For years sustainability was a throw-away line in company reports. Today things are very different. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown exactly how a global catastrophe can play out, bringing the concept of climate change much closer to home. But even before that there were signs with things like the Paris Agreement that the world couldn’t keep sleepwalking to disaster.
Individual governments and blocs like the European Union are bringing in legally binding targets and tougher regulations are filtering down into individual sectors, including real estate and hospitality.
1. Build Less
The first and most obvious is to think more carefully about hotel investment projects. Big, flashy developments area able to generate long-term returns for multiple stakeholders but on the environmental side the construction sector accounts for around 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions. That is a significant chunk. If we are to go about reducing that figure we have to think more carefully about re-using existing buildings for other purposes.
“We are also seeing a change of mindset towards the future-proofing of buildings, which doesn’t necessarily mean knocking the existing building down and replacing it with a new shiny office building, but looking to repurpose buildings several times and recycle the structure and materials,” Harry de Ferry Foster, head of UK, Savills Investment Management, said.
2. Be careful with what you use
If you are going to build, think about ways you can reuse materials or use less carbon-intensive methods. The production of cement, which serves as the binding ingredient in concrete, accounted for 7% of total global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. With so much concrete being used worldwide – 26 billion tons produced annually – it’s imperative that we start thinking of ways to reduce this reliance. There are companies that are trying to produce concrete without cement such as UK-based DB Group with its product known as Cemfree. Benchmarks like BREEAM and LEED provide third-party verification for the design, construction and operation of buildings.
3. Save on water and energy
Cutting down your use of water and energy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for your bottom line too. As Chris Green, the CEO of hotel management company Chesapeake Hospitality told the New York Times last year: “Hotels are long-term real estate plays — there is a value to saving money on electricity, sewage and water.” Heat pumps and solar panels can help generate power for properties while insulation and triple-glazed windows can keep it in.
4. Think transport
It’s not only the building that needs careful thought but the implications for how those staying and working arrive. Car usage might be inevitable in some locations but those in areas of high public transport should actively discourage this mode. There also needs to be an emphasis on in-destination transport. A lot of towns and cities are becoming more cycling friendly so making sure the property has the right facilities is key.
5. Monitor, check, change
If developers, investors and operators don’t know exactly what’s happening in their properties then how can they expect to improve? At a consumer level, smart meters in homes have helped people monitor how much energy they are using. The bigger the company the more data points there are to track.