EPA provides insight into hotel energy savings
EPA provides insight into hotel energy savings
05 FEBRUARY 2010 6:19 AM

Partnering with the EPA is good for a hotel’s economic and environmental bottom lines.

A recent appointment with Lisa Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, was particularly interesting and valuable when looking at the opportunities available for hotel carbon footprint reduction. The topic of the meeting was to look at the industry through the eyes of the EPA. The agency is encouraging hotels and hotel companies to partner with it to reduce the effect of greenhouse gas emissions produced by American hotels.

The U.S. lodging industry spent more than US$7 billion on energy in 2003 (the most recent statistics available), which represented the fourth largest energy bill in the commercial marketplace following retail, offices and education.

Hervé Houdré

A simple 10-percent reduction in electricity and natural gas consumption would result in annual savings of US$700 million and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the electricity use of more than 730,000 homes for a year. But it is surprising to see so many hotels still using incandescent bulbs. When one thinks that a simple decision of changing the bulbs of a hotel into energy efficient compact fluorescent lighting can save from 12 percent to 15 percent of the electricity bill, it is disturbing to realize that many hoteliers have not yet understood that “going sustainable” is the best way to reduce their expenses and improve their economic bottom line as well as take care of their children’s future.

Consider that the average hotel in America spends almost US$2,000 per available room each year on energy, which is about 5 percent of operating costs. A 10-percent reduction of energy costs is the same as a 60-cent revenue per available room increase for limited-service hotels and a more than US$2 increase for full-service hotels!

Energy Star

The Energy Star program developed by the EPA identifies the nation’s most energy efficient commercial buildings. In order to earn the Energy Star, a building must perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide for energy efficiency and score a 75 or above on the EPA’s 1-100 national energy performance scale. More than 75 percent of Americans recognize the Energy Star program. That is another good reason to partner with the EPA and implement the program within the property.

Thousands of hotels have started to measure their energy and 400 already have obtained the certification that confirms their commitment to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. More than 130 lodging companies are Energy Star partners. Frankly, it seems so basic and so logical that every hotel should enter the EPA rating, thus getting instant guest recognition. Until a hotel obtains a certification, their strategy may not be fully understood by the public.

Because Energy Star has a more rigorous energy performance requirement than the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, the EPA considers the programs to be complementary and encourages hoteliers to embrace both programs. LEED and LEED Existing Buildings entice buildings to improve their performance across the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction and improved indoor environmental quality, as well as stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.


WaterSense is a voluntary program launched by the EPA to transform the market for water efficiency. The program includes labeled products such as residential toilets and faucets and, soon, showerheads. They are certified to use at least 20 percent less water than average products. The program helped to save 9.3 billion gallons of water in 2008. Just imagine how hotels could benefit from the utilities savings of these products. As Jackson noted, it’s just a matter of looking for the WaterSense label the same way we now buy Energy Star-rated appliances.

Between Energy Star- and WaterSense-rated appliances, the EPA is giving hotel chief engineers a very simple catalog of equipment to use without going through much more research.

Measure the change

A program’s effectiveness cannot be assessed unless proper measurements are recorded, which I have written about previously. (Link to « What gets measured gets managed » article). Jackson also urges hotels to measure, track and improve their energy use in order to qualify for Energy Star ratings as well as to measure the energy savings that can be realized by implementing simple changes.

Hervé Houdré began his tenure as general manager of the Willard InterContinental Washington D.C. in 2004.  He is recognized for introducing refinements which impact profit and increase market share. Under his leadership, the Willard InterContinental has embarked on a sustainability program, Willard InterContinental - The Next 100 Years. Houdré, who has written a white paper, Sustainable Hospitality© : Sustainable Development in the Hotel Industry, and his team, have put into place a five-year roadmap that defines and quantifies the mid-term SD goals for the hotel. The hotel published its first GRI Standard Sustainability Report available at www.willarddc.com/sd.  

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