Sustainability is more and more necessary from a regulatory perspective, sensible from a commercial perspective and adopted from a corporate responsibility perspective. Companies truly committed to improving sustainability are increasingly popular with customers and indeed with talent. The environmentally conscious customer (both private and business) now chooses to dine at restaurants and book venues and rooms at hotels which have obtained the Green Key certificate, the international sustainability hallmark for the leisure sector.
To implement ‘green’ goals set by the European Union, several governments have established targets aimed at disconnecting the use of natural resources from economic growth. Companies can contribute to these goals for the reasons mentioned in the introduction, for instance by seeking to meet the requirements to obtain the Green Key certificate. Accommodation that is affiliated with Green Key show a true commitment to sustainability. This covers, for instance, the way the accommodation deals with construction, energy and waste. In this Construction Column we are focussing on this first point: construction.
Construction projects (including renovation) are burdensome on the environment. This is partly because of the usage of materials, which are to a large extent new and made from natural resources rather than consisting of pre-used materials. This contributes to a depletion of natural resources, CO2 emissions, energy & water usage and other forms of environmental impact. A sector that requires constant updating and modernisation of assets, such as the hotel and leisure sector, is no stranger to this.
In a sustainable society, where economic growth is no longer linked to the usage of natural resources, the production and usage of building materials is approached differently. Consideration is given to the environmental impact of the production and the lifespan of the materials. Emphasis is also given to the reusability of resources. The importance of ‘green’ building materials is reflected in the criteria used by Green Key. One of the criteria for hotels, for example, is as follows: “The participant has opted for at least two building materials during the construction, reconstruction or renovation process (…) with an eco-label or reused building materials.”
The use of ‘responsible’ building materials is relatively new. We see that employers, contractors and suppliers are actively working on a range of solutions. This can include:
– creating an interior that can be revamped every 8-12 years with only minor modifications;
– incorporating environmentally friendly building & FF&E materials, such as reused or reusable materials;
– adopting innovative forms of executing construction works (such as working with prefab, and using building equipment powered by electricity or hydrogen);
– choosing for a life cycle costing approach during construction (including reducing energy & water usage, implementing energy production options such as solar PV panels and heating pumps, and enabling the ‘harvest’ of building materials post decommissioning) over a short-term cost approach; and
– applying KPI’s to ensure that continuously new technologies are invested in to achieve a constant reduction of energy & water usage as well as CO2 emissions.
Just as the hotel and leisure market is picking up again after the Covid-19 waves, we are seeing that such solutions are currently under pressure as in the short term, they tend to come at a cost. This is the result of the increase of construction & energy costs and supply chain issues, resulting in a lack of building capacity, building materials and FF&E. This does not mean that owners and operators should lower their ambitions. To the contrary: now more than ever such environmentally friendly solutions are becoming the better choice to reduce costs and increase profit not only on a long term but also in the shorter term. To achieve such solutions, especially in the current difficult construction market, having clear contractual (long term) environmental objectives and enabling good cooperation for all involved parties during a construction project is key. Employer, contractors, suppliers, architects and engineers need to work together to make the most out of the available budget and solutions.
Within our firm we have experience in setting up contracts to enable collaboration between all involved parties to improve the sustainability of hotel and leisure assets in the short and longer terms.
For further information, please contact:
Mariam Ali, Bird & Bird