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As well as meeting customer demand, the move to low-impact interiors reflects hoteliers’ desire to cut operating costs, create healthy and productive places to stay and work, and pass rigorous standards in order to achieve accreditation from one of the internationally recognised “green” building certification schemes, such as BREEAM (the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) or the US Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Professor Rebecca Hawkins, research and consultancy fellow at Oxford Brookes University and director of the Centre for Environmental Studies in the Hospitality Industry (CESHI), says it’s essential that hoteliers carry out a full lifecycle analysis when furnishing a property. It means establishing the cradle-to-grave impact of purchasing and installing fixtures, fittings and equipment (FF&E), from sourcing the raw materials (cradle) to their disposal (grave), whether it is new curtains or carpets, mirrors or vases, tables or chairs.
That includes considering any relevant socio-economic factors in the manufacture of the products, such as the use of child labour or poor working conditions. A hotel’s interior style should also blend with the local environment: “Hospitality facilities are often located in fragile environments and can be built with little or no consideration for the beauty and integrity of their surroundings, whether from the environmental or socio-cultural perspective,” says Hawkins. “The resulting effects can be highly visible and undermine the environmental quality of the destination.”
The good news is that the choice of good quality, stylish and low-impact products is greater than ever, with everything from 100% recycled glass tiles and counter tops to hemp rugs and organic carpet tiles, vinyl-free Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified ground-paper-pulp wallpaper, designer stools made from scrap metal and lamps created out of salvaged timber.
AS WELL AS MEETING CUSTOMER DEMAND, THE MOVE TO LOW-IMPACT INTERIORS REFLECTS HOTELIERS’ DESIRE TO CUT OPERATING COSTS, CREATE HEALTHY PRODUCTIVE PLACES TO STAY AND WORK AND PASS RIGOROUS STANDARDS IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE ACCREDITATION
A new service will assist hoteliers along the way to sustainability in their interior design. The recently launched Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Index (HSPI), an industry-wide index developed by the Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Consortium, will establish sustainability criteria for measuring FF&E suppliers and the products they sell.
Hotel operators and owners will often employ the services of a specialist interior design and/or FF&E procurement company to manage an interior design project from start to finish. International interior architectural design company Wilson Associates, for example, creates interiors for hotel groups worldwide, including Four Seasons, Hilton and Fairmont, offering a full range of design services, from space planning to furniture installation. When choosing a designer or supplier, ensure they have the expertise and proven track record in sourcing sustainable materials and products and that they are committed to minimising their environmental impact.
1. Establish a responsible purchasing strategy
Ensure suppliers operate their businesses in a sustainable way, conserving natural resources and efficiently using energy, water and materials. Wherever possible source renewable materials that have been sustainably certified and meet strict environmental and social responsible criteria, whether it is FSC timber, EU Ecolabel mattresses or Blue Angel furniture (see below for details of certification schemes). Always engage your suppliers in your environmental and social priorities.
2. Buy locally if possible
Source artwork, furniture, textiles, etc., from your neighbouring environs, then widen your search in stages to county/state, country and continent if necessary. Local sourcing reduces carbon emissions caused by long-distance transportation and supports the local economy.
3. Consider a product’s true cost
To be truly sustainable, product longevity and suitability must be balanced with sustainable materials and sourcing. A lifecycle analysis of products assesses the environmental impacts associated with the stages of a product’s life, from the raw materials (cradle) to disposal (grave)—the so-called cradle-to-grave analysis. The ultimate sustainable products are those based on the cradle-to-cradle concept, which means they are made from safe and healthy materials that at the end of their lives can be turned into new products or returned to the earth as compost. Look out for the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) label developed by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). For more, see The Sustainable Bathroom.
LOOK OUT FOR LEAHER THAT HAS INCORPORATED NATUAL VEGETABLE PRODUCTS AND WAXES IN ITS TANNING PROCESS
4. Reclaim, recyle and reuse
Opt for products that include reclaimed or recycled materials, such as tables, chairs, shelving and desks made from salvaged timber, reclaimed carpet tiles, rugs made of recycled plastic bottles and cushions created from vintage fabrics.
