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Luxurious, But Eco-friendly

Energy Smart hotels save energy without stinting on quality

Lin Yanqin
Aug 4 2007 (TODAY)

KEEPING guests pampered and comfortable comes at a high price - hotels are
among the biggest energy guzzlers in Singapore, accounting for nearly 2
per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

And with 2,000 rooms to be added over the next couple of years and another
4,300 by 2010 - courtesy of the integrated resorts - they are now in the
green movement's spotlight.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has added hotels to the Energy Smart
Building labelling scheme, a two-year-old programme that recognises
establishments for being energy efficient.

"I would say the next eight months is a critical time," said Dr Lee Siew
Eang from the National University of Singapore (NUS), who headed the team
that developed the benchmarks for the scheme.

"When all the design work (for the hotels) is going on, we can use this
opportunity to put energy efficiency at the forefront of (the developers')

To qualify to be Energy Smart, hotels need to engage an accredited energy
service company to conduct an audit on their energy efficiency.

As an incentive, the NEA will fund 50 per cent of the cost of the audit,
up to a maximum of $200,000.

If the audit shows that the hotel ranks among the top 25 per cent in terms
of energy efficiency, it will be awarded the label.

The trouble, Dr Lee said, is that many hotels in Singapore are ignorant of
how energy inefficient they are.

"And some of the posh hotels told us that energy saving was not their
priority because they were luxury hotels," he said.

"They think that saving energy means compromising on quality."

But four hotels that were awarded the inaugural Energy Smart Hotel label
on Friday prove this is not necessarily the case.

The Regent Singapore, for instance, shaves about $20,000 from its monthly
utilities bill thanks to clever tweaking of current operations.

The hotel now uses a heat recovery system - using the heat emitted when
water is cooled - for the hotel's heating needs.

The system cost the hotel $500,000 to install, but it is confident that it
will recoup the amount within 18 months.

"That's what this whole scheme is about - improving energy efficiency
without compromising the guests' stay," said Ms Ann Verbeek, public
relations director of The Regent.

"We are doing all this without sacrificing luxury."

The other three hotels - InterContinental Singapore, Shangri-La Hotel, and
Changi Village Hotel - have similar heat recovery systems, as well as
energy efficient lighting systems to reduce electricity usage on lighting.

Energy Smart Office labels were also awarded to five other commercial
buildings on Friday, along with a special award for the National Library

This brings the total number of buildings under the labelling scheme to 13
office buildings, four hotels, and one library.

"There are real savings which contribute to the bottom line and the
systems are a business asset," said Dr Lee, who also heads NUS Energy
Sustainability Unit.

"The challenge is to convince developers that energy efficiency is not
just a running cost, but can become a capital gain."

Plans are in the pipeline to extend the scheme to other types of buildings
including shopping centres, hospitals and schools.

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