The green check-in

The Hindu, 16 April 2017 – Vitamin C-infused showers and Circadian lighting systems are coming soon, but for now we bring you up to speed with hotels in the country that have been green-rated this year

If your idea of a ‘green’ vacation is sleeping on organic bed linen, using recycled stationery, and eating veggies grown organically in your resort’s garden, 2017 has a lot more in store. India’s hospitality sector has kick-started the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development with out-of-the-box initiatives that go beyond the standard rainwater harvesting and waste recycling. We now have hotels sourcing solar and wind power and opting for climate responsive designs, along with more distinct features: programmable mattresses and customised temperature controls.

Certified ‘green’, many hotels are ensuring that the carbon footprint of the property and each guest is reduced drastically. The biggest advantage for opting for a certification is that hotels have to maintain a basic energy line, says Deepa Sathiaram, LEED Fellow and Executive Director, En3 Sustainability Solutions. This, she says, ensures the building’s maintenance and regular upkeep, which may not happen otherwise.

How are hotels certified?
They are rated on five basic parameters: responsible site development, water-efficient design, energy conservation, sourcing sustainable materials, and maintaining indoor environment quality. A design’s long-term feasibility will invariably determine how environmentally compatible the hotel is. You need to optimise at every stage and study how a product impacts the design. For instance, the kind of glazing used will determine the type of air conditioner, which will in turn determine the hotel’s electrical design. Green hotels don’t have to cost more – long-term maintenance and operations costs can be reduced by 20 - 50% with a green building. - Deepa Sathiaram, En3 Sustainability Solutions.

Certification Standards Worldwide

  • US: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), by the US Green Building Council
  • UK: Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)
  • Australia: Green Star
  • India: Indian Green Building Council’s rating and Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA)

We now have fixtures that operate by detecting your presence in the room and others that even adjust to your body temperature. Even the key card is being replaced by more sustainable room management systems. A new system automatically pre-sets room conditions based on booking schedules and room occupancy to maintain air circulation. When it comes to choosing the décor, the chemical composition of fabrics, curtains, rugs and paints is studied, and hotels ensure they are VOC-free. Features like Vitamin C-infused showers and Circadian lighting (responsive to your body’s rhythm) are popular abroad, but yet to catch up in India.

In fact, with 13 LEED Platinum-certified buildings in its kitty – the highest in the world – ITC is recognised as the ‘greenest luxury hotel chain in the world’. Awarded the LEED Platinum rating in 2012, the ITC Grand Chola in Chennai has a self-owned wind farm, uses bio-diesel, and also has an iPad-based room climate control system.

For your next holiday, take your pick from this year’s green-rated hotels

The IBNII Spa Resort, Coorg

A vacation at this health and wellness getaway can teach you a thing or two about recycling. The country’s first eco-luxe resort to receive the Indian Green Building Council’s (IGBC) prestigious Platinum certification last month, it has its own in-house tailoring staff that not only makes the hotel’s bed and bath linen from recycled fabric, but also designs bags from cement sacks and bubble wrap.

Only electric buggies are used at the resort, which has its own natural spring created from harvested rainwater. Nearly five million litres of water are harvested every year at their facility.

To cut down on plastic on-site, only steel crates are used in the kitchen, a practice now adopted by the sky chefs at Lufthansa. Most of the resort’s vegetable produce is sourced from the chemical-free garden. “Even our coffee and spices are bio-natural. Since the term ‘organic’ is now being misused, we stick to our ideology of being bio-natural,” says Sherry Sebastian, director.

The Ashok, New Delhi

India’s first Government-owned commercial building to be LEED Gold certified, the heritage The Ashok now wears a fresh new look. Built post-Independence by architect BE Doctor, its architecture ensured the preservation of existing rocks and trees. Quite a few original cables and wires remain intact, says the hotel’s general manager, Vijay Dutt. The 60-year-old building is also the oldest Government hotel in Asia to be LEED-certified.

The fresh aroma of mildly-heated lemon grass oil greets guests as they walk in: the hotel’s in-house technique of infusing aroma therapy into the air handler. To make the property LEED-compliant, no changes were made to the built structure. Old furniture was repaired and reused, and electrical meters and LED lights were installed. Organic vegetables are now grown on site, and sewage management and water treatment facilities have been set up.

Bioclimatic architecture, cavity walls, and deep shading in façades are inherent design features that were complemented with retrofits in energy systems, adds Dutt.

Taj Swarna, Amritsar

If you’re a guest at this newly-opened property of the Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris, you can be rest assured you are in a green zone. You can charge your electric car, take a walk along landscaped courtyards that are non-smoking, and use solar-heated water.

The LEED Gold-certified property is designed with energy-efficient cooling systems, and the double-glazed glass façade minimises its cooling load further. Apart from separate rooms for smokers and non-smokers, there are separate exhaust air ducts, too. Low flow water fixtures and sanitary fixtures with sensors cut down on water wastage. A Taj spokesperson explains how regionally extracted and manufactured materials that hold recycle value have gone into the construction. The on-site waste water treatment plant ensures zero discharge of water outside the hotel.

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