Be Our Guest

By Claire Swedberg | Apr 15, 2020




Hotels, casinos and resorts are driven toward a variety of technological solutions to reduce energy use and water consumption, spurred by potential savings from energy-efficient ideas as well as consumer demands for greener practices.

For many hotels, especially large brands, it starts with construction. There are more than 2,000 registered or certified LEED hospitality properties in 40 states and 30 countries, said Rhiannon Jacobsen, vice president of market transformation and development U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

“We see most work on the new construction side, but there absolutely are existing building projects from major renovations and retrofits with green building practices and standards in mind.”

“These 24-hour-a-day properties fluctuate wildly in terms of occupancy and usage, and so certainly there is a pressure to balance the need of guest experience with the need for a corporate commitment and stewardship [around sustainability],” she said.

Accomplishing sustainability depends on some level of intelligence to reduce the way energy is used around the clock in hotels and resorts. Often, energy consumption intelligence couples with other systems such as security or lighting.

Lighting is about 10% to 15% of a hotel’s energy consumption, and HVAC represents 55% to 60%. Although LED lighting has brought down energy costs, the power used to operate these businesses is still significant. In fact, the hospitality industry’s annual energy consumption footprint is more than $7 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings initiative.

Lighting provides a unique opportunity for energy-consumption intelligence. Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, is taking advantage of that by making sustainability one of the company’s pillars, said Christoph Eisenack, end-user marketing lead in internet of things (IoT) lighting for smart buildings for Signify U.S., Somerset, N.J.

Signify recognizes that the hospitality industry is getting more complex.

“The guest nowadays is more empowered, has more options and is more frequently a digital native,” Eisenack said.

That means today’s guests expect a low environmental impact, have high expectations about feeling at home wherever they stay, and they will be sharing information about their experience on social media. Consumers demand sustainability coupled with guest experience, however, which makes lighting a good source for addressing these challenges, according to Eisenack.

Lighting intelligence can provide safety in parking areas and anti-stumble lights in private rooms.

“Building owners find lighting controls offer significant energy savings and contribute to meeting energy-efficiency standards, such as ASHRAE 90.1 and California’s Title 24,” said Jennifer Ploskina, Connected Solutions Marketing Manager for Eaton. “We often work with both designers for new construction and service contractors for retrofit applications to determine the best solution.”

“Depending on the size and scope of the project, Eaton’s Z-Wave Plus switches, dimmers, receptacles and occupancy sensors could be paired with a smart building and security system such as For larger hotels, Eaton’s Pow-R-Command lighting control system, offering controllable circuit breakers and dimming circuitry, would integrate into a building management system, such as Johnson Controls or Honeywell.” she said.

An early gain in energy savings came from the transition to LED, which provided about 50% energy savings over predecessor fluorescent or incandescent lighting.

“The question is what comes after LED to help with further energy savings,” Signify’s Eisenack said.

Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa., offers a suite of guestroom-automation systems called myRoom, which controls lights, temperature, window shades and drapery. Each system can be individually tailored to turn on lights, adjust shades and have temperature automatically return to a preset level when the occupancy sensor is triggered, for example, and turn everything off when the room is empty. Guests enjoy the customization, and facility managers appreciate the energy cost savings.

“Not only does lighting control offer many energy-saving benefits, but solutions like Lutron myRoom come with visual dashboards that offer alerts, occupancy indicators, and optimization strategies. With the automation and integration our systems provide, they help save money and make hotels more sustainable,” said Olivier Perrigueur, Lutron’s vice president-general manager of Commercial Architectural Business.

Signify’s interact hospitality solution integrates lighting with HVAC and guest room systems.

“We have sensors in the room for presence detection, for instance,” Eisenack said, adding that this helps measure and adjust the temperature and prompt automated blinds to close, which can help reduce HVAC demand.

“The hotel guestroom is a complicated space, between requirements for electrical power and lighting, plumbing, HVAC and security (door locks and employee panic buttons). Hotel owners would like to be able to deliver all of this in a cost-effective manner with a shared database,” said Pete Horton, vice president of market development, Electrical Wiring Systems, Legrand, West Hartford, Conn.

The company offers the HS series card key switch, which turns electrical circuits on or off with a card key or fob. This prevents guests leaving lights and air conditioners running when they exit the room.

In July, Legrand is launching a guestroom control system that runs through the thermostat. It will analyze and benchmark rooms for acoustics, temperature, environmental quality and light. Guests will be able to control the smart devices with their phones.

Gathering areas in hotels are also a focus for energy savings.