5. Energy-efficiency at the heart of your interior design
Install the most high-efficiency materials, products and materials, whether it is heavy insulated curtains that keep the cold and sun out, low-energy lighting systems, or walls painted in a light colour to capture natural daylight and reflect heat from other objects or walls that retain the heat. Jen Mauldin at Wilson Associates says: “I’ve incorporated a lighting control system into my designs because it not only reduces electricity usage by 40%, but also enhances the overall guest experience, providing that ‘wow factor’ every hotelier is after. These eco-conscious products might cost more up front but they are a sustainable investment that almost always pays off.”
Achieve design sustainably without compromising on the look. Guests are inspired to stay in a hotel by its aesthetic and every installation needs to be part of, and enhance, it.
Proximity Hotel, US
The first hotel to achieve the US Green Building Council’s highest Platinum LEED rating, Proximity Hotel in North Carolina, built and operated by Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, has many sustainable design features including low-emitting VOC paints, adhesives and carpets, and custom-designed furniture, original artwork and shelving made of walnut SkyBlend (particleboard made from 100% post-industrial recycled wood pulp with no added formaldehyde) in guestrooms. The hotel bistro’s bar is built from walnut trees that fell as a result of sickness or storms, and the room-service trays are made of Plyboo (bamboo plywood). www.proximityhotel.com
Whether purchasing tables and chairs, sofas or desks, headboards or wardrobes, go to suppliers who use renewable, recycled or reclaimed materials for their furniture as well as practising “green” policies in their manufacture and delivery. Bühler Hospitality, a manufacturer of wood furniture for hotels, recycles all wood cut-offs and sawdust into particle board at a local plant. The Canadian company also minimises spraying by hand-finishing its products with stains that are lead-free and formaldehyde-free, and blanket-wraps furniture instead of using boxes, allowing more products to fit into containers and reducing cardboard usage and shipping miles. US-based Kimball Hospitality has the FSC Chain-of-Custody (COC) certification, which provides a guarantee to hoteliers that any of its FSC-certified furniture meets stringent environmental, social and economic standards.
There are a huge choice of “green” bathroom products on the market these days, from eco-friendly towels made of organic cotton or bamboo to recycled-plastic shower curtains and shower tiles created from 100% recycled glass. Monarch Bath, Bed & Spa, for example, has designed towels and bathrobes that are more absorbent and quicker drying, consuming 30% less water and 10%-20% less energy in the laundry process. For more information, please see Issue 57 – The Sustainable Bathroom.
Opt for porcelain, cutlery, glassware, tablemats, napkins and other accessories that meet the following criteria:
Hilton Inn At Penn, US
The modern makeover of this 243-room Hilton property in early 2011 saw interior design firm RD Jones & Associates combine sustainability with cutting-edge technology to help it reduce its carbon footprint by 30% annually. Fabrics, wall coverings and bathroom tiles contain recycled content; blackout shades and LED lighting support energy efficiency; and WaterSense showerheads save thousands of gallons of water per year. Front-desk employees wear new eco-friendly uniforms manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. www.theinnatpenn.com
According to energy conservation consultants Community Energy Plus, 18% of a building’s heat is lost through the windows. A 2008 study by the Caledonian Glasgow University showed that a heavy pair of curtains reduces heat loss through the window by 14%. It explains why an increasing number of responsible hotels, including Hilton Hotels’ Waldorf Astoria in New York, are instructing their staff to shut blinds and close curtains when rooms are vacant.
Criteria to consider:
Choosing the right window coverings can provide warmth in winter and keep the heat out in summer, cutting energy costs. Thermal curtains, interlinings and linings, and heavy, quilted and/or tightly woven curtain fabrics will help to reduce heat loss. Heavy curtains in air-conditioned rooms also keep the sun out. Adjustable shading in the form of shutters and blinds or curtains with a light, reflective backing will reflect the heat and also protect against the summer sun, reducing the need for air-conditioning;
Good lighting is a key part of interior design but also a major consumer of energy.
