Since the organization’s founding in 2008, The Philagreen Hospitality Association (PGHA) has worked towards improving the sustainability practices of the Philadelphia area hospitality sector. To accomplish this, PGHA’s mission has been to setup and connect the hospitality managers with environmental professionals. The subsequent established relationship yields results two-fold: economically viable & environmentally beneficial. First, for this to work, any rational industry will examine “the bottom-line” before any project is to be undertaken. Fortunately, today’s “green initiatives” are both cost effective and environmentally beneficial. This “win – win” is exactly how PGHA can cultivate and grow such cooperative relationships. PGHA has around eight meetings a year that feature guest speakers including experts on energy efficiency, recycling and sustainable practices. Membership is open to hoteliers, restaurateurs, and qualifying suppliers. In addition to educational and networking opportunities, association members benefit from information on tax breaks and utility incentives, a bimonthly e-newsletter including information on the latest green products and practices, and public relations assistance through PGHA’s own website.
The Woman Behind The Vision
The secret to Philagreen’s success can be traced back to its founder and Executive Director, Francine Cohen. Her insight into the disconnect between local business’ current practices and the available greener, eco-friendly alternatives gave rise to PGHA. “I have been an eco-conscious citizen for decades,” Cohen says. “I have always been interested in the hospitality industry as a consumer. I saw there was a need in Philadelphia for an organization that would act as a one-stop shop for hotel and restaurant owners and operators interested in saving money and energy.” Cohen says there are 87 properties in the Greater Philadelphia area, eight of which are Energy Star rated (all Marriotts) and only one that is Green Seal certified (Philadelphia Airport Marriott). The potential for growth in a green organization like PGHA is significant.
On Thursday September 15, 2011, Cohen will be hosting one of PGHA’s multiple member events at the Philadelphia Four Season titled “Green RFPs, Restaurants and Range Hoods.” As its title implies, the meeting’s guest speakers will discuss how hoteliers can respond to RFP environmental questions, the efficiency advancements in kitchen ventilation hoods, and green practices for restaurants.
What Makes A Green Hotel, Green?
Carbon footprints, spiral CFL bulbs, eco-design, Energy Star, off-setting, renewable energy… All these “eco-buzz words” can be confusing when it comes to actually defining what it means to “go green.” What all these concepts have in common is the reduction in energy consumption. Therefore, a “Green” hotel is one that simply is able to obtain a reduction in its energy usage to the point at which outside acknowledgment is bestowed.
The biggest opportunities for energy reduction lie in the largest areas of energy consumption. The three major systems for on-site energy consumption in a hotel are lighting, HVAC, and hot water production. Hotels consume around 30% of their electricity costs on lighting alone! By making the latest CFL & LED lighting upgrades in guestroom, common areas and the back of the house, hotels are realizing immediate and consistent savings, without any impact on overall guest experience or installation costs.
Next, occupancy based HVAC energy management systems and building automation systems have proven to save 15-30% of heating and cooling cost. HVACEMS systems can range from under $300 to the most advanced for $1100+ per key. As with lighting, there are rebates and incentives available for EMS. Some utility companies will even cover up to seventy-five percent of the costs. Lastly, the heating of domestic hot water in a hotel is another area for significant savings. Hot water for showers, F&B, and laundry can be up to 50% of the natural gas expense for a hotel! Boiler Energy Cost Management System (BECMS) essentially automates the operation of the hot water recirculation loop in a building. This solution helps minimize the energy expended to constantly heat and reheat the same circulating water throughout a building.
With these sustainable solutions outlined, one might ask how much of an energy reduction is required to be considered green? Simply, there is no magic formula – there are many “green labels” available – like LEED, Energy Star, EcoSuites, & Green Seal Certified to name a few – each with their own criteria. Energy Star’s method ranks the national average of energy consumption at 50 and requires a building to improve up to at least the 75th percentile to receive their certification. LEED utilizes a points system, where every sustainable measure receives a specific amount of points. The total then condones a specific “tier” of LEED certification starting at 49. Regardless of which certification label is sought, each requires quantifiable evidence to prove a reduction in energy consumption has occurred.
Help Along The Way To Sustainability
After a hotel has decided to examine the steps to “go green,” there are many companies, organizations, and incentives that can help achieve this goal. Philagreen is an obvious example that provides a clearinghouse of green services. PGHA’s wealth of knowledge can help provide “green” contacts for project management and implementation, as well as, green information concerning local utility rebates and government grants or loans. Linking up with a “green expert” is invaluable; they help navigate the financial incentives, product claims, and actual utility savings with the end goal of providing a favorable return on investment.
In Pennsylvania, PEPCO and PPL are two of the largest utility providers. Both offer extensive energy efficiency rebate programs. PPL says its rebates were designed to reimburse commercial customers for about 50% of the added cost for buying high efficiency equipment. PPL’s rebates for packaged air conditioners, chillers, occupancy sensors, LED exit signs, and T8 fluorescents are the most popular. To specify, T8 lamp rebates fetch around $5 – $19 each, and $.35 rebate for every watt reduced in power density. Similarly, PEPCO offsets Energy Management Systems’ costs by providing a rebate of $.10 – $.21per square foot the system regulates. Additionally, LED bulbs receive a $15 rebate and fluorescents $1 – $9. Beyond their “approved rebate lists,” both offer customized rebate programs for other upgrades pending a technical analysis study of the upgrade in question. This flexibility should not be surprising as utility providers seek to address the conservation of power in peak areas to prevent service outages. Finally, there are additional financial incentives offered on the state and federal levels. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as “the stimulus,” has allocated over $55 billion for “green initiatives” with $6.3 billion of that going towards state & local grants for energy efficiency programs. The State of Pennsylvania currently offers both grant and loan energy efficiency incentives up to 50% of the project’s cost.
The focus on sustainability is here to stay – government is prioritizing it due to increasing energy costs, companies are including related RFP questions, and individuals are more aware of this issue than ever before. For hotels and all businesses, now is the time to examine efficiency upgrades. With the current levels of local, state and federal incentives, there should be no hesitation in examining the ROIs for such undertakings. Beyond helping the environment, going green is also helping enterprise’s bottom lines!
About Francine Cohen
Francine Cohen is Executive Director of Philagreen Hospitality Association founded the organization in 2008 after recognizing that local hotels and restaurants needed help understanding and implementing sustainability practices. Motivated by her passion for environmental responsibility, Francine consults with hoteliers to lessen their impacts on the environment.
About the Author
Scott Parisi is the founder of EcoGreenHotel, a firm that develops energy and sustainability projects for commercial buildings with a large focus on the hospitality sector. As President of EGH, Scott’s day to day responsibilities include developing and implementation of energy and sustainability strategies into hotels, leveraging federal state and local utility incentives to subsidies projects and building partnerships with like minded companies that add value to EGH’s client base. Additionally, Scott develops and hosts educational workshops, staff trainings and has spoke at national and regional events including AAHOA’s National Convention, Green Lodging & Hospitality Conference, Boston Green Tourism Events, Philagreen Hospitality Association Events, GF Management University Sessions, National Purchasing Network Annual Expo and the Global Renewable Energy Networking Summit.