“Daylight harvesting for public spaces, including lobby, meeting rooms and ballrooms, allow preset dimming and partitionable controls for optimal cost savings, said Terry Arbouw, director of product development and innovation at Hubbell Control Solutions, Greenville, S.C. “NX Distributed Intelligence controls provide energy-saving solutions, ranging from simple occupancy control in restrooms, to fitness centers, stairwells and storage spaces.

“The NX solution is most effective when it is configured and managed by the user through the controlHUBB mobile app,” he said, adding that, “It can be even more powerful when it is combined with outdoor parking and security lighting to provide safety to all guests entering and leaving properties. It all adds up to maximum energy savings and customer satisfaction.”

Maintenance is another potential area for energy savings, and building intelligence is addressing this challenge as well. Data about lighting functionality—room by room and in public areas, for instance—can be fed into the hotel’s property management system, which notifies staff to correct a problem in real time and collects failure rates, so lighting is replaced at the appropriate time.

Lighting intelligence and integrated systems are more common in new construction, but there is also a market for installation during renovations, including when a hotel transitions to LED fixtures.

It’s not just the big brands that are deploying building intelligence for sustainability. Mid-range hotel chains and boutique hotels are going to companies, such as AV Smart Solutions, Everett, Wash., which provides business automation to benefit guest experience, said David Stafford, AV Smart Solution’s managing partner.

Hotels can modify everything from lighting, shades and temperatures based on the time of day, for instance, said Aaron VanBeek, business partner at AV Smart Solutions. The expectations from today’s guests often involve the same conveniences they can enjoy in their homes and offices.

“Guests today have expectations to manage more from their phones,” he said.

That means unlocking guestroom doors with phones and changing the media or other settings in their room using an app.

Security is important in an open-all-hours hotel properties. Sacramento, Calif.-based video security technology company Rhombus Systems has moved into the IoT by building sensor-based data, related to environmental conditions, into its video solution, said Jordan Shou, Rhombus Systems’ marketing manager. The solution pairs data from IoT sensors, using Bluetooth transmissions, with video footage captured by Rhombus security cameras. If an event triggers a sensor, the user will receive an alert notification with a video clip to see in real-time what is happening.

If a break-in occurs or someone gains access to a restricted area, Rhombus can issue an alert with video so users can see who is entering the space. If a change in conditions takes place, such as a temperature or humidity, video footage brings context to the alert so users can see what caused the change.

“With our system, since it’s cloud managed, you don’t have to deal with DVRs or servers,” Shou said.

The data is sent securely to the cloud and can be accessed remotely by a web browser or mobile device.

“It’s really powerful if you have multiple locations or have large deployments, you can easily manage your security cameras and sensors all from one console,” he said.

On a real-time basis, the Rhombus Systems solution ensures an environment remains protected and stable by sending an alert when that isn’t the case. Keeping up with the changes in technology upgrades requires flexibility on the backbone level, Shou said.

The company offers an API so users can customize a solution specific to an application. If a hotel manager wants to know about a temperature fluctuation of 5 degrees, for instance, the system could send out a notification to adjust the temperature.

“We’re seeing a fundamental shift happening in the hospitality industry,” Shou said. “More organizations are looking to modernize their outdated technology infrastructure not only to improve the experience for customers but also their employees.”

AV Smart Solutions provides sensors that integrators and electrical contractors can install to track water drips or burned-out fixtures, thereby minimizing maintenance by notifying managers of problems. Like other technology solutions, this can help preventative maintenance. Hotels can address maintenance issues before there is a significant problem, VanBeek said.

Typically, the technology AV Smart Solutions provides is specific to common areas rather than guestrooms.

Such technology “affects client feedback and, for energy efficiency, the big cost savings they see will be for maintenance cost reductions.” VanBeek said.

In the meantime, the USGBC is using its arc digital platform to help LEED users chronicle their energy and other sustainability performance indicators and help others follow similar paths.

“We now have more than 8,500 LEED projects reporting data into our arc performance platform,” Jacobsen said.

And the data goes far beyond hospitality.

“[LEED] certification may not always be at top of mind, but performance is going to be” she said.

Arc is a tool to measure and manage data coming from the project. That platform is free to anyone, and everyone can see how they score at the local and global levels.

“It’s human nature to know that if you are measuring, you’re going to be likely to be managing,” she said.

Other elements of building retrofits can help address indoor environmental quality. Green building strategies can help improve air quality and encourage the use of low volatile-organic compounds to support health and well-being, which is important, particularly for those with allergies and asthma. It will provide improved sleep quality and cognitive function as part of a guest experience.

Ultimately, the hospitality industry is paying attention.

“You’re seeing more clientele demanding that hospitality be more efficient and sustainable,” Jacobsen said.

About The Author

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at [email protected].





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