It was good to be a part of the popular panel discussion on bathroom design at the Independent Hotel Show yesterday afternoon – with a flavour of “showers and sustainability”.
The wide ranging discussion was much more than this but the idea of how water is a central element of sustainability strategies in the hospitality sector was a strong one.
My fellow panellists at the Hansgrohe session are all experts in the field and it attracted a big audience, with standing room only in the Innovations theatre. I shared the platform with Axor’s Michael Kiolbassa, designer Vanessa Brady OBE, Georgina Pearman, owner of the Lucky Onion brand and Chair Grahame Morrison.
We identified that water saving often a hidden part of potential eco projects simply because water conservation is not a part of the national carbon reduction programmes and so does not attract the same amount of attention as electricity and gas utilities.
Yet reducing the amount of water consumed in independent hotels – and properties in all sectors – is an important contribution to cutting bills, reducing carbon and so improving sustainability.
It’s often forgotten that the water supply consumes energy through heating and pumping so by substantially reducing usage, hotels can make a big difference to the bottom line and their carbon emissions.
But cutting water usage in hotel bathrooms does not mean that everyone has to adopt the “student shower head” option. Companies like Hansgrohe and its high-end design brand Axor marry great design with frankly marvellous water efficiency. Good design should also help to reduce total cost of ownership. As Michael Kiolbassa said, it is possible to produce exceptional products and water savings, “pleasing to the eyes and the soul”.
Our experience, working with global hotel brands, is that shower solutions including the EcoSmart range deliver water savings of more than 50%. It’s always impressive to measure water flow pre- and post-installation, seeing rates drop from 19 litres per minute to 8 lpm.
As with all development projects, it’s important to work with a sustainability partner who can remove the barriers by providing proof points in the survey and planning stage, from water flow rates/savings to payback schedules for return on investment as well as covering the technical aspects like water pressure variations.
The bathroom, particularly the shower area is the most intimate part of a hotel guest room so attention to detail and the “wow” factor are very important. It’s the experience that most guests will remember, together with the comfort of the bed, ahead of all other services and it’s often the talking point that people share when they return home.
Georgina Pearman said that for her the bathroom was easily the most important part of the guest room and substantial investment was essential, even if that proved a challenge, while Vanessa Brady reminded us that eco/sustainability improvements added value to any property.
I shared my view that water management goes hand in hand with a range of other utility efficiency improvements, from low-energy LED lighting to smart lighting and heating controls that cut energy consumption, and reducing electricity use through smart pump solutions like Variable Speed Drives.
The point about all these is that these do not have a negative impact on guest experience. It is up to each hotel to decide whether to promote the benefits in its marketing but in our experience, it is something that people check for more frequently now.
Hotel guest bathroom design definitely is informed by the need for sustainable, commercially viable solutions. That’s good news for the bottom line and the planet.