Futureproofing Hotels by Prioritising Wellbeing

Healthy hotels

As the industry begins to recover from reduced bookings throughout the pandemic, hotel construction must now meet guest’s changing expectations around comfort and hygiene.  Steve Richmond, Head of Marketing and Technical at REHAU Building Solutions, explores how the concept of ‘designing healthy’ will help building services engineers select suitable solutions to deliver futureproof hotels.

As recovery from the pandemic continues, the population is getting back on holiday, with some reports showing that the national hotel market has enjoyed a 300% boom this summer compared with 2019. To succeed in the market, hotels toned to align with trends and opportunities to improve guests’ experiences, as customer dissatisfaction can mean lost revenue.

Added to this, Covid-19 has led to a change in consumer expectation, with hotels now being required to deliver on wellbeing alongside demand for a relaxing and luxury environment. For those building hotels, these requirements must be satisfied within the building design beyond the fixtures and fittings. Consultants and contractors must now consider how building services can contribute to a positive guest experience and so it is practical to consider delivering hotels that are ‘healthy by design’.

Delivering on rising expectations

A recent survey of 130 M&E consultants and architects who specifically work in the hotels sector identified sustainability as a key design priority for hotel construction. However, it also revealed that water quality, acoustic performance and temperature control were key drivers affecting design. High quality drinking water, having silence when sleeping or relaxing in their room, and the ability to choose an exact temperature are all element’s guests will expect as standard, and are all easily compromised over time.

For hotels to meet these priorities, pressure is falling on consultants to design systems that deliver on wellbeing. However, the same research revealed over half (52%) of respondents believe wellbeing is ‘value engineered’ out of projects later in the build. In addition, 86% of respondents said they had specified fittings containing lead, while 90% admitted there was a risk to human health when using the material. In contrast, the research also demonstrated positive progress being made in hotel design, with 59% of respondents said the need for improved acoustic performance had increased over the last five years.

While contractors and consultants may be finding it challenging to prioritise wellbeing among other pressures, there is a clear understanding of what hotel construction requires. On top of this, high importance was placed by respondents on the need to leave behind high-quality buildings for future generations. Coinciding with requirements for sustainable design in meeting ‘net-zero’ emissions targets, there is an opportunity for construction professionals to meet all pressures through careful design.

New opportunities for new builds

The construction boom across the nation has driven forward new developments made up of a variety of commercial and residential buildings, including hotels, shops and co-working spaces. As such, there is an opportunity for new build premises to be designed with latest guest trends and expectations in mind from the outset.

For new hotels in city centres, the importance lies with creating guest experiences that justify the cost and satisfy the needs of the trip. Guests returning to cities for business trips as well as leisure breaks will expect the noise of the city to be reduced when in their rooms. As can be found with airport hotels, there is a level of soundproofing sealed in place in new builds to reduce noise from outside, while increasing energy efficiency.

With such stringent soundproofing, there is more likelihood of sounds from inside the hotel to be heard, particularly as there are so many adjacent rooms with bathrooms. When it comes to building services, excellent acoustic performance is required from soil and waste solutions to minimise noise from running water and toilets flushing disturbing guests.

Legislative pressures to reduce carbon emissions and increasing efficiency means these sealed buildings will be as standard for most new build developments. On top of the acoustic challenge, it is important for contractors and consultants to consider other issues posed by these energy efficient measures. Building over-heating is a problem facing many sealed new build developments as summer temperatures rise each year. As guests have even more particular temperature requirements when in their rooms, new build hotels must now be equipped to avoid excessive heat as well as cold to keep guests comfortable in their rooms.

To maintain energy efficiency and mitigate effects of overheating, Thermally Activated Building Structures (TABS) could provide a practical solution for contractors and consultants. Regulating heating and cooling and eliminating the need for energy-intensive mechanical cooling systems, this solution is suitable for improving efficiency in high-rise new build hotels. As guests come to expect a level of control over room temperature, smart controls are fast becoming an option for hotels, continuing efficiency driving despite individual requirements.

By designing new build hotels with all of these priorities in mind, the wellbeing and comfort of guests can be delivered alongside sustainability measures. Building services are therefore futureproofed in terms of their performance, environmentally friendly credentials and how they meet guest experience for years to come.

The retrofit challenge

Refurbishing hotels and retrofitting building services solutions requires additional considerations to meet design priorities. Added to this, upgrading the current commercial buildings such as hotels will be a crucial part of futureproofing existing building stock in sustainability and wellbeing terms.

Improving the performance of buildings such as regional hotels, spas and country houses is important in meeting the health concerns of guests in order to secure business in the recovering industry. As with new builds, contractors and consultants can retrofit smart controls to drive efficiency while satisfying temperature control demands.

Beyond this, there are measures to make heating and hot water provision more efficient. As older buildings tend to have less thermally efficient heating systems in place, moving away from oil or LPG based heating to a low carbon alternative is an option for refurbishment projects. A polymer district heating system from a centralised low carbon heat source such as heat pumps or biomass is a common retrofit option. Ideally a new heating system should be linked with smart controls and underfloor heating to maximise the efficiency of the system.

As many buildings have been left unoccupied throughout lockdowns, a renewed concern around legionella outbreaks has increased pressure on health and wellbeing measure for existing hotels. Specifying hygienic pipework that maintains water quality is an important step in combatting risks posed to guests.

Healthy design solutions

Fierce competition and increasing legislative and customer pressures make the prospect building suitable hotels to satisfy market demand seem challenging. The importance being put on hotels to be designed with wellbeing in mind has informed REHAU’s latest report, which looks into opportunities for contractors and consultants to satisfy priorities from the outset.

For both new build and refurbishment projects, examples are given for satisfying temperature control, acoustic performance, and water quality requirements, while keeping sustainability in mind. As a supplier of building services, it is the responsibility of companies like REHAU to demonstrate an understanding of pressures facing industry professionals and how they might be able to overcome them.

Changing customer demands and stricter government legislation will continue to necessitate healthy design in the hotels sector. By considering innovative building services solutions from the outset, professionals can meet expectations of wellbeing long into the building’s working life. Delivering fit-for-purpose spaces that protect both guest welfare and the environment is a futureproofing requirement that must be a priority for the sector.

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