Leisure and Hospitality Buildings

There are numerous opportunities for building owners and operators within the leisure and hospitality sector to reduce costs by becoming more energy efficient and more waste efficient. Energy prices have continued on an upward trend in recent years; and many areas of increased spending are in heating, lighting, food waste and other utilities. While energy efficiency supports a strong ROI and payback period in hospitality buildings because of the frequent 24 hour usage, becoming more energy efficient could also help improve the firm’s reputation and help to bring in new guests. Heating, lighting, refrigeration, water and food wastage are just some of the key areas where cafes, restaurants and hotels can become more efficient. Buildings of these types include:

  • Assembly Group A Buildings
  • Residential Group R Buildings
  • Business Group B Buildings
  • Hotels and motels
  • Gyms, natatoria, and recreational buildings
  • Sports stadiums
  • Music and theater arenas


Leisure & Hospitality Types & Practices

Small Improvement Opportunities

From ENERGY STAR Building Manual Chapter 12: Tune-up opportunities – there are a number of easy measures that can reduce energy use in various areas of the hotel:

  1. Peripheral and back rooms: make sure that HVAC settings in lobbies, offices, and other such peripheral rooms are at minimum settings during hours of low use
  2. Laundry: set laundry hot water to 120° Fahrenheit; this is a good temperature for all hot water uses outside of the kitchen, where codes are specific about water temperature
  3. Pools and hot tubs: make sure that all pools and hot tubs are covered after hours to diminish heat loss
  4. Housekeeping procedures: encourage housekeepers to turn off all lights and set temperatures to minimum levels after cleaning each room. Closing drapes when a room is unoccupied will reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter
  5. Front desk: teach registration staff that they can help save energy costs by booking rooms in clusters, so that only occupied building areas or wings need to be heated or cooled to guest comfort levels. Rooms on top floors, at building corners, and facing west (in summer) or north (in winter) can be the most energy-intensive to heat or cool; therefore, consider renting them last


Lighting costs may be reduced by as much as 50% with simple energy efficiency measures.

  • In a typical hotel lighting represents nearly one-fourth of all electricity consumption, not including its effect on cooling loads.
  • Lighting retrofits can reduce lighting electricity use by 50 percent or more, depending on the starting point, and cut cooling energy requirements by 10 to 20 percent as well.
  • CFLs reduce energy use by two-thirds and yield savings of up to $20 per lamp per year.


  • ENERGY STAR appliances use 25 to 50 percent less energy than conventional models without compromising quality or performance.
  • For hotel or conference office spaces, a computer monitor can use two-thirds of the total energy of a desktop system, so it is important to power down monitors whenever they are not in use. The ENERGY STAR Power Management program provides free software that can automatically place active monitors and computers into a low-power sleep mode through a local area network. Whole-computer power management can save $15 to $45 annually per desktop computer; managing only monitors can save $10 to $30 per monitor annually.

Water and Pool Management

  • For hotel, leisure and fitness center pools, simply using a cover on a heated pool can save 50 to 70 percent of the pool’s energy use, 30 to 50 percent of its makeup water, and 35 to 60 percent of its chemicals – for hotel swimming pools, indoor pool covers typically yield paybacks of one year; covers for heated outdoor pools and hot tubs may yield even better savings
  • Hotels and motels can also use HVAC, shower, or laundry room heat-recovery systems to cut hot water expenditures. Hotels can obtain “free” hot water from their cooling and refrigeration equipment by using double-bundled heat exchangers in the chillers or a plate heat exchanger in the condenser-cooling loop.
  • Greywater heat-recovery equipment used with showers saves 50 to 60 percent of water-heating energy with payback in two years. They also double or triple the first-hour capacity of water heaters. In addition, installing variable speed drive(s) on the hot water pumping systems will reduce pumping energy during periods of low hot water use.
  • In a hotel  or industrial kitchen, pre-rinse spray valves are one of the easiest and most cost-effective energy-saving measures available. These devices use a spray of water to remove food waste from dishes prior to cleaning in a dishwasher. They reduce water consumption, water heating energy, and sewer charges. Look for models with a flow rate of 1.6 gallons per minute or less
  • Indoor pools require simultaneous heating and dehumidification – HPWHs can efficiently serve both of these needs: They heat water while producing cool, dehumidified air for the room housing the pool. Using an HPWH can reduce heating costs for gas- and electricity-heated pools as much as 40 and 80 percent, respectively. Low-temperature unglazed solar water heaters are an inexpensive approach that is well suited for swimming pools and spas in warmer climates. Glazed flat-plate collectors can provide higher-temperature water.

