x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE hotels encouraged to become more eco-friendly

A new scheme to engage hotels on sustainability issues was launched yesterday in Dubai.

DUBAI // Hotels are being encouraged to become more eco-friendly as part of a new environmental initiative.

Launched by the Emirates Green Building Council, a professional association of architects, building engineers and suppliers, it aims to raise awareness of environmentally friendly construction and encourage use of green technologies.

A major part of the effort will involve the council encouraging hotels to take part in the Green Key scheme, a global initiative that began in Denmark and has spread to 40 countries.

The council yesterday announced it had been appointed the exclusive UAE operator of the scheme.

Rather than liaising with officials in Europe, UAE hotels seeking certification now can contact the council and work directly with local specialists.

"We have received a lot of interest from hotels already," said Amelie Zegmout, a board member of council. "As many hotel groups' regional offices are based in the UAE, the initiative could potentially impact properties in the wider Middle East region, and even Africa."

To receive certification, hotels must educate staff and guests on environmental issues, have a sustainability policy, adopt green best practices, and implement schemes to save energy and water.

Other requirements include installing low-flow water fixtures, avoiding harsh chemicals in laundry and dish-washing detergents, and ensuring freezers and refrigerators are sealed well, to avoid leaks of air and thus losses in efficiency.

"It is not only about water and energy efficiency, it is a holistic approach," said Ms Zegmout, who is also head of business development at Legrand, a manufacturer of electrical installations and building-information networks.

To apply for certification, a hotel must provide documents, such as utility bills, showing it has implemented the measures. Each property then undergoes a green audit to determine whether it meets the scheme's criteria.

"There are very clear criteria and guidelines that have to be achieved," said Ms Zegmout.

It costs Dh2,500 to undergo an audit, and if a hotel's application is approved, it costs Dh4,000 a year to maintain membership.

With 579 hotel and serviced-apartment facilities in Dubai alone, encouraging the hospitality industry to improve environmental practices would have a big impact, said Lora Shrake, the council's operations manager.

Already, 22 hotels in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Fujairah are holders of Green Keys.

Among them is the Radisson Blu on the capital's Yas Island. It has been certified since 2011, said Ikram Ansari, the hotel's director of engineering. "We made a huge investment into saving energy and chilled water," he said. "Every year, we have a savings target."

The hotel displays a meter reading in the staff cafeteria and discusses power and water consumption during monthly team meetings. Last year, it achieved a 13 per cent energy saving and cut the amount of chilled water used in air-conditioning by five per cent.

"It gives us satisfaction to be part of this," said Mr Ansari. "Guests, too, are very pleased to see we are registered and feel comfortable staying here. It is good for us."

The council will host hoteliers, hospitality consultants and other industry professionals at a workshop at the Sheraton Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, today.

The event, Trends and Sustainability in the UAE Hotel Industry, features presentations from the Dubai Expo 2020 team, as well as officials from the Dubai Department of Commerce Marketing,