At the Gran Meliá Palacio de Isora hotel in Tenerife, conventional halogen lamps in the bedroom were replaced with low-energy LEDs (light-emitting diode), requiring only 12W of power to produce the same illumination as the 35W halogen equivalents. The result is energy savings of 66% and a 463 kg/year reduction in CO2 emissions per room. And with an average lifetime of 50,000 hours, the lighting requires little or no maintenance. The LEDs installed in the bedroom’s central ceiling dome have reduced consumption by a further 88%, and cut CO2 emissions by an additional 4,269 kg/year. As LED lights generate little heat, less energy will be used on air-conditioning, too.
At the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, LED lights are used as an integral part of the interior design, with custom-designed fixtures incorporating LEDs used as art pieces, such as the chandelier in the lobby and the blue LEDs on the bar ceiling that appear to be ocean waves.
A 2008 STUDY BY THE CALEDONIAN GLASGOW UNIVERSITY SHOWED THAT A HEAVY PAIR OF CURTIANS REDUCES HEAT LOSS THROUGH THE WINDOW BY 14%
It’s said that the manufacture of synthetic paint consumes large amounts of energy and creates up to 30 litres of waste, much of it toxic, for every litre of paint. In addition, mining for titanium dioxide, a key ingredient in synthetic paints, is environmentally damaging during the purification process causing water pollution. Manufacturers of so-called “eco” or “natural” paint, aim to use ingredients that are harmless to people and the environment. Choose sustainable paints that:
An increasing number of manufacturers are making environmentally friendly paint—Auro, BioShield, Biofa, Ecos, to name a few—but always check carefully that so-called “eco-paints” do not contain any harmful petrochemicals. Many “non-toxic” paints “still contain VOC solvents, chemical pigments and fungicides”, according to www.sustainablebuild.co.uk.
1. Use wood that is sustainably sourced and/or FSC approved; alternatively, source reclaimed or recycled timber from other products.
2. Natural linoleum uses linseed oil from flax with other plant materials and can be 100% biodegradable. It is also anti-static, fire-resistant, dirt-repellent and hypoallergenic.
3. Rubber flooring made from rubber trees is 100% renewable and provides good sound insulation; synthetic rubber flooring is derived from petroleum and is not sustainable.
4. FSC-certified bamboo and coconut flooring from well-managed sites are good sustainable flooring options as they are made from renewable, fast-growing, easy-to-cultivate trees (see more details on bamboo below); cork flooring is also a good option (although not for wet areas as it is absorbent) because it is made by removing the bark from the cork oak without harming the trees.
5. Consideration should also be given to using materials that are local, eliminating the need to be transported long distances that might mitigate its sustainable credentials. Coconut timber production is limited to Asian equatorial countries, such as Indonesia and Polynesia, for example, while most cork comes from the Mediterranean.
Kingsgate Marriott Conference Hotel, US
Located on the University of Cincinnati campus, this 206-room International Association of Conference Centers-certified hotel has gone green with its renovation of corridors and elevator lobbies. The hotel removed vinyl wall coverings from six floors using typical procedures, but placed the material in reclamation bins instead of sending them to landfill, and shipped to the Second-Look programme to be recycled into new wall coverings for corridors and elevator lobbies by Louisville-based LSI Wallcovering.
Whether sourcing pillowcases, sheets or duvet covers, towels or bathmats, tablecloth or napkins, curtains or soft furnishings, choose fabrics and fibres that have been cultivated and manufactured using processes that have a minimal impact on the environment. Like so many other industries, the textile sector is inherently unsustainable for a number of reasons:
For these reasons, a cradle-to-grave approach is essential when considering fabric choices for a hotel’s interior.
Natural vs synthetic
Kathleen Butler, head designer at interior design company Fox Linton, recommends using natural fibres, either derived from plants or animals, including cotton, linen, wool, alpaca, mohair, cashmere or silk, and avoiding man-made fibres and those derived from chemical processing, such as nylon, viscose, acrylic, polyester, polyethylene or vinylon.
Natural fibres are intrinsically biodegradable and durable and work well as curtains or upholstery. Many are effective insulators too, as well as being easier to clean, good at absorbing sound and resistant to static electricity; some, such as wool, will pass fire-retardant regulations without any chemical treatment.
