Key for real return from the building is in the operation of the environmentally friendly aspects
In this day and age, building “green” should be the norm rather than the exception, but misconceptions on green building “tax” surprisingly still seem to hinder the decision.
Hotel Verde Cape Town, Africa’s greenest hotel which opened in 2013, set a new benchmark in green building, not only locally but internationally, scooping global awards while arguably writing the textbook for green building in the hotel space.
The key elements of a green hotel are not limited to whether the hotel is built sustainably and effectively, but more importantly that the operation of the hotel is focused on how environmentally friendly and carbon-neutrally the hotel operates, explains Mario Delicio, co-owner of the hotel and founder of the Verde Group.
It has been well documented that Hotel Verde and green building per se comes at a premium with building Africa’s greenest hotel coming at a 10% green tax.
However, when calculating the return on investment (ROI), Delicio advises three main factors to be considered:
Construction, planning and building: By using the lowest number of resources and “clever design”, Delicio says Hotel Verde Cape Town was able to set the bar for green building in the hotel industry.
A 10% green building cost premium allowed for the inclusion of solar panels, double glazing, a grey water system and an all-encompassing HVAC system that controls the heating and cooling of the hotel.
“Building green these days has become much cheaper since we built Hotel Verde Cape Town. We paid a premium for our sustainable design and product development.”
Since then, the government has included sustainable elements as compulsory in the building industry and many environmentally conscious products have now become standard and, by manner of course, cheaper, Delicio says.
Although building green today still carries a financial premium, Delicio calculates that it should not be more than 4% to 5%.
Operating sustainably: Operational savings come into play when calculating the financial return on investment for the premium of building green, as bean counters off-set the higher building cost with lower operational costs of running a green hotel, he says.
Operational savings include income through waste, income through water savings and income through energy-saving efforts. Hotel Verde projected a seven-year period before it began seeing ROI on the additional costs incurred by building green. Ironically, Delicio says that the electricity crises in 2014 and the resulting load shedding, along with the Cape Town drought and water crisis, have brought Hotel Verde’s break-even early to a five-year period.
It is clear that the additional cost of power through generators, increased cost of electricity, along with the increase in cost of water through the water crises have resulted in financial savings for the hotel while other Cape Town hotels were bleeding.
Responsibility to the staff and community: Procurement is a big aspect of responsible operations and Hotel Verde goes to great lengths to source locally and even produce their own vegetables, herbs, honey and bottle their own water, Delicio says.
Waste management is a top priority too.
Employees come first at Hotel Verde, as Delicio believes that “only if the employee is looked after, will he look after his guests”.
In addition to “green” helping the environment, Calvin Boia, marketing executive at Verde Hotels, says it also matters to guests.