This article is sponsored by Amazon.
In December, Lamington Group’s hotel brand, room2, opened the world’s first whole life net-zero “hometel” in West London’s Chiswick district. Their hometel concept blends the comforts of staying at an Airbnb (think in-room kitchens and extended-stay flexibility) with the amenities and services provided by a hotel — all without the negative environmental impacts. Sally Fouts, Amazon’s global leader of The Climate Pledge, sat down with Melisa Gooding, Lamington Group’s sustainability specialist, to learn about room2’s industry-setting sustainability standards, the company’s aggressive net-zero real estate goals and plans to scale room2 lodging capacity to 5,000 by 2030.
Sally Fouts: First, tell us: What defines a “whole life” net-zero carbon hotel? And what makes room2 the world’s first with this status?
Melisa Gooding: A whole life net-zero carbon hotel takes all of its emissions into account, reduces them and offsets unavoidable emissions to ensure that it is not contributing further to climate change. That means that all carbon emissions associated with the hometel’s production and construction — including materials used, operations, maintenance, refurbishment and eventual demolition — will equal zero. We’re able to achieve whole life net-zero status by measuring our entire carbon footprint, reducing it wherever possible and offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions through a nature-based carbon removal project in Nicaragua, which uses bamboo to rapidly capture carbon.
Fouts: I love how this is setting a new standard for hotels in the U.K. I’m surprised such properties haven’t launched earlier.
Gooding: The built environment is responsible for a whopping 40 percent of the world’s total carbon footprint, and the hotel industry has been criticized for lagging behind in decarbonizing. Our Managing Director Robert Godwin has been a trailblazer for the sector in committing to only build whole life net-zero going forward, and asking others to step up and match this ambition.
Fouts: What are the key operations elements that reduce carbon in the building?
Gooding: Ground source heat pumps below the building use 200m-long loops to extract heat energy from the earth and convert 100 percent of the energy needed for heating and hot water; they also work in reverse to cool the building as well. Solar panels on our roof provide around 5 percent of the hometel’s energy demand and the rest is powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Additionally, a low heat hot water system that heats to 45 degrees Celsius is also expected to reduce energy demand by 9 percent. These combined technologies position us to become 89 percent more energy efficient than a typical U.K. hotel.
In an effort to further reduce energy, two guest rooms are “lab rooms” providing real-time information on energy and water use. We then apply learnings from the “lab” across the whole hometel and all future developments.
Fouts: And what about the aspects visible to guests?
Gooding: Sustainability and creativity have been at the heart of everything we’ve done, from the vegan toiletries to the recycled fishing net carpets. We prioritized reclaimed and locally made furniture, fixtures and equipment. We designed our 3-in-1 bins in-house that send zero waste to landfill — and we believe we are the first hotel in the U.K. to do so. Waste is either recycled or made into energy.
We also created a sustainability wall in the lobby, providing guests with information on everything from the eco-cleaning products to the bees on the roof. We’ve made it easy for visitors to make the right choices and feel good about their net-zero carbon stay with us.
Fouts: Wow. And it’s all so beautiful. What are plans for scaling this hotel concept?
Gooding: Our targeted growth plan has us expanding 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 Building Specification for all its future hometels to be whole life net-zero and is focused on the critical need to reduce embodied carbon throughout the design stage and achieve operational net-zero throughout the building’s lifetime.
Fouts: Anything else you want to share with us?
Gooding: We wanted to create an internal engagement program to encourage employees to live sustainably both in and outside of work, so we developed a gamified points system, Team Planet, to reward employees who make sustainable choices. Last year we had 40 employees take part and we will continue to grow and improve it. To have a significant impact, we believe every employee needs to be an advocate for sustainability.
Fouts: What’s your advice for other real estate and hospitality 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 from buildings. In order 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 as everyone works towards the same goal.
My quick win advice: Switch to 100 percent renewable energy.