Sustainable Hotels, Back of House


Part two of STAY’s look at sustainable hotel operations. While guests notice how often linens are changed, the heavy lifting isn’t in the lobby or guest room, but back of house.


In November the Fairmont Royal York hotel received the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building – Performance Standard Certification, making it the first and only Zero Carbon Building in Canada.

Thomas Mueller, CEO of Canada Green Building Council says: “This is the only project I know of in Canada and North America where a hotel has achieved this level of performance. As to what change and solutions looks like, it’s right here at the Fairmont Royal York. The Fairmont Royal York is the future.”


Jon Love, founder and CEO of Kingsett Capital, which owns the property, says: “Five years ago the challenge was to go to zero carbon. It was a complex project. We literally have removed miles of ancient piping from this building, tapped into an entirely new energy source, and built a new electric plant in the hotel. We are so proud of the team that brought this to life and super excited to share this because if we can do this with a 94-year-old heritage railway hotel in Canada, the largest Fairmont in the world, if we can do this project here, anybody can do it. As an industry, we have an obligation to reduce our energy usage.”

The result is a reduction of 7,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. That is the equivalent of removing 1,558 cars from the road.

Edwin Frizzell, regional vice president, Central Canada and general manager, Fairmont Royal York echoed Love’s comments on the complexity of this $65-million project. “The hotel’s legacy heating and cooling systems were replaced with a new zero carbon central utility plant located within the subbasement of the Fairmont Royal York hotel. This central utility plant was connected to Enwave’s deep-lake cooling to provide chilled water to the facility, and to recover heat from adjacent buildings. This heat as well as heat recovered from various hotel systems provides the primary heating source for domestic hot water and comfort heating. The high-efficiency heat recovery system replaces the legacy steam heating system. The deep-lake cooling system replaces the legacy chiller and cooling tower plant. This modernization reduced direct emissions by 80 per cent,” with the remainder offset by certified carbon offsets.

In addition to the modernization of the physical plant, there were changes to operations such as using AI technology to significantly mitigate food waste. The goal is to reduce food waste by 25 per cent by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2030.

Studies show that one-third of food produced is never consumed and this waste contributes eight per cent to global carbon emissions, which, shockingly, is four times aviation emissions.

Love told guests at the zero carbon announcement that “The Royal York is proof of concept that legacy buildings can transition for the sustainable century ahead.”

While the Royal York is the first property to achieve this status, properties across the chain are equally—and aggressively—involved in embracing sustainable ideas and operations.


Patrick Jones, regional director, of sustainability for Fairmont’s Western Mountain Collection says: “Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has over 30 years of experience in sustainability leadership.

There have been countless back of house operations changed since the launch of the Fairmont Green Partnership Guide in 1991. For example, since 2003, the hotel has purchased 50 per cent of its energy supply from green energy sources through a Renewable Energy Certificate. An equivalent of 5,500,000 kWh of green energy has been put onto Alberta’s electrical grid each year because of this hotel’s commitment to the environment.

“Phasing out single-use plastic was an easy task for the hotel. A perfect example is plastic water bottles in the guest rooms. The hotel’s water supply comes directly from Lake Louise, and together with a dedicated on-site water treatment plant, produces some of the cleanest drinking water in the entire world. The hotel easily phased out plastic and opted for reusable glasses in the room encouraging guests to partake.”

The Chateau’s engineering department underwent a multiyear audit, nearly all light fixtures were converted to energy efficient bulbs and they looked at new ways to divert items from the landfill. Jones says they are establishing a 2024 carbon baseline for the Chateau which “will be reduced through major capital investment and operational changes by up to 46 per cent by 2030.”

Their decision-making involves “many factors to consider when reviewing the hotel’s equipment and infrastructure. For example, the team looks at the age of equipment, its performance efficiency, its maintenance costs, and feedback from colleagues. If there are opportunities to purchase new equipment (and properly recycle the existing) knowing that it will conserve resources and improve productivity, then the hotel team makes it a priority.”

The Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie has recently received 5 Green Keys Meeting certification and is the fourth hotel in Quebec to earn a 5 Green Key Echo-Rating.

Eleonore Hazart Garnier, executive assistant and sustainability manager, says: “It has been constant work for a few years. The obtainment of other key certifications such as Aliments du Québec, Fourchette Bleue, Ici on Recycle+, and Bienvenue cyclistes! have helped secure our 5th Key. That said, our main achievement is the result of hard work by our engineering department. The hotel is a historical building that has seen major renovations in the last 25 years,” such as using thermos pumps to heat its pools. “The Manoir also hired one person 100 per cent dedicated to sustainability. The sum of the recent improvements and having someone committed to sustainability were instrumental in receiving our 5th Key.”

Like properties across the chain, Garnier says: “Our yearly employee engagement survey provides the opportunity for the staff to voice ideas on how to improve their working space, but they are welcome to make any suggestions at any time to the management team. In the last two years, some of these suggestions have led to the Manoir adding a gym, meeting room, relaxing rooms and a spiritual room for our staff as well as a new kitchen for the staff residency.” They also created a community garden for staff.

As for embracing sustainability into operations, Jones says: “The willingness of staff to champion new programs and changes has been a positive surprise. There have been many times where I thought that staff would push back and dislike initiatives that slightly add to their workload, however, feedback has always been positive—and they even provide suggestions on how to continue building or improving.”

Jones adds: “Changing operational processes and infrastructure is only half the battle. It is equally as important to engage staff and foster a culture of sustainability. People are the key to taking resource reduction and financial savings to the next level. Sustainability can’t be successful at a large organization without everyone’s involvement from all departments and leadership levels.

While Fairmont has long been a sustainability champion, the rest of the sector is getting on board.

Glenn Bowie, general manager of The Westin Nova Scotian, another iconic railway property from 1929, has a long list of initiatives.

The 310-room Westin Nova Scotian not only switched all lighting to LED, but they replaced over 500 windows. Bowie says all air conditioning was converted to variable speed drives, therefore reducing energy consumption. Further to energy reduction, 50 per cent of rooms are on an energy management system which employs occupancy sensors to determine when a room is empty and adjust demand.

The Westin has also gone to load shedding when electric use—and price—is high. They have converted five refrigerator compressors from liquid to air requiring far less energy to make ice on an almost on-demand basis and switched five ice machines with load-holding units.

This harbourside city property has done a lot to deal with water costs. Laundry is on a renewable water (recycles, cleans, filters) system, which saves water and reduces chemical use; installed a heat recovery chiller to heat water; and switched two water storage tanks and three hot water boilers for more energy efficient ones.

They also changed the pool to saline/salt water. Bowie says, “Switching from chemicals to salt/saline saves about $6,000 a year since we don’t have to buy concentrate chlorine. The new chemicals and salt are safer for swimmers and the environment.” Maintaining a saline pool is also less work since “we spent less time working at getting the chemicals right.”

Bowie says the ROI for all their actions is five years. His bottom line is “It’s doing what’s right for our environment. Virtually all sustainability upgrades pay off on all levels and check all the boxes.” Those checked boxes include ones from demonstrative guests and groups who expect nothing less from hosts.

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