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European PlanApril 15, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
The Hotel and Spa Rosa Alpina adopted green practices back in 1927.
For environmentally friendly hotels in Europe, you can look to the past, or you can look to the future. A mountainside hotel in Italy installed its own power plant back in 1927, and a new eco-hotel is set to open next year in Surrey, England. Whether your clients are looking for something old-fashioned or ultra-modern, they can find a green property to suit their every need.
In Italy’s Dolomite section of the Alps, the 52-room Hotel & Spa Rosa Alpina has adopted several environmental practices for the long-term sustainability of its property and the surrounding environment. Perhaps surprisingly, these practices aren’t new. In fact, they go back 82 years to the installation of the property’s first hydroelectric power plant in 1927.
Granted, that first plant only offered 18 kilowatts of power, but in the intervening years, succeeding generations of the Pizzinini family added others that increased the power to 1600 kilowatts. The current power plant, the largest in the Alta Badia region under private ownership, currently provides 100 percent green power to the hotel, as well as more than half of the village of San Cassiano.
Rosa Alpina makes other environmental efforts in addition to generating its own power. The hotel has its own water source under the mountains that serves the entire property, including the restaurants and spa. The most recent wing, opened in January, was built completely out of wood, which needs less heat to keep it warm. This saves the property money in the long run, and cuts down on emissions. Hotel Rosa Alpina also has a comprehensive recycling program for glass, paper and plastic.
Perhaps most unique among hotels, the property’s owners and staff collect hay and mountain flowers for use in the kitchen (for such dishes as the Filet of Beef Wrapped in Hay) and the spa (incorporated into the Wild Flowers Body Wrap and Essential Flowers Body Scrub). Arnica flowers are used for massage oils and in a special body wrap to soothe sore muscles. “We’re proud of our ‘green’ accomplishments so far and expect to build on them for the future preservation of Rosa Alpina and our village of San Cassiano,” says Hugo Pizzinini, the hotel’s third-generation general manager.
The Dolomites are a haven for tourists who want to experience the natural beauty of Italy.
None of these practices have affected the overall quality of the hotel. The Hotel Rosa Alpina is a member of Relais & Châteaux, Virtuoso, JDB Fine Hotels & Resorts and the Andrew Harper Collection. Two-and-a-half hours north of Venice and two hours south of Innsbruck, the property is accessible along the Dolomite Drive from Cortina, where the scenery provides a dramatic backdrop for travelers en route from Venice to Lake Garda and Lake Como.
Facilities at the hotel include the Michelin-two-star restaurant, St. Hubertus, which is run by Trentino’s Grand Chef Norbert Niederkofler; the original Daniela Steiner Beauty Spa (named for Hugo Pizzinini’s wife, who also has her own popular line of cosmetics); and two exclusive mountain chalets (6,600 feet above sea level) that can be used for catered meetings, family gatherings or romantic getaways.
Rosa Alpina is open for the summer season from the end of June through the beginning of September, and for the winter from early December until the beginning of April.
Surrey, England, will be the site of Dorchester's ninth property, an environmentally friendly country-house hotel.
Coming Up in the UK
Scheduled to open in the summer of 2010, Coworth Park, Dorchester Collection’s new country-house hotel, will be one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly properties, incorporating renewable and low-energy technologies. The hotel will be Dorchester’s ninth property. “When planning this hotel,” says Christopher Cowdray, chief executive of Dorchester Collection, “we seized upon the opportunity to introduce some of the latest zero-carbon technologies, many of which are firsts for hotels of this nature in the UK.”
Coworth Park will be set upon 200 acres of parkland near Ascot, Surrey. The hotel will have 69 rooms in total, with 30 in the main house and 39 in the converted stable block and cottages. It will also have an underground spa and equestrian center with 40 stables, two polo fields and a practice field.
The hotel aims to reduce total carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50 percent with new approaches to heating, cooling and lighting. For example, Coworth Park will be the first hotel in the UK to grow its own carbon-neutral fuel supply—in the form of willows, which will be used as biomass fuel for the main boiler within an “Energy Center.” In total, 12 acres of the 200-acre estate will be planted with willow, which will be harvested every three years. In the intervening two years, arboricultural waste in wood chip form will be purchased from local suppliers to ensure that there are no major transport requirements.
The hotel’s energy center will incorporate all primary heating, cooling and domestic hot water generation for the main hotel, spa, stable block and cottages. It will be heated in part by the biomass heating plant that will burn willow and woodchip waste. It will also boast a thermal store enabling it to store energy during low-demand periods, making it particularly energy-efficient as the boiler “downturns” are minimized. The biomass-condensing boiler plant will result in significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions compared to a conventional boiler.
To assist in cooling the hotel, a closed-loop horizontal ground-source water circulation system of underground pipes will be installed. Known as “slinkys,” these underground pipes will be buried in meadowland. Water is first passed through a chiller and then constantly circulated through these slinkys and energy-efficient coolers to provide cold water for the air-conditioning process. This process is considerably more efficient than conventional air-cooled or water-cooled chilled-water systems.
All rainwater and surface water at Coworth Park will be recycled. The water will drain into the lake and then be reused as irrigation for the polo fields and the willow plantation. Ultimately, the aim is to recycle all water on-site, including black (sewage) and gray (bath and shower) water, through a recycling treatment plant.
Subterranean Spa and Sunken Garden
The hotel’s spa will have eight treatment rooms (six single and two double), a fitness center and an indoor pool. The spa will be underground and will have a “living roof” of plants and herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, thyme, chamomile and lavender, to be used for natural treatments. Created mostly from timber structures with carbon-negative lime hemp spine and external walls, the green and sustainable building will emerge from the existing hillside to provide an exclusive eco-luxury spa with low energy requirements.
The hotel will have its own kitchen garden that will provide many of the organic vegetables for use in the two restaurants. A sunken garden from the 18th century will also be restored.
“This hotel is a sympathetic redevelopment of a country house using leading-edge technology and traditional methods,” says Ray Pask, chief engineer, Dorchester Collection, who is in charge of the project. “We’re on track to deliver in excess of 40 percent sustainable technology, which far exceeds the 20 percent target now set by most Councils. Of course, an added bonus is that Coworth House is not only greener, but also far more cost-effective in the longer term. We installed the same chiller at Dorchester House, and this led to a significant reduction in annual energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as a major reduction in annual fuel costs.”