Professional Comment

How Hotels Can Help Their Communities In The Race To Net Zero

With hotels alone accounting for roughly 1% of global carbon emissions, the hospitality industry has a huge role to play in the fight against climate change. Businesses operating in this sector should therefore do their utmost to work alongside their communities in pursuit of their sustainability goals.

Meeting net zero ambitions will be no mean feat, but there are several steps that hospitality businesses can take to support local sustainability efforts. Partnerships with other professionals will be key, as will eco-friendly approaches to renovation. Similarly, new building work must minimise its environmental impact, while energy efficient operations will also be imperative.

Work with local professionals
Partnering with other businesses based in the local area is better for the environment as well as the local economy. Sourcing products from within a 30-mile radius, which Burgh Island does for 80% of its kitchen ingredients, can dramatically reduce the carbon emissions associated with delivering these goods. And in the case of Burgh Island, it provides guests with a distinct taste of our own corner of South Devon.

Moreover, local partners are also preferential because of their richer understanding of the local area. This was the basis on which Burgh Island partnered with Jonathan Rhind Architects and Avalon Planning & Heritage, both based in the South West, to deliver a development project that will retain the hotel’s unique identity while future-proofing its facilities with sustainability front of mind. Their knowledge of Burgh Island has helped ensure that these plans represent the best possible solution for the hotel and its environs.

Adopt a “fabric first” approach
Energy efficiency of building materials should also be a central consideration for hospitality businesses looking to improve their sustainability credentials through new development work. A “fabric first” approach, for instance, dictates that any materials used in construction work must have an energy efficiency rating above regulatory standards.

Developing hotels, particularly historic ones, in this way is a genuine means of future-proofing their operations. We have already seen the warning signs in the CRE sector, where increasing numbers of offices have become unusable because rules around acceptable energy efficiency ratings have changed. For hoteliers too, doing the bare minimum is a little more than short-term solution, as standards will only become more stringent as the race to net zero intensifies.

Build eco-friendly accommodation

Expansion and development are important tools to help hotels adapt and thrive, but new builds must minimise their impact on the environment, both during and after construction. This therefore means that any development work, once completed, should not disrupt the visual landscape whose beauty is such a key selling-point for many hotels.

At Burgh Island, for instance, our new staff accommodation will be built using timber-frame housing set behind dry stone earth shelter walls, blending in with the existing environment – which includes both the natural environs of the island and the art deco style of the existing hotel. With future-proof facilities in a familiar setting, Burgh’s Island sustainable development plans have even been vetted by building performance expert Doug King, who is currently compiling a report on the project.

Encourage energy efficiency
Fitting today’s sustainability concerns into a setting preserved from yesteryear is, for historic hotels, a particularly vexing issue, but one that hoteliers simply must face when investing in their future. Thankfully, there are multiple ways of optimising energy efficiency that do not disrupt the status quo of a building’s beloved historical features.

New innovations are increasingly designed not to impinge on the old-fashioned design features that give many hotels their character. Run-around coil heat exchangers, for instance, use excess heat generated in the kitchen to keep dining areas warm, while traditional oil heating systems can be future-proofed to increase options for further energy efficient modification. Then there is of course vehicle charging points, to encourage the use of electric cars, Steps such as these can help uphold a hotel’s long-term vision without compromising on its long-held aesthetic quality.

Cut carbon emissions
Hotels and other hospitality businesses should do all they can to improve their sustainability credentials, particularly when undergoing development work designed to prepare them for the next generation of operations. This is what we have tried to do at Burgh Island, although ultimately each hotel must find their own solution. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but when it comes to climate change, all businesses should play their part to achieve our shared goals.