This article is sponsored by Amazon.
In December, Lamington Groupof the hotel brand, bedroom2, has opened the world’s first net zero lifelong ‘hometel’ in the West London area of Chiswick. Their hometel concept combines the comforts of staying at an Airbnb (think in-room kitchens and the flexibility of extended stays) with the amenities and services provided by a hotel, all without the negative environmental impacts. Sally Fouts, Amazon’s Global Leader for The Climate Pledge, spoke with Lamington Group Sustainability Specialist Melisa Gooding to learn more about room2’s sustainability standards, the company’s ambitious goals in net zero real estate and plans to increase accommodation capacity from room2 to 5,000 by 2030.
Sally Fouts: First, tell us: what defines a zero-carbon “lifelong” hotel? And what makes room2 the first in the world with this status?
Melisa Gooding: A lifetime net-zero carbon hotel considers all of its emissions, reduces them, and balances the unavoidable emissions to zero. This means that all carbon emissions associated with the production and construction of the hometel – including materials used, operations, maintenance, renovation and eventual demolition – will be zero. We are able to achieve net zero for life by measuring our entire carbon footprint, reducing it where possible and offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions through a carbon offset project based on nature in Nicaragua, which uses bamboo to rapidly capture carbon.
Fouts: I love how this sets a new standard for hotels in the UK. I’m surprised that properties like this haven’t been released sooner.
Good : The built environment is responsible for a whopping 40% of the world’s total carbon footprint, and the hospitality industry has been criticized for lagging behind in decarbonization. Our Managing Director, Robert Godwin, has been a trailblazer for the industry in committing to building only Net Zero living in the future, and calling on others to step up and match that ambition.
Fouts: What are the key operational elements that reduce carbon in the building?
Good : Geothermal heat pumps under the building use 200m long loops to extract thermal energy from the earth and convert 100% of the energy needed for heating and hot water; they also work in reverse to also cool the building. The solar panels on our roof supply around 5% of the hometel’s energy demand and the rest is powered by 100% renewable energy. Additionally, a low-heat hot water system that heats to 45 degrees Celsius is also expected to reduce energy demand by 9%. These technologies combined position us to become 89% more energy efficient than a typical UK hotel.
In an effort to further reduce energy consumption, two guest rooms are “laboratory rooms” providing real-time information on energy and water usage. We then apply the learnings from the “laboratory” to the whole hometel and to all future developments.
Fouts: And what about the visible aspects for the guests?
Good : Sustainability and creativity have been at the heart of everything we’ve done, from vegan toiletries to upcycled fishing net rugs. We have given priority to furniture, accessories and equipment recovered and manufactured locally. We’ve designed our 3-in-1 bins in-house that send zero waste to landfill – and we believe we’re the first hotel in the UK to do so. Waste is either recycled or recovered as energy.
We also created a sustainability wall in the lobby, providing guests with information on everything from green cleaning products to bees on the roof. We made it easy for visitors to make the right choices and feel good about their zero-carbon stay with us.
Fools: Wow. And everything is so beautiful. What are the plans to develop this hotel concept?
Good : Our targeted growth plan takes us from 89 room2 rooms in Chiswick and 71 room2 rooms in Southampton to 5,000 room2 hometel rooms by 2030. Lamington Group has developed its room2 Net-Zero build specification to ensure that all future hometels are clean for life. zero and focuses on the critical need to reduce embodied carbon throughout the design phase and achieve net operational zero throughout the life of the building.
Fouts: Do you have anything else to share with us?
Good : We wanted to create an internal engagement program to encourage employees to live sustainably on and off the job, so we developed a fun points system, Team Planet, to reward employees who make sustainable choices. Last year, 40 employees took part and we will continue to develop and improve it. To have a meaningful impact, we believe every employee must be a sustainability advocate.
Fouts: What is your advice to other real estate and hotel companies interested in aggressively prioritizing climate solutions?
Gooding: My long-term advice is to understand your footprint by measuring your scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, commit to science-based carbon reduction targets, and measure and reduce the embodied carbon of buildings. For this to happen, you need buy-in from everyone in the company; In my experience, sustainability has been a great way to increase engagement because everyone is working towards the same goal.
My advice for a quick win: switch to 100% renewable energy.