Heating and Cooling

  • Heating and cooling represent almost 40 percent of the electricity and more than half of the natural gas used by hotels, motels and large 24-occupational facilities. Many hotels heat and cool rooms regardless of whether they are occupied at a given time, and by maintaining and regulating controls via efficient technologies, the potential for as much as 50 percent energy savings without compromising guest comfort is obtainable.
  • For larger hotels, new chillers can be 25 to 50 percent more efficient than equipment 10 or more years old. For central heating, installing two or more smaller boilers will meet space-heating demands more effectively and efficiently than one large boiler. Geothermal heating and cooling can be a good choice, especially if there is a nearby body of water for a heat source or heat sink.
  • An important key in upgrading HVAC appliances is also updated controls technology. For example, Hotel operators can link their energy management system (EMS), reservation system, and automated checkout system together to keep an unsold room ventilated but with minimal heating or cooling. An EMS can enhance guest comfort while reducing energy costs by 35 to 45 percent, for a return on investment of 50 to 75 percent. New EMSs are so guest-friendly and effective that Cendant International, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Hilton, and other chains are using them in their properties. Most EMSs can be used with central boiler/chiller systems or PTACs and are available with nightlights and wireless technology (requiring no additional electrical work).

Building Envelope & Solutions

  • Looking at the exterior of a hospitality building, awnings, overhangs, light shelves, and windows with low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) help to reduce the amount of solar heat that comes in while still allowing daylight through. Light-colored roofing materials not only reduce cooling energy consumption by 25 to 65 percent during the summer, they also extend roof life.
  • Retrofitting with new, high-performance windows can be prohibitively expensive, but installing reflective film inside existing windows can be a more cost-effective option. Energy savings from this film can be as high as 25 percent, and can result in paybacks of less than three years.
  • Hotels especially also use outdoor-air economizers with airhandling units, so that outdoor air can be used for free cooling during spring and fall or on cool summer nights when the humidity level is not too high.
  • In meeting rooms and other areas with variable occupancy, demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) systems can be used to reduce outdoor-air flows and the associated energy consumption during periods of low occupancy.
  • High ventilation demanding buildings can use heat-recovery or energy-recovery ventilators that have balanced exhaust and supply fans and can meet all ventilation needs without creating drafts andair-pressure imbalances. Heat-recovery ventilators can feature efficiencies as high as 85 to 95 percent and can pay for themselves in roughly 3.5 years.

Hotel-Specific Resources

Hotel and motel building owners and managers can use the following resources to assess how efficiently they use energy, and to help them investigate effective alternatives:

  • American Hotel & Lodging Association The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) provides information on governmental and regulatory affairs, industry suppliers, media and public relations, and industry profile information. It has partnered with ENERGY STAR to launch an educational program called Good Earthkeeping, which helps hoteliers improve the energy and financial performance of their properties and demonstrate the environmental leadership of the hospitality industry.
  • ENERGY STAR Hospitality Benchmarking Starter Kit Hotels can assess energy performance with Portfolio Manager. This kit is intended to help users get started benchmarking, take the next steps, and assist in data collection.
  • Green Globe Green Globe is a worldwide certification program for sustainable travel and tourism.
  • “Green” Hotels Association The “Green” Hotels Association is committed to encouraging, promoting, and supporting ecological consciousness in the hospitality industry.
  • Green Seal Green Seal is dedicated to protecting the environment by promoting the purchase and use of environmentally responsible consumer products. It sets environmental standards and awards a “Green Seal of Approval” to products that cause less harm to the environment than other similar products. International Association of Assembly Managers Inc. www.iaam.org The International Association of Assembly Managers is made up of members who manage or provide products and services to convention centers.
  • Green Restaurant Association The Green Restaurant Association, a national nonprofit organization, provides services in research, consulting, education, marketing, and community organizing on energy-related issues to hotel and motel operators and owners.
  • International Association of Assembly Managers Inc. The International Association of Assembly Managers is made up of members who manage or provide products and services to convention centers.
  • International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education The International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education was founded as a nonprofit association for schools, colleges, and universities that offer programs in hotel and restaurant management, food-service management, and culinary arts.


North Carolina Case Study

Proximity Hotel – Greensboro, NC

In October 2008, the Proximity Hotel and PrintWorks Bistro located in Greensboro, NC was certified as a Platinum LEED Hotel. Opened in late 2007, Proximity Hotel and Print Works Bistro are the first in the hospitality industry to obtain the USGBC’s top level of certification. In terms of saving energy through water management practices, the rigorous testing for a variety of water saving products in the hotel and restaurant is on track to use two million gallons less water during the first year, saving more than $13,000 by spending less than $7,000 in additional construction costs.Some energy efficient hotel features include:

  • Recycled 87% of the construction debris (1,535 tons)
  • Sourced over 40% of the building materials locally
  • Used over 20% recycled content
  • Restored 700 feet of an adjacent stream
  • Installed the first regenerative drive elevators in North America, generating electricity on the descent for the ascent
  • Provided natural lighting (day-lighting) to 97% of the occupied space
  • Used elaborate energy recovery systems to provide large amounts of fresh outside air to all guests
  • Sourced 90% of the furniture locally
  • Commissioned local artists and craftspeople for original art in every guestroom, a cantilevered reception desk, spiral staircases in the lobby, furniture and accessories
  • Plus more than 60 other sustainable practices


Additional Resources