Home > The Critic > Luxury and sustainability can coexist

Sustainability in hotels is not just an operational issue but has a major effect on the guest experience. Luxury and sustainability can not only coexist, but create a ‘prius effect’, writes Randa Tukan, global director of hospitality interiors, HOK

Hospitality research has consistently shown that guests expect hotels to be sustainable… and brands are responding accordingly. There are numerous opportunities for environmentally friendly interventions that can directly and positively affect the guest experience.

Ventilation, dehumidification and thermal comfort are some of the primary drivers of building energy usage in the Middle East and they have a significant effect on guest comfort.

Water management is another big challenge in this industry, and more critically in this region. There are now numerous high-performance luxury water fixtures on the market that are particularly appropriate for hospitality establishments and limit water consumption at the individual level.

Despite the prevalence of solar thermal hot water panels in the Middle East, the technology’s short payback period, and the potential for significant energy savings, it is surprising only a handful of hotels have taken advantage of the technology for in-house laundry or guest water use.

But it’s guest engagement and behavior that are really the next frontier of energy performance. Not everything can be automated, so we’re seeing more feedback dashboards that can be installed in a hotel lobby, for example, to inform guests in real time how their behavior impacts building performance. It’s called the ‘Prius Effect’ – people will modify their behavior when they can see the immediate impact.

On the softer side of hospitality, we have seen a significant increase in sustainable options for hospitality interiors such as sun shading devices manufactured with design-reflective backings to help reduce solar heat gain. Carpet and fabric manufacturers have developed sustainable product lines that are appropriate for hospitality applications.

The key to meeting a hotel’s sustainability goals, however, is commitment to these products with proper installation of the specified and/or certified product as required to maintain its sustainable qualities. Hotel owners and developers often get seduced by alternatives that seem, on the surface, to be an equivalent replacement for these sustainable products but that actually fall short of the expected performance.

Beyond the tactical, it is important to infuse sustainability into the brand. Major brands have embraced that and have designated personnel to be sustainable champions within their organisation. Owners and developers are realising the value of this increased focus. Sustainable luxury has become a deeply rooted philosophy. Just as in a polluted society, clean air, freshwater and natural light have become luxuries. In a manufactured society, honesty of materials, authenticity and ethics are valued. In a globalised society, regionalism is prized. In a high-speed society, time is cherished.

Authenticity provides identity, origin and quality. Today’s traveler is seeking the local – they want to know what the underlying story is behind the site’s history. They are looking for a hotel that engages its locale and is proud of its heritage, environment, and its people.
Luxury is an enriching personal experience, allowing time for reflection and personal encounters with people, nature, architecture, art and environment. Food, social and cultural experiences must link to geographic locations. It is about combining old-world craftsmanship and sophisticated design.

Luxury is quality. Quality is longevity. Longevity is sustainability.

Randa Tukan, ARIDO, IDC, NCIDQ, LEED AP, is a global director and SVP of hospitality interiors based in HOK’s Toronto office. She has incorporated cultural and environmental cues into design concepts for InterContinental, Marriott, Renaissance, Shangri-La, Hyatt, Sheraton and Rotana. Randa led the interior design of five high-rise hotel towers at Doha City Centre, the Middle East’s largest retail development. Her current projects include a sustainable new 5-star hotel with four restaurants and a spa in Bahrain and a hotel in Doha targeting LEED Gold.


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