Eco chic: The Green House Hotel

exterior from lawn

Winner of this year's Considerate Hotelier of the year Award and runner up in the Green Hotelier 2013 competition, The Green House Hotel is now arguably one of the most sustainable hotels in the UK.

The Green House is an independent luxury 4 star eco hotel, with 32 guest rooms, restaurant, bar and private event facilities. The hotel opened in July 2010 following an 18 month refurbishment of an existing Grade II listed building. Since then the hotel has achieved a gold rating under the Green Tourism Business Scheme and won the AA Eco Hotel of the Year. Throughout the refurbishment, and since the hotel opening, the environmental impact of every decision has been taken into account - and I mean every. Never before have I been to a hotel where so little eco potential remains to be fulfilled. From the paints on the walls to the beer barrel cleaning system, pretty much everything has been thought of.

Not only that but the Green House Hotel is clearly a great example of how the sustainable agenda is creeping into the minds of guests. Business at the hotel has increased by 37% over the past year, and from their guest questionnaires the hotel know that for 35% of their guests, environmental performance was a key factor in their decision to stay at The Green House.

Here's a run through of some of their key sustainable initiatives:

Reducing Water Consumption

  • All toilets are reduced water usage dual flush (3.5 / 4 litres)
  • Showers in the guest rooms and staff facilities are low flow (6 – 9 litres per minute)
  • Only 11 of 32 guest rooms have baths
  • Waterless urinals and sensor taps used in public washrooms to avoid wastage
  • Low flow aerated taps (5 litres per minute) installed throughout the hotel
  • Our Eco Kettles are the only kettle in the UK to be certified by the Energy Saving Trust. They have a unique central chamber, allowing precise measuring of the water required
  • In house Girbau laundry equipment used for reduced water and energy usage
  • Rainwater is harvested for irrigation throughout grounds

With all these measures in place the overall water usage is kept relatively low. Due to a water leak, during 2011 - 2012 the hotel experienced an overall increase in water use of 6.5% from 0.46m3 to 0.49m3 per guest. Now resolved, the hotel is on target for 2012 – 2013 and hopes to reduce overall consumption by 10%.

Reducing Energy Consumption

Sustainable heating

  • We heat the building through a combination of the solar thermal panels on our roof (water heated by the sun) and the heat produced by the Combined Heat and Power unit that produces much of our electricity. There is also a super condensing boiler to make up any shortfall.
  • All the pipe work throughout the building is insulated and we have installed thermostatic valves on all radiators to allow them to be turned off when rooms are not in use. We have inserted cavity wall insulation between the outer and inner skin of the external walls of the building. Additional thermal insulation (recycled newspaper) has been added between all floors and in the loft space
  • Where the local authority allowed, we have replaced old  windows with double glazed. Where we were not allowed to do this (because of the buildings Grade II listing) we have installed the Ventrolla Perimeter Sealing System. Most heat loss from windows is through draughts rather than through the glazing itself and this has eliminated this waste.
  • Gas consumption during 2011 – 2012 was reduced by 8% per room occupied, easily achieving our target of a 5% reduction. This was achieved by housekeeping routine to be re-addressed to ensure un-occupied rooms and arrival rooms are set to an agreed temperature (via TRVs) every day to reduce wastage Consistent monitoring of solar thermal panels (see below) to ensure correct performance Fine tuning of Building Management System (BMS)

Sustainable power

During 2011-2012, 21% of our total electricity consumption was generated on site, as detailed in our Environmental Report.

  • We produce electricity on-site using our Combined Heat and Power unit. CHP is a highly efficient way to use fuels and can therefore make a significant contribution to the UK‟s sustainable energy goals. Because CHP systems make extensive use of the heat produced during the electricity generation process, they can achieve overall efficiencies 80-90% at the point of use
  • We export any electricity we don‟t need to the National Grid, and import any extra we need through our agreement with Ecotricity, the only green electricity company actually building new renewable energy sources.
  • In the kitchen we use induction cooking. Induction burners are super-efficient as they convert about 85% of their energy into heat, compared to about 40% for gas. And as the burner itself doesn't create heat, it stays cool to the touch. This also means that they don't give off ambient heat like gas or electric burners, so the kitchen stays much cooler. Also the burners turn off automatically when a pan is removed so there is no wastage
  • Similarly, our grill only comes on when there is something under it, again avoiding any waste heat
  • Our fridges and freezers use hydrocarbon, which is very efficient and contains no nasty gases and they are the best energy rated models available
  • The dishwashers and glass washers are hot-fill, using water that is heated more efficiently by our solar panels and CHP system than cold fill would be
  • Our televisions are the lowest energy models on the market. Using around 60watts (less than most traditional light bulbs) they are LED backlit and have a host of eco settings. The picture output automatically adjusts according to the light levels in the room, reducing further the energy they use. Unlike most televisions, you can actually switch them off (using the button on the left hand side) and even when in standby they use minimal power.
  • We selected Airforce hand dryers as they are the lowest energy available on the market and the BaByliss Eco hairdryer because whilst it has exceptionally low energy consumption its high performance is not impaired


Sustainable lighting

Our intelligent lighting system is designed so lights throughout the hotel only come on when required. Daylight sensors turn off public area lighting when sufficient daylight is present and motion detectors turn corridor lighting down when no-one is present at night. Low energy CFL and LED lighting has been used throughout the hotel. These also have a much longer life span than traditional lighting, resulting in less waste as well as considerable energy savings.