However, so-called “natural” fibres are not always what they seem. For example, sheep often receive chemical treatments for parasites and graze on pastures that may have been sprayed with pesticides; the industrial processing of wool can also involve harsh chemicals. Such concerns should be addressed with your supplier. Other points to consider are that the price of natural fibres can fluctuate greatly due to harvests or agricultural politics, and some will have lower durability than man-made fibres, and will absorb moisture, causing swelling of the fibres and loss of shape.
Conventional cotton uses large amounts of agrochemical pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilisers, so always opt for organic cotton, which is grown without chemicals. In the EU, the Council Directive on Organic Farming defines production and certification requirements for organic cotton. The leading UK certification body is the UK Soil Association. In the US, there is the US Department of Agriculture National Organic Program, and Japan has the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS). The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide textile processing standard for organic fibres. Organic Fairtrade-certified cotton guarantees that the crop has been cultivated, processed and manufactured using environmentally friendly practices and that the farmer has received a minimum price. Every operator in the supply chain that takes ownership of Fairtrade cotton and uses it in the processing or manufacture of Fairtrade products must submit to independent verification documenting their efforts to comply with 11 International Labour Organisation conventions, including those concerning forced labour, child labour, hours of work and freedom of association.
Choose fabrics made from recovered cotton from cast-offs that would otherwise be disposed of in landfill. The discarded textiles are shredded again and processed into yarns and fabrics, and often blended with other fibres.
Made from 100% natural flax, which requires less water and pesticides than cotton. It also dries quickly, offers protection from UV rays as it is highly absorbent, anti-static and has natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Fibre made from recycled plastic bottles made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is commonly used in carpets, blankets and home furnishings and is sometimes blended with cotton or wool for enhanced quality fabric. Using post-consumer bottles not only keeps them out of landfill but also saves on the consumption of virgin materials.
Bamboo is faster growing and hardier than cotton. When turned into fabric, it is very soft, highly breathable and highly absorbent, making it popular for towels and bathmats. It can be made mechanically or chemically; because strong solvents are used in the chemical method, it is not considered sustainable. Make sure the bamboo you use has a label from an organic or sustainable certification body, which guarantees it is sourced from well-managed forests and hasn’t destroyed habitat or endangered animal species, such as lemurs or pandas.
Hemp is fast-growing, naturally resistant to fungus and insects, produces greater yields than other crops, such as cotton, and leaves the soil in good condition for other crops. Naturally resistant to mould and ultraviolet light, it is mixed with other fibres, such as organic cotton, to produce hard-wearing textiles that retains its colour well due to its porous nature.
Recycled polyester that has been manufactured using previously used polyester items such as PET bottles or used polyester clothing. Recycled nylon comes from post-industrial waste fibre and yarn collected from spinning and processed into reusable nylon fibre. The benefits of both fibres are derived from the reduced energy needed to produce them, the reduced dependence on oil and the diversion of waste from landfills. Valley Forge Fabrics claims that its FRESH bedding is the first 100% post-consumer recycled polyester product to feel like cotton, and has an extended lifespan of five to seven years (normal linen is changed after about 18 months).
Other companies supplying hoteliers with eco-fabrics include Duralee Contract, whose products are Cradle to Cradle Gold-certified by MBDC. Its upholstery fabrics include 50-100% recycled fibre, which can be recycled and made into carpet padding. Designtex has recently developed a durable, stain-resistant finish for commercial textiles called NanoSphere, which is Bluesign-certified to say it meets certain social and environmental criteria.
Palazzo Seneca, Italy
This Umbrian hotel and former 16th-century palace was carefully and lavishly restored with many of the original medieval features brought back to life using local craftspeople, materials and traditional styles. The leather-topped surfaces, linens and oak paneling, as well as the one-off furniture pieces, have all been made by Umbrian specialists. Some of the beds are made of reclaimed wood with huge hand-crafted bedposts, and others from wrought iron using traditional techniques with no welding points dating back to medieval times.
