Later this month the UK's top young talent in design, engineering and construction will be recognized when the winners of the 'Hotel Underground' James Bond-themed competition - which sees secondary school students tasked with creating a design and 3D model of a hotel for the fictional spy - are announced.
Here at Radisson Blu we're delighted to be supporting the competition with our unique ‘Think Planet’ sustainability challenge, which challenges the teams to develop a way to encourage Hotel Underground’s guests to be more environmentally responsible by creating an innovative solution to eliminate waste in hotel rooms and public spaces.
Launched back in 2012, Think Planet is our commitment to reduce energy consumption by 25% in five years.
As the competition comes to its final stages, with the regional winners revealed on 7 November, we wanted to delve into the world of sustainable hotel design a bit deeper and took the opportunity to speak to industrial designer Bronwynn Welsh, owner of Doos Architects - a boutique design practice based in Stockholm which has been responsible for the design of a number of Radisson Blu hotels across Europe…
What inspired you to enter the world of hospitality, architecture and design?
When I was a child, one of my favourite toys were my Lego bricks. I have fond memories of how a brick can be transformed into anything - be it a pyramid, a castle or a dream house. As I grew up, my passion for bricks and buildings grew and I started to discover and explore new places - from cathedrals and shopping malls to my friends' homes - and started to see how space and form gives meaning to the surrounding environment.
To understand about hospitality, one must understand the meaning of the word 'dwell'. A dwelling is a space that a person can identify as a home by making it a place of comfort. Nowadays, hotels are just that. A temporary home where a guest feels special, welcomed and where their needs and expectations are fulfilled.
Hotels are quite often underestimated, they are complex: it is a building that's in constant motion and never closed; an inspiring space where guests need peace and comfort; and a workplace where staff need to have the best possible conditions in order for guests to thrive.
Not to mention that all this needs to be solved within a budget and a certain timeframe, whether it's a new-build or a renovation. These are challenges that I enjoy tackling and, working together with the client, coming to the best possible solution.
When did you start thinking about sustainability, and how have these ideas intersected with your work over the years?
Today we live in a consumerist society and we take comfort for granted. Sustainability has come from the realisation that we cannot continue to live on excessive consumption from limited material resources on an overpopulated earth. Sustainability therefore becomes the byword for a better world.
With global warming and scarcity of material, we are increasingly taking innovative approaches in the design of sustainable hospitality environments. At first, this was limited by choice when it came to products and materials and this certainly challenged designers to find the most innovative solutions available. The higher demands have resulted in a larger range of products and, nowadays, it has now become the rule, rather than the exception.
What changes in approach have you seen with regards to sustainable hotel design in recent years?
Furniture suppliers are increasingly environmentally responsible in ensuring their products have green credentials by sourcing renewable materials and bathroom suppliers, meanwhile, are supplying products that reduce water consumption. Developers are also now focusing more on green credentials by achieving BREEAM (Europe)/LEED (USA) certification for their buildings.
Looking ahead over the next decade or so, where do you envision the hospitality industry will be more broadly in terms of sustainable design?
For me it comes done to consumer demand - guests are now expecting hotels to take sustainability seriously. As I mentioned earlier, it's now the rule rather than the exception. Sustainability issues are high on hotel operators’ agendas and, as a result, they are realising they need to do their bit to minimise their environmental impact and, at the same time, benefiting commercially by reducing water consumption and saving energy which results in lower operational costs in the long term.
What are the main challenges when it comes to sustainable hotel design?
The biggest challenge is gaining ZEB (zero energy building) status for renovated or existing buildings - that's zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.
Increasing numbers of new buildings are built to achieve ZEB status, but it does require a higher initial investment which can obviously be an issue.
How feasible is it for hotels to strike the balance between investing in the environment for the good of the planet and their bottom line?
Hotel operators really are setting the trend when it comes to sustainability by creating better environmental standards for their guests and staff alike - leaving a legacy for future generations. Sustainability can also be a strong marketing tool and is important when it comes to brand identity and creating a point of difference.
What recent innovation in sustainable hotel design have you seen which particularly impressed you?
In two words: roof gardens! The benefits are endless. They reduce energy use by absorbing heat and acting as insulators for buildings, which also, in turn, helps to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Their natural environment can have a positive impact on an individual's health, not to mention improving the quality of life and encouraging a habitat for many bio species. A roof garden is also a fantastic addition to a community's public areas and can create a spectacular oasis and “nature” experience in the middle of a bustling city.
How easy/practical is it to combine radical design with the day-to-day needs/practicalities of a functioning hotel?
It's certainly something that's getting easier - as suppliers increasingly offer sustainable products which means it's more feasible to specify things that are both sustainable and suit the day-to-day needs/practicalities of a functioning hotel. Today it's no longer about compromise when it comes to trying to combine design, function and sustainability issues.
What’s your favourite design that you’ve worked on for Radisson Blu and why?
It has to be the Radisson Blu Riverside Hotel, Gothenburg. The design concept has an urban eclectic theme inspired by the location in Lindholmen focusing on science and technology as well as the heritage of the previous shipbuilding area. It is so rewarding to read the many positive reviews from guests of how much they enjoyed their stay there.