Sustainable Hotel Development

Sustainable development is the responsible use of productive resources in a development project or undertaking to safeguard long-term environmental, social and economic sustainability. Sustainable development is adopted to provide lasting socio-economic benefit to all project stakeholders without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A range of socio-cultural, economic and environmental issues must be considered and balanced to ensure the sustainability of development projects. These include the use of energy and water in the development and operation of hotels as well as the moral, ethical, social and political impact of taking action.

A sustainability strategy is the planned set of actions to be taken in order to positively impact the environment or society. Sustainability as a business strategy calls for consideration of the prevailing and changing social and cultural norms, values and practices.

Sustainability and sustainability strategies depend on local socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors. The project stakeholders benefit differently along the different stages of its life cycle.

The business case for sustainability establishes the business benefits to sustainable development and the greening of hotel operations. The benefits include cost savings, competitive advantage, employee loyalty, customer retention, regulatory compliance, and risk management.

Sustainability in business is commonly justified in terms of:

  1. Increased profit margins through utility savings;
  2. Increased revenue through meeting consumer preference and reduced reputational risk;
  3. Future-oriented investment strategies;
  4. Protection against regulatory risk and benefit from regulatory incentives;
  5. Increased validation and value through sustainable building certification; and
  6. Long-term energy supply.

Developers, owners, lenders, operators, franchisors, investors, employees and the community all benefit from sustainability in development projects. To achieve sustainability, the stakeholders must understand, adopt and implement the applicable sustainability principles:

  • Social - Ethical social responsibility and promotion of equality, well-being and social justice;
  • Economic - Equitable and fair distribution of economic resources; and
  • Environmental - Protection and restoration of natural resources, habitats and ecosystems.

Sustainable Developers

Property developers are responsible for the sustainability of development projects. They structure the project, coordinate the development process, provide the project parameters, and intermediate contact between the various project participants.

Sustainability strategies provide developers a framework to drive performance. Sustainable hotel design and construction focuses on sustainable development, from the planning stage through to the implementation stage. New sustainable hotel buildings and renovations are designed based on sustainable development guidelines.

To initiate the sustainable development process, the most appropriate site for the project is selected, the stakeholders in the local community are consulted, an environmental impact assessment is conducted, and a project design brief and a project implementation plan (PIP) are prepared.

The design process requires that everyone who is involved in the construction and design, operation and use of the property collaborate to understand the issues and concerns of all stakeholders. Then the developer defines the project based on the applicable sustainability principles.

Property development projects are guided to make sustainable decisions during construction. These include sustainable site selection, sustainable design criteria, the use of environmentally friendly construction materials and machines, and on-site operating practices.

Sustainability-specific requirements for subcontractors cover any sustainability requirements that a developer has included in its contracts with subcontractors. They include specification and use of sustainable materials, systems, processes and operating practices.

Sustainable procurement encourages, facilitates or requires reduced consumption of goods within the building or premises and/or the sourcing of sustainable or ethical goods. Measures must be in place to minimize the negative impact of procurement on the community and the environment.

Sustainable operational design considers energy, water, waste, materials, noise, air quality, emissions and hazardous substances used or created in the operation of the hotel. A hotel building designed in compliance with sustainability principles should run at optimal operational efficiency.

Sustainability Initiatives

The Paris Agreement adopted by the United Nations in 2015 aims to strengthen the ability of countries to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and facilitate finance flows consistent with sustainable development. Under the agreement, each country must determine, plan and regularly report on measures it takes to mitigate global warming.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development establishes 17 goals adopted by UN member states as the action plan to achieve sustainable development.

Each country must establish its action plan on implementing the UN SDGs and the integration of sustainable development in policymaking at the national level. National focal points have been set to ensure coordination of their implementation of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP).

The EU Sustainable Finance Action Plan, adopted by the EU Commission in March 2018, establishes the EU's commitment to channel private financial flows towards investments that support the Paris Agreement and the UN SDGs. The Action Plan has become part of The European Green Deal, which includes the Sustainable EU Investment Plan - the investment pillar of the Green Deal.

In December 2019, the European Commission announced The European Green Deal, with the overarching aim of making Europe climate neutral in 2050. It will review each existing law on its climate merits and introduce new legislation on the circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, farming and innovation.

The US National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) is US federal law that mandates the consideration of environmental impacts before any federal action is undertaken that is likely to significantly affect the environment. It declares the creation and maintenance of "conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations" as national policy.

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Gregory Autin