The lighting in the guest rooms is all low energy. The ceiling downlights use 7 watts each (a traditional halogen downlight would typically use 50 watts) and the bedside lamps use a fraction of that of a normal bulb. The ceiling lights can also be dimmed by rocking the on/off switch (to three lower levels, before reaching full brightness again) thus using even less energy. The external lighting is controlled by a mix of presence detection, light level sensors and time clocks ensuring it is only on when it‟s needed.

Our corridor doors are on opening systems allowing natural light into the enclosed corridors and we have inserted two roof lights on the second floor to bring more natural light into the building.

Reducing and Managing Waste

We are currently working with Commercial Recycling to accurately measure the waste generated from the hotel. During 2011 - 2012 only 0.4% of the hotel's waste went to landfill.

  • All waste is sorted for recycling and any residual waste that cannot be recycled is transported by Commercial Recycling to New Earth Solutions, where further reductions to the amount sent to landfill are made. Overall they deliver rates of landfill diversion in excess of 80%.
  • Additional training was initiated by the Head Housekeeper so all staff were clear on what items could be recycled. Picture cards were made to overcome any possible language barriers and to serve as ongoing visual reminders.
  • An individual member of the Green Team is dedicated to ensuring the bin area is kept tidy and all rubbish is sorted correctly.
  • Plastic crates, cardboard boxes, ink cartridges, batteries, egg boxes and potato sacks are just a few of the items we pass back to suppliers on their subsequent visits for them to reuse or recycle.
  • All cooking oil is converted to bio-fuel, which powers our company car.
  • The toiletries provided in the guest rooms are in refillable bottles, topped up daily by the house keeping team.
  • All bottled water is filtered and bottled on site, allowing the glass bottles to be reused rather than recycled.

Green House Hotel Bournemouth

Sustainable food and drink
In 2012 the hotel received a 3 star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. To achieve this we had to focus on the suppliers we used and menus produced. Sustainable sourcing is core to the restaurant‟s activities and is highlighted by our close relationships with the restaurant‟s suppliers, many of whom are within a 50 mile radius. Some of the areas we specifically focused on were:

  • Sourcing only from suppliers and primary producers that hold high animal welfare standards and championing these local producers to encourage other UK businesses
  • Using seasonal, local and, when available, organic produce as an integral part of the restaurant‟s sourcing policy
  • Pro-activeness in seafood sourcing, having a verbal sourcing policy in place with our suppliers
  • Sourcing organic milk for use throughout the hotel including guest rooms and staff facilities
  • Increased sales of Furleigh Estate wines and Piddle Ale – both based in Dorset
  • Regular staff supplier visits and supplier Ambassador Evenings have been introduced. These allow some of our suppliers to share their passion with members of our Ambassador Club, whilst our Head Chef Andrew Hilton prepares an exquisite menu showcasing their produce at its best
  • During 2012 we introduced 2 bee hives on to the hotel roof. The honey produced is used in the kitchen and sold to guests.
  • New herb garden and soft fruit bushes have been planted for the hotel kitchen.

Besides from these more tangible achievements the Green House Hotel demonstrates sustainable practice through its comprehensive purchasing policy, involvement with the local green movement and education. Annual audits of all suppliers helps ensure that the hotel's 'approved' product list remains environmentally sound.  The 'Green Champion' initiative helps to get staff buy in to the hotel's eco credentials, awarding members of staff for their own commitment to environmental policies and keeping staff talking about where improvements can be made. The hotel hosts Bournemouth Green Knowledge Network meetings and events throughout the year and in doing so helps to showcase green technologies and developments to businesses throughout Dorset. Beyond this the hotel's education efforts extend to contacts and groups with local schools, sports clubs and Bournemouth University and initiatives such as an eco dragon's den and running free business efficiency workshops.

Finally, we asked the Green House Hotel:

What have been the main benefits of implementing green initiatives?

  • It brings a ‘feel good’ factor to the business that everyone can relate too.
  • Cost savings
  • Environmental Awards generate great publicity
  • Green Champions Initiative is great for involving staff and boosting team morale
  • Establish fantastic networking links with other sustainable businesses

Do you have plans to expand on green initiatives in the future?

Yes there are always new products, technologies and ideas to investigate and adopt.  Its essential to keep evolving and not to be complacent.  The great thing about getting all the staff involved is that its a team effort and we’re always discussing and implementing new initiatives.

What would be your top 3 bits of advice to hotels looking to do the same?

  • Do your own investigation into products and technologies – don’t be fooled by ‘Green Wash’.  We spent time with measuring jugs checking low flow showers, and electricity meters checking power saving TVs!
  • Get all the staff involved – its great for morale and generates new ideas
  • Make the most of ‘Green Networking’ its essential for sustainable businesses to share ideas and work together

For more information go to Green Hotelier 2013 Competition, Considerate Hotelier 2013 Awards and The Green House Hotel

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