How a Hotel Turned Energy Efficiency into ROI

By Jeff Brainard, General Manager at Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion | July 21, 2014

The hospitality industry spends an average of $3.7 billion per year on energy, according to the California Green Lodging Program’s website, an effort from California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Electricity use usually accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the utility costs of a typical lodging property and record high temperatures can send these numbers even higher, straining utility budgets as well as putting additional stress on the electrical grid. Furthering the problem, this summer was one of the hottest on record, with temperatures soaring across almost every part of the country. When temperatures increase, so does the use of air conditioning, sending energy prices through the roof and increasing the risk of brown and blackouts.
 
With an increased awareness of sustainability issues, many businesses are closely assessing their energy usage and exploring new ways to become more energy efficient. Much progress has been made in the lodging industry in spite of several inherent challenges that can make employing energy management strategies more difficult than in other commercial spaces. The biggest obstacle is to ensure that energy efficiency changes go unnoticed by guests while the overall customer experience remains top notch.
 
Mobilizing Toward Sustainability
In 2007, The Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion made a decision to participate in Destination Earth, an internal initiative within Destination Hotels & Resorts (DH&R) that promotes practices and programs within their properties that lessen the environmental impact of standard practices. As the fourth largest independent hospitality management company in the country, DH&R and Destination Earth are creating a new benchmark for hotels and resorts through a series of environmental initiatives.
 
The Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion in Washington DC, in particular, really took the program’s goals to heart and made energy efficiency a top priority. As part of the company-wide effort, the Embassy Suites has taken significant steps to lessen the environmental impact of the hotel.  As part of this energy efficiency strategy, the Embassy took into consideration two separate areas – common spaces and guest rooms.
 
Common Cause for the Common Space
Many hotels have large meeting rooms, banquet halls and event spaces that are not in use at all times. These present an ideal opportunity for improving energy efficiency.
 
At the Embassy Suites at the Chevy Chase Pavilion, there is over 6,600 square feet of meeting space. The hotel recently embarked on an $80,000 lighting retrofit project that updated all meeting spaces and lobbies with dimmable high efficiency lights and installed motion sensor high efficiency lights in all other areas. In total, 1,200 lights were replaced, including 500 LED lamps.  A new solution from Constellation Energy called Efficiency Made Easy helped the Embassy Suites to implement these energy conservation measures without using upfront capital and to realize immediate cost savings as a result of reduced electricity use. This was made possible by bundling the cost of efficiency measures into Embassy’s electricity contract.   .  Implementing new initiatives with creative financing solutions is becoming an increasingly popular option for businesses looking to get renovations completed all at once and right away.
 
The Chevy Chase Pavilion, the mixed-use building that is home to the Embassy Suites as well as retail and office components, is also close to completing a significant renovation to its atrium. While adding Range, a new restaurant by Top Chef Bryan Voltaggio and the upscale Civil Cigar Lounge, the Chevy Chase Pavilion took the opportunity to install LED lighting and energy efficient systems throughout, furthering sustainability efforts and keeping energy conservation top of mind.
 
Greening of the Guest Room
As with most hospitality providers, the guest experience at Embassy Suites is of utmost importance, and they strive to maintain the highest standards for its clientele.  At the same time, offering these luxuries – including ample lighting, perfect in-suite temperatures, and basics like hot water on demand -- inherently use a lot of energy when not managed efficiently.
 
The Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion, for example, has 198 suites with an 85% annual occupancy rate. However, studies show guests are out of their hotel rooms for an average of 14 hours a day. Simply ensuring that lights are turned off while guest rooms are unoccupied can greatly reduce electricity use without impacting the guest experience. Reports also state that key card activation and motion sensor lights can provide an annual energy savings of up to 45%.
 
Hotels also use a large amount of water, an average of 218 gallons each day per occupied room, according to the California Green Lodging Program’s website. Water use can also be dramatically decreased with the installation of high efficiency toilets and showers, a retrofit the Embassy Suites has planned for next year. The Embassy has already saved through the installation of an ozone laundry system eliminating the need for hot water in the hotel laundry dramatically improving efficiency while producing a superior product.
 
4 Keys for 5 Star Energy Efficiency
For its energy efficiency efforts, the Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion location was named a runner-up in the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Green Guidelines Challenge, a program that urged hoteliers across the country to track and improve their green business operations by tracking occupancy statistics, monetary and energy expenditures and return on investment from specific green practices. The Embassy was also recognized as an Energy Start Partner and recently was awarded the 4-Key Award from Green Key Global, which certifies the hotel as a leader in hotel sustainability programs. The Embassy was the first and is one of only 10 hotels in Washington DC to earn the 4-Key distinction and hopes to achieve the 5-Key Award in the future.
 

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