the total solid waste generated by the hotel is either reused or recycled through recycling programs or converted into manure by its Organic Waste Converter.

THINK LONG TERM 

With more guests being conscious travellers, sustainability can translate to better figures on the balance sheet and directly impact the bottom-line of the company assures Kumar. He says the hotel has broken even on its investment in wind energy and is now looking to sell extra wind power. The ITC group invested Rs 126 crores (1.26 billion) for 12 wind turbines in 2010. Today this reliance on non-fossil clean energy means ITC saves as much as Rs 25 crores (25 million) per year on its energy bills. Kumar points out that last month it sold excess energy to the Lalit hotel at Rs 5.50 per unit, which works out cheaper than the Rs 8.40 per unit from the Government’s power grid. He encourages even hotels that are not interested in setting up their own clean energy farms to buy non-fossil energy from others in the market. When it comes to water use, conservation measures are beneficial in the long run, he says. A hotel like ITC Gardenia would use 440 Kiloliters of water per day at the rate of Rs 125KL per unit. This would mean a cost of Rs 55000 per day or over Rs 20 crores (200 million) a year. But initial water conservation efforts have meant that the hotel’s water use is only half of the industry’s average use saving it from the cost it would have incurred. “The hospitality industry is competitive with high recurring costs and operational costs. Sustainable green practices can help the industry cut down on these costs greatly. And of course, the environment benefits,” concludes Kumar.

Picture: Lobby of ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru.

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Elizabeth Raj | Blogger

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