Quality over quantity
The economic benefits of sustainable interior design will hold considerable sway in the current economic situation. That’s why hoteliers will be looking for longevity of design. Traditionally hotels regularly replace FF&E in bedrooms and public areas to maintain standards or keep up with design trends; according to the Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Consortium, the décor of an average hotel room is changed every five to seven years. Rather than make a fashionable statement, hoteliers will be looking for a higher standard of finish, detailing and quality in their interior design—and for it to be functional rather that just look good. Trisha Wilson, founder and CEO of Wilson Associates, agrees that the focus for sustainable hotel interior design over the next decade will be quality over quantity. “Local resources and flavours will also continue to be essential for hotel interior design,” she says. “Give back to the local economy by sourcing from local artisans and craftsmen. Local artwork will in turn give the design a rich and rooted local culture.”
In a gadget-obsessed world, guests will increasingly want to see the latest technology incorporated into the interior design of a hotel. Trisha Wilson agrees that technology will be key in future interior design. “LEDs are leading the way in lighting and televisions and giving us many more opportunities to be creative with lighting and digital media,” she says.“We are now using changing digital walls as a part of décor in our hotel, resort and casino projects. The hope is that one day the particles in paint can be charged in such a way that we can actually programme a pattern onto the wall to create whatever new wall covering we desire.”
Hoteliers will continue to use “upcycled” FF&E, with old products given more value not less. Designers are coming up with ever-more creative ways of reusing materials to produce stylish tableware, including vases, jugs, carafes and serving spoons made from beer and wine bottles and coasters crafted from circuit boards. Helen Taylor of Ose Designs, for example, makes handmade lamps with bases made of rescued pine floor joists, old lampshade frames and shades knitted from discarded Indian saris and recycled natural yarns, while Lori Weitzner of Weitzner Limited is using strips of recycled newspapers to create a 100% upcycled wallpaper called Newsworthy. Recycle Furniture specialises in the trade of recycled hotel furnishings, offering them as one-of-a-kind or limited edition products, from chairs and tables to beds, lighting and art.
There are an ever-increasing range of eco-fabrics available, with more under development. UK-based Camira Fabrics, for example, is using stinging nettles to produce a strong, soft, naturally fire-retardant textile, which is blended with wool, for upholstery. German fashion designer and microbiologist Anke Domaske has developed a new award-winning silky fabric, QMilch, derived from a substance extracted from milk, and produced entirely without chemicals. And Starbucks is enhancing some of its coffee shops with interior seating upholstered with a revolutionary new fabric, WoJo, created by New Zealand company The Formary and combining recycled jute fabric from its coffee sacks with wool.
Finally, the hospitality industry will increasingly realise that interior design has the potential to showcase the beauty and benefits of sustainability to a wide range of people. The design decisions it makes can inspire and inform consumer choices in the future, and if done correctly can educate guests on the benefits of a green lifestyle.
Orchard Garden Hotel, US
The luxury San Francisco hotel features FSC-certified wood in all its furniture, and curtains, bedspreads and carpet backing are made of recycled products, which are fire-rated and machine washable. In addition, all guestroom textiles are washable to eliminate the chemicals associated with dry cleaning. Compact fluorescent light bulbs that use 60% less energy than normal bulbs and last up to 10 times longer are fitted throughout the hotel; they also generate 70% less heat so saving on energy used for air conditioning. There is also individual climate control in each guestroom.
Blue Angel (International)
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)
Ecolabelling Sweden (Nordic and EU)
Forest Stewardship Council (International)
Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS)
McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC)
National Wood Flooring Association (US)
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (International)
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (International)
US Energy Star (US)
Hotel Specification International
LEED AP Olive Hospitality Consulting
Dr Rebecca Hawkins, CESHI
Scarlet and Bedruthan Steps Hotels
US Green Building Council
American Draperies & Blinds
American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)
The Building for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (BEES) lifecycle assessment and flooring impact programme of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Consortium
Network of the Hospitality Industry (NEWH) Sustainable Hospitality Forum and Tradeshow, Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington DC, USA, 9 December, 2011
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Responsible Hospitality: Theory and Practice by Rebecca Hawkins and Paulina Bohdanowicz (published Nov 2011)
Sustainable Furnishing Council
Valley Forge Fabrics