The Village Hotel Club is a small chain of hotels in the UK which have been working to address their energy performance. Doing so has helped them re-evaluate the role of sustainability in their business plan and they've realised the value it can bring it a variety of ways. We found out more from Andrew O'Brien, Property Director.
Can you take us on your company’s sustainability journey? Where did it begin? Where are you now?
Village Hotel Club  is a chain of 29 hotels and leisure clubs across the UK. Part of Village's performance strategy is to improve energy efficiency throughout their hotels and operations which will result in reduced energy spend and increase the value of the business.
With the support of the energy performance company, Carbon Credentials , Village Hotel Club has achieved compliance with the Government's Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and went on to save close to £500,000 in energy costs in 2017.
Why did Village Hotel Club decide to become more sustainable? Why did you feel it was important to have sustainable hotels?
There's a strong correlation between improving sustainability and the value it brings to a business. Improving our energy usage has helped future proof the business against further hikes in energy prices and, therefore, increased the profitability of the business and its investment potential. Being sustainable has also added benefits including reduced wear and tear on building services, resulting in lower maintenance and asset replacement costs and, most importantly, provided a more comfortable environment for our guests. It also helps with staff retention and appeals to the growing number of carbon conscious guests that we're seeing come through our doors. The expectations of our guests are changing. Our corporate guests are particularly energy conscious. They want to partner with energy efficient hotels and require proof of sustainability.
What are the key initiatives that the hotel has undertaken to improve sustainability?
We undertook an ESOS energy audit across seven of our hotels which identified several key initiatives to improve sustainability, which we've since implemented, mainly improvements to the Building Management Systems (BMS) to reduce running costs and carbon emissions. For example, one site was running two boilers in parallel, when one would have sufficed. The boilers have been reprogrammed so they run independently, reducing operating costs and wear and tear on the assets. Air conditioning units were also re-programmed in an energy efficient manner to take advantage of re-circulated air and free cooling – all this saved around £20,000 a year.
The BMS is also now managed remotely by Carbon Credentials which means we have remote monitoring of the plant, so issues and faults can be swiftly identified and rectified. For example, at Village Maidstone, they identified a boiler fault the morning it occurred and fixed it the same day, saving significant temperature and consumption fluctuations that would have cost £1,000 in energy spend, and caused guest discomfort and possible damage to the plant.
We also rolled out an education programme across all hotels to train, upskill and engage staff on energy usage and ways to reduce consumption. To keep staff engaged in our sustainability programme, we also send out a quarterly newsletter, updating them on the amount of energy they've helped to save and how much this equates to in sales, with next steps and aims on our energy efficiency strategy.
What initiatives have the biggest impact on your bottom line?
Making improvements to the way our hotel buildings function has had the biggest impact on our bottom line, with a saving of £460,000 in 2017 out of a total of £5.5 million in energy spend, which is forecast to increase to over £500,000 by the end of 2018.
What was the biggest surprise on your sustainability journey?
Realising how inefficiently we were operating our Building Management System and, as a result, our building services plant.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Up-skilling our 3,500 employees so the energy saving processes become part of their daily job and ensuring that our guests continue to get a quality service whilst meeting our sustainability goals. Incorporating an energy module into our staff training handbook and quarterly newsletter have been key to staff training and buy-in.
What plans do you have for your hotels’ sustainability in the future?
We are expanding our sustainability programme next year (2019) to encompass water and waste reducing processes. We will continue to drive this ethos down to staff and start to communicate with guests about how to be more environmentally conscious during their stay. We are expanding our hotel portfolio and we will ensure to implement energy efficiency designs within all our new developments.
Any awards or certificates?
Our new hotel development in Portsmouth received a Very Good rating in BREEAM.
Tips and advice to other hotels?
It’s beneficial to use a third party energy expert who can propose the latest thinking and technology to support energy efficiency as well as carry out independent energy audits, and develop and take ownership of a sustainability programme for your hotels. They'll give you a clear strategy that is based on knowledge of the environmental sector, and policy requirements and they will drive it through without the internal distractions of running a hotel. And remember, driving down your energy spend takes time - don't expect it to be fixed overnight.
For further information on Village Hotel Club and it's sustainability programme please visit https://carboncredentials.com/portfolio-item/vur-village-hotels-ltd/