Talking Point: Sustainability by design – can we be aesthetic and eco-friendly?

Eco friendly flames

Eco friendly flames

A lot of a hotel’s sustainability challenges are now being addressed at the design stage. Whether that’s designing a water efficient hotel before construction, or re-thinking popular room items to be eco-friendly. In this Talking Point Jonathan Smith, product marketing manager flame technology, Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation looks at how design has an important role to play in ensuring a responsible and sustainable hotel.

Sustainability is playing an ever-increasing role in a number of industry sectors. The topic is particularly prevalent in the media at the moment focusing on the packaging industry. But this has been a subject of much debate in the tourism sector. This goes far beyond ecotourism and sustainable tourism, and can be seen in the design and construction side of the industry as well – using best practice techniques and approaches to ensure hotels, restaurants, guest houses and bed and breakfasts have a limited impact on the environment while still delivering the best possible guest experience.

Sustainability by design

In the hospitality industry there is a delicate balance between this focus on sustainability and ensuring the environment that is created is welcoming, comfortable and properly reflects the brand. During the design and construction phase this could include using best practice approaches to water conservation and energy consumption, while also using different materials to make this a reality. LED lighting, for example, installed throughout a building help save both money and reduce energy requirements, while the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels is also popular.

Then of course there are the elements like roof gardens which provide striking aesthetics while also promoting sustainability — as do the use of flame technology. Picture a hotel lobby, bar or restaurant; nothing says welcome better than the warm glow of a fireplace. The challenge here is that fires are generally not sustainable. They require fuel to keep going, they give off smoke that is not good for the immediate environment (i.e. guests) or the larger environment in terms of global warming. That is not to mention the health and safety issues, the need for proper ventilation, and the design challenges for architects, particularly in listed buildings. Yet they do add a certain atmosphere and make communal spaces more attractive, welcoming and hospitable.

Flame technology

So what’s the best way around this? Currently, the trend of 3D electric flame technology is finding widespread popularity. In essence, it mimics flame so realistically that many people can’t immediately tell the difference. It is eye-catching, can be used in different creative ways. In addition to sustainability and aesthetic appeal, electric flame technology has many more benefits.

The most obvious benefit is safety. With no actual flame, there is no danger of setting the environment alight, no burning embers, or hurting guests. There are no emissions, so no ventilation is needed (with no requirement for a working chimney or flue), and it has no impact on the surroundings. In addition, flame technology is low maintenance, which means long-term cost savings and no intervention needed by hotel staff to ensure that it is working. Then of course there is the energy efficiency; compared to wood fires or even gas fires, flame technology is more efficient. Looking at gas fires as an example, in order to achieve 9-10 kilowatts of heat output, 12 kilowatts of gas is needed.

Depending on the technology that is used, flame effects fires that are powered by electricity use minimal electricity, some as little as 0.4 kilowatts. Putting that into perspective, if business electricity rates are 10.5p per kilowatt hour, an electric fireplace could cost as little as £1.20 per day.

Flame technology is also ideal for spaces where heat isn’t actually needed; hotels have building-wide heating systems that keep the temperature where it should be in order for guests and staff to be comfortable. A real fire is a heat source and can destroy this balance and make the environment a lot less welcoming. As a result, electric flame technology, which is cool to the touch, can be used year-round, without impacting on the temperature of the space.

Again, depending on the technology used, there are other elements that add to the realism of the flame. This includes the full spectrum of flame colours and associated sound effects like crackling wood and sparks.

Moving forward

Sustainability will continue to influence the hospitality industry — whether that is rethinking the way we travel, the way we enjoy our holidays, or building in environmental considerations to our experiences. It will also continue to shape the physical environment that supports hospitality, such as the design of hotels and restaurants, to make these spaces as efficient and ecological as possible, while remaining appealing to guests. While there are many ways to accomplish this, using design elements, such as flame technology, can have a tremendous impact and contribute to the bigger sustainability picture.

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