In association with
Vanessa Brady SBID / Una Barac Scott Brownrigg / Mark Sait Save Money Cut Carbon / Paul Hunter Chetwoods / Steve Gale MMoser associates / Graham Spurr Hilson Moran / Taus Larsen Zedfactory / Mandip Shanker Hansgrohe / Martin Townsend BRE / Ben Reed Hansgrohe
In our latest Round Table we’ve gathered a varied and brilliant group of people to talk about energy – specifically energy within the workplace and hospitality sectors.
We have to start this month’s round table discussion by saying a huge thanks to our panel. Ironically, thanks to their knowledge, expertise and passion, we’re only able to bring you a mere snippet of the total conversation. We’re extremely grateful that our guests didn’t hold back and conserve their own energy!
We begin the discussion by asking our guests why, when research shows that, typically, energy consumption is only a small percentage of expenditure, is it so important to businesses throughout both the workplace and hospitality sectors?
Vanessa: I think when it comes to the hospitality sector it is quite important because the cost of electricity and water are actually key costs. Wherever hotels can reduce the outputs without impacting on guests, they will do. Water consumption is certainly something that we have to put a lot of thought into. Therefore, the taps and products that we specify have to be right. From my point of view, I’d always choose top products in this area, such as the taps – and I’m not just saying that because we’re sat in the Hansgrohe water studio! I think there are thing you can economise on. The bed is not one of them – and the tap is not one and the shower is also not one. If you have a good shower and good water pressure and a good night’s sleep, then you have a returning customer.
“A 200-room hotel in central London will have an electricity bill of approximately £50,000 per month and a water bill of £200,000-£300,000 per year.”
Steve: I recently asked an engineer at our place what the overheads for a regular workplace – the sort of projects we get involved in – were. He reckoned it was about 1%. That’s a pretty small figure – so if someone can save you half of 1% of you overhead, it rarely reaches the top three of your priority list.
Mark: In hotels, however, it is the second biggest overhead after people. It’s one of the top five strategic agendas of all major hotel groups. A 200-room hotel in central London will have an electricity bill of approximately £50,000 per month and a water bill of £200,000-£300,000 per year. These are really big numbers. This is so important because the revenue that a lot of hotels used to make from selling breakfasts and through guests watching films has disappeared. Now people grab a Costa and download movies to their tablets. That revenue stream is now extremely flat.
Taking that one stage further, for every £100,000 you put on the bottom line by reducing water and energy costs, you will get a £1 million + on the asset value. So this is very high on the agenda right now.
Mandip: Do you think that’s coming through to the design and specification?
Mark: We’ve seen hotels that have opened brand new rooms and have put halogens in – and then, three weeks later, tell us to go in and rip them out and replace them.
Martin: One of the big issues here is the relationship between how the customer feels – the health and wellbeing of people within the space – and the efficiency of the space. So if you drive your building based on efficiency – water efficiency and energy efficiency – it could actually affect how people feel in the space.
Paul: I think with regards to the workspace, when you looked at energy on its own, it wasn’t really a big selling point. Now, with the
growth of health and wellbeing has really started pushing that agenda from the other side. People are now realizing that 80% of their costs are in the staff and staff retention is vital, therefore the things that will encourage staff to work in an office – such as air quality and daylighting – are the big drivers. When you talk about the facts and figures and energy consumption on its own, people can switch off quite quickly – but when you start talking about how people experience a space, people do get excited far quicker. I think similar things are starting to happen in the hotel sector as well, in terms of people’s experience in a more competitive market.
Una: I think operators do care and are interested in this. For example, we work with a major hotel chain who do insist on the quality of the taps they specify as well as the flow rate. It doesn’t matter whether it is their luxury brand, mid-market or budget. Obviously, high-end brands are often more eco-conscious because they can afford to be. It is important to these major companies – and we’re talking about some of the biggest brands in the world here – to reduce their carbon footprint. We’re having to really think when specifying – especially hen it comes to products such as showers and taps and the lighting.
Martin: I don’t think this is just about operational carbon – it’s also about embedded carbon as well. When you start to look at the efficiency of the fabric of a building, all the technologies you’re placing into that space, you’re actually starting to look at the carbon impact of that. Some of the materials that are being used nowadays are actually quite carbon intense – but over the lifetime of that building and through the efficiency of that building, you’re going to see a far better return.
Graham: I think the game is moving from operational carbon to embedded carbon as well. People need to be quite mindful of that.
Una: I totally agree with that.
Mark: At a strategic level, water is very much on the agenda. We’re now seeing a lot less carbon targets and people who have missed their carbon targets – and are now saying ‘You know what, let’s focus on water’! When it comes to a number of the major (hotel) groups it’s not costs, it’s actually volume and consumption. I’ve seen a lot of these groups flip their carbon strategy into water consumption.
Vanessa: They also use the energy consumption of a building as a way of front-loading the investment of the building – so you won’t see property value advertised just by square footage or by location any more, it will be efficiency and function, because property that has been designed and fitted out to use less energy will make it more valuable to the occupier. It’s a really important point.
“They also use the energy consumption of a building as a way of front-loading the investment of the building.”
We move on to discuss the clarity – or lack of clarity – in the message of energy conservation.
Mandip: We still find people who are specifying products but are quite confused in terms of what the levels are and what they should be doing. They don’t know where that information is – and then you have conflicting bodies with different agendas. I don’t think this is as clear as it could be.
Martin: I think it’s now time to jump from trying to focus the attention to the supply chain and developers about what does good regulation and good design look like to the consumer. How do you get the consumer to start to become more intelligent about whether this is a good house or a good building? How do you get the people who use those spaces to understand what it means to them?
Mark: Through the pain of money!
Taus: We’ve been doing this for so long! We’ve now shifted our pitch away from ‘this is low in carbon, this is going to save the planet’ and we’re now pitching ‘this is going to save you money this quickly!’
Mark: As long as your energy bill is smothered to death by the property you buy, it’s not even going to get into the top ten things you do. With office space in central London at £75 per square foot, it’s hard to persuade landlords to do something about this.
With that we’ve come full circle.
The workplace and hospitality sectors may well consider energy and water conservation from a slightly different perspective, but it is essential that all commercial stakeholders have energy usage high on the corporate agenda, regardless of their ultimate motivation.