Boutiquehotel Stadthalle in Vienna was the winner of the Green Hotelier Award 2015 in Europe. Here hotel director Claudia Plot talks us through their programmes for energy, waste, water and community outreach.
Can you take us on your hotel or resort’s sustainability journey? When did it begin? Where are you now?
Following green practices was always part of the operation of Boutiquehotel Stadthalle, ever since the hotel was owned and run by the parents of Michaela Reitterer, the current owner. This was when the hotel first received the Austrian Ecolabel. Since 2000, when Michaela Reitterer took over the hotel from her parents, eco practices began to develop further. Boutiquehotel Stadthalle was the first hotel in Vienna that was awarded the EU Ecolabel in 2007.
This was also the starting point of developing the concept of the zero-energy-balance for Boutiquehotel Stadthalle. The passive house* was built in 2009. When the hotel re-opened its doors it discovered great interest from the public. What had originally been done to reduce costs and create more independency from energy providers, also made the hotel a pioneer in green tourism nationally and internationally. (*Passive house is a standard for buildings energy efficiency achieved through design.)
Nobody expected the impact this concept would have on guests and the media, green lifestyle groups and the like. There is a real market available that was suddenly directly addressed and served. The hotel reached an average occupancy of 83% and an average rate well above the 3* standard in Vienna in its second year after reopening. Many guests seek to continue their green lifestyle when they are away from home. With their help we were able to further develop our concept: our certified, organic products for breakfast and the newly designed upcycling rooms were our guests’ ideas.
What are the key initiatives that the hotel has undertaken to improve its sustainability?
The most innovative aspect of our sustainability programme is the technical aspect behind the passive house. Operating a passive house hotel that also generates its own energy is what made us so popular and helped us win many awards. Currently we use alternative energy such as sun and water, but our plan is to also make use of the wind to generate even more power. The technical plan includes the construction of two to three windmills on the roof of our hotel. This is waiting for the approval of Austrian authorities.
While the technical aspect represents the core of our sustainability initiatives, it is the many details described below, that create a complete picture of our green philosophy and lifestyle. It is our aim to be a green hotel through and through and to continue to improve and become greener every day. We try to pass the message on to our team members, guests, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders: “Don’t blow it, good planets are hard to find!”
What initiatives have had the biggest impact on your sustainability and / or your bottom line? Do you know how much energy / water / waste / money you’ve saved?
As far as we know Boutiquehotel Stadthalle is the first hotel in any city worldwide with a Zero-Energy-Balance. The hotel was enlarged in 2009 by a passive house annex which included 130m² of solar panels, 93 m² of photovoltaic panels and a water heat pump, and in its first year managed to produce as much energy as it required.
The foundation for our zero-energy hotel is a sophisticated concrete structure through which integrated water pipes facilitate water circulation - cooling and heating the whole building - called concrete core activation. Water from our well activates the water heat pump. Fresh air from the garden is used to provide the right climate in the rooms. This controlled domestic ventilation system includes a heat recovery of 85%.
The entire passive house is equipped with LED lights only, thus saving on electricity. The hotel’s hallways are equipped with motion detectors to switch lights on automatically only when needed. We provide personal service 24/7 at our reception-bar instead of mini bars in our hotel rooms to reduce waste and refrigeration. This saves us 21,000 kg of CO2 each year.
Water: We use eco shower heads in all our bathrooms, as well as water-flow regulators in all sanitary taps, limiting the water flow in showers to approx. 10 l/m, and in sinks to approx. 5 l/m. This helped us to reduce our water consumption by 35%.
In addition our guests decide when and how often their towels and linen are changed. We inform our guests with a card that their linen and towels were changed before their arrival and will only be changed again if the card is placed on their bed or if towels are left on the floor. This has reduced the linen change by an estimated 25%.
The soap and shower gel we provide for guests is 97% biodegradable and certified by the EU-Ecoflower. We only use Eco-cleaning liquids in housekeeping and in the kitchen, all certified by the EU Ecoflower as well as microfibre cleaning cloths to use as little cleaning liquid as necessary.
Instead of tap water, we use water from our well to activate our water heat pump, as well as to flush toilets in our passive house. Water from the well is also used for watering the many plants in our garden.
Waste: We separate waste to a very high standard. Waste from guest rooms is separated on the housekeeping trolleys into different bags. All staff members receive training on this including an information sheet on how to separate waste correctly and a quiz.
We refrain from using small packaging/wrapping. For breakfast we try to buy in as large quantities and packaging as possible. Except for margarine, all the products are available in larger containers: ie: jam, Nutella, honey, butter etc. are not provided in small portions. When serving coffee in the afternoons we use lump sugar, instead of small portioned sugar sachets.
Instead of providing small amenities in the bathrooms, we offer soap dispensers in both shower and next to the sink. These containers are PET containers and can be recycled. Our towels and linen are wrapped in linen, instead of plastic when delivered.
Containers of our eco-cleaning products as well as soaps are collected and returned upon the next delivery. This ensures that containers can be used again. Toilet paper is recycled paper.
Our vending machine, as well as our reception-bar only serves drinks in glass bottles, there are no cans or plastic bottles available for sale.
If guests throw out any form of dental hygiene products, we collect them and send them to our partner “TerraCycle” who upcycle this hard-to-recycle-waste to create new products.
In the office paper is recycled paper and is always used on both sides. Our highlighters are refillable. Envelopes are reused again and again.
Sustainability is a question of philosophy. If it fits the philosophy of the hotel,it can become an authentic part of the company’s values and thus an integral part of the decision making process.
Do you have any community outreach programmes and if so, can you describe them for us? Who has benefitted and how? What benefits has it brought to the hotel?
Local community for us refers to the city of Vienna, but also to the partners we work with such as schools and universities; non-profit organisations such as Caritas, Red Noses-Clini Clowns as well as social services such as Balance - life without barriers.
Due to our innovative hotel concept, tours through the hotel take place on a regular basis. We ask our visitors for a donation to collect money for a project that supports the local community. Two years ago it was to support the WWF, last year it helped to support Wiener Tafel, providing food for homeless and poor people in Vienna.
We have close ties with universities and schools. We are frequently asked to give interviews about the sustainability and CSR practices of our hotel, which we always try to support. We also develop and realise projects together with students and pupils, such as decorating our seven upcycling rooms; creating furniture out of everyday objects, such as bedside tables from books, or hooks from cutlery. This was a project with the University of Applied Arts, while the University of Agriculture helped with our green indoor wall. Students observed how plants would develop under the influence of LED lights. Several practical work placements were realised with MODUL Tourism Schools, such as taking over the entire hotel, all departments, all jobs for an entire weekend in 2012.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Finding the right partners to create this passive house hotel. Convincing authorities and banks that an eco-hotel is actually a really good idea.
What plans do you have for your hotel’s sustainability in the future?
We are currently working on a new system to further improve the ventilation system in the passive house building in order to better cool the rooms during very hot days. Furthermore, we would still like to add windmills to our alternative energy production.
What tips or advice would you offer to any other hotel in your region which is just beginning the sustainability journey?
Sustainability is a question of philosophy. If it fits the philosophy of the hotel/the company it can become an authentic part of the company’s values and thus an integral part of the decision making process.