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London's Savoy HotelApril 14, 2010 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
London's iconic Savoy Hotel emerges from a sabbatical later this year, with a host of eco-friendly upgrades
When London’s Savoy Hotel reopens at the end of this summer, it will not only make history as one of the most elaborate and expensive hotel renovations in the city (costing more than $150 million, we hear), but also as one of the greenest. As a Fairmont property (rated the company’s Environmental Hotel of the Year even before it closed down), the iconic hotel is working toward being the most environmentally responsible luxury hotel in London.
It only makes sense that the Savoy would vie for this title. It was, after all, the first hotel to generate its own electricity supply, install electric elevators and supply constant hot and cold running water and air conditioning. Naturally, all the electricity, fuel and fluorocarbons had an impact on the surrounding environment, and the hotel is now doing its part to make things better.
Of the restoration’s hefty price tag, nearly $4 million is for environmental strategies alone. When it reopens, the Savoy’s carbon emissions will be reduced by at least 3,000 tons a year, (the equivalent of getting 850 vehicles off of London’s roads) and its energy consumption will be down at least 40 percent.
It’s been a longer road than one might imagine. While eco-practices have been popular at hotels worldwide for quite a few years, they’re relatively new to London’s luxury scene. To that end, the hotel selected Debra Patterson, personal assistant to General Manager Kiaran MacDonald, as chairman of their new Green Team. “It has sort of evolved into environmental ambassador,” she quips.
All Systems Go
Energy-management company Evolve Energy was brought on board to implement a carbon-emissions reduction system. They replaced the hotel’s heating and cooling systems with high-efficiency ones and installed intelligent energy-building controls. They also installed a combined heat and power plant, reducing the hotel’s reliance on the energy grid by about 50 percent.
In addition, heat from all kitchen appliances will now be reclaimed and used to preheat the hot water. Smart guest-room thermostats in all rooms and suites will control lighting and room temperature, and use natural ventilation to regulate the temperature inside the room. Food waste will be recycled, generating enough energy to power at least 20 percent of the guest rooms.
In the kitchens, the chefs will use herbs grown in the property’s own garden. The hotel also operates an extensive recycling and donation program supporting, among others, London’s homeless shelters and children’s charities.
Of course, all the green improvements won’t mean a thing if guests don’t enjoy the experience of staying at the hotel. To that end, General Manager MacDonald says that the hotel’s eco-friendly philosophy will not be immediately noticeable to the guests. “We’re not putting it in their faces,” he says. Patterson agrees: “We will all be working quietly behind the scenes to reduce energy consumption. Guests can luxuriate, and they can do so knowing that everything possible is being done to reduce their carbon footprint.”
Patterson has spent a year putting together an Elements Stay Package that will, as she says, “influence the room slightly—we will have recycle bins in there, and we will introduce the Fairmont sheet exchange program.” Eco-conscious toiletries will also be featured in these rooms. But all of these would have to be requested by the guest, rather than enforced by the hotel. “We don’t expect or request guests to make that decision,” says Patterson. But, she adds, interest in eco-friendly hotel stays has certainly increased. “Guests are becoming more discernable,” she says. “We have to follow demands.” Other innovations in the works include travel cards for guests to use local transportation.
While no definitive date has been set for the opening (MacDonald says he expects it to be in late summer), the hotel is staying in the spotlight during its hiatus, and promoting its new eco-consciousness. Through the hotel’s partnership with environmental charity Thames21, staff (and, soon, the guests) can visit the banks of the Thames for a day of foreshore cleanup, which goes on throughout the year. The Savoy’s adoption of a little section of the river has inspired other companies to do the same, and even earned the attention of Member of Parliament Mark Field, who came to pitch in for a cleanup day. As Patterson recalls, the MP “rolled up his sleeves, and got splattered with mud and slime.” Not only did the embankment get cleaned up, the Savoy and its efforts were mentioned in MP Field’s next Parliamentary report. It made for a great photo opportunity, and served as a perfect metaphor for the blending of luxury and responsibility.