Australian hotels have embraced sustainability to such an extent that the sector stands as a firm leader within the commercial property industry. From solar panels to electric vehicle charging stations some of the latest environmentally friendly features available to commercial properties are springing up across hundreds of the new, upgraded and rebranded hotels and resorts opening around the country.

Some of the greatest commitments in this area have been made by The Schwartz Family Company, the largest privately owned hotel group in Australia with 14 hotels and over 4000 rooms. Schwartz family properties include the Mercure Sydney Central, Rydges World Square, Hotel Ibis King Street Wharf, Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains and Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. Led by director Dr Jerry Schwartz, the company has long been a sustainability leader in the hotel sector and with the Mercure Sydney Central in particular, it has gone all out to create a gleaming example of what is possible in this area.

EV Charging Stations Working Wonders

Among most successful steps was The Mercure becoming one of the first hotels in Sydney to install an electric car charging station in its carpark. The feature has gone on to attract a loyal set of guests who cannot find a similar addition elsewhere.

As in Schwartz family hotels in the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains, solar panels on the Mercure Sydney Central’s roof create 100-kilowatt of energy per hour to produce about 5% of the hotel’s total energy consumption. The Mercure Sydney Central’s managers stay across a range of factors that effect the property’s energy usage via a sophisticated Building Management System (BMS). Water submetering in the kitchen and bars allows the hotel team to monitor daily usage which means if there is a spike in usage it can be attended to immediately - instead of in weeks or months when the bill arrives. This submetering in fact allowed the hotel to reduce water consumption by a whopping 1069% in its cooling towers and by 250% in the pool area.

The ultimate goal is, of course, to be carbon neutral, and as such emphasis is placed on creating adequate ventilation, installing high performance windows, and also energy efficient plants and equipment. Further to this end, all new rooms have LED lighting and a motion detection system that senses when guests leave the room. This same system also automatically switches off all air-conditioning, lights and energy.

Catering to Clients

The Mercure Sydney Hotel was one of the first hospitality accommodation properties in Sydney to actively pursue National Australian Built Environment Ratings System (NABERS) credentials and then promoting them. Going down this path is most definitely paying off in the marketplace. “There is a huge amount of interest from the travelling public about whether hotels are being genuine when it comes to their sustainability commitment,” Dr Schwartz says. “Everyone is used to reusing towels, turning off lights and so on, but hotel guests have every right to have ‘proof’ that the hotel is really walking the talk. That’s why we went down the NABERS rating path because it is independent, its scientific and its ongoing.”

Companies looking to hold conferences are asking for sustainability certifications when deciding on a venue for their events and favouring those hotels that do. Managers at the Mercure Sydney even benefit from the fact some airline crew prefer to stay in NABERS-rated hotels. “For hotels procuring large amounts of bookings the tender very often requires an outline of the hotel’s sustainability measures,” Dr Schwartz says. “If that influences a large group booking or the holding of a four-day conference, then there is a direct benefit of having a NABERS rating.

“Most of the Schwartz properties are NABERS-rated and we are in the process of having the hotels reassessed and ratings updated.”

Carbon Neutral Hotel An Aussie First 

Paving the way for those properties aiming to become carbon neutral is the humble Holiday Inn Express in Newcastle. The Pro-invest Group property claimed the accolade of becoming the first hotel in Australia to obtain carbon neutral certification under the NABERS Climate Active pathway last October. The certification is part of a strategy to make Pro-invest’s Hospitality Opportunity Fund II carbon net zero by 2030. Fund II, which raised $300 million last year, will focus as did Fund I on expanding the number of Holiday Inn Express hotels across Australia and New Zealand. Pro-invest describes its approach as “laser-focussed” on sustainability initiatives across the lifecycle of each hotel.

The big win for the Holiday Inn Express Newcastle followed Pro-invest Group’s first hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Sydney Macquarie Park, being awarded Aareal Bank’s first green loan in July last year. The hotel features smart light and air conditioning management, and consistently achieves 5 star NABERS’ ratings for energy and water usage.

Simply Sustainable

At the end of the day, simple yet highly visible sustainability measures do not go astray either. This is part of the approach by QT Hotels which rank as some of the most unique and innovative properties in the country in terms of their design and style. For instance, QT Hotel guests are treated to free range eggs, wooden stirrers or stainless-steel items in all food and beverage outlets, paperless check-in, recycling, LED lighting, and iPad devices to replace paper.