AHIC Takeaways | How is the Industry Responding to the “Changing Sustainability Dynamics”?

How is the industry responding to the ‘changing sustainability dynamics’? Our Director of Architecture for London, Stephen Albert, discussed this at this year’s AHIC (Arabian & African Hospitality Investment) Conference, alongside industry leaders; Ibrahim Al-Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Majid Al Futtaim-Holding; Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President, Radisson Hotel Group; and Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Accor.

Albert’s focus has been responsible design that feels authentic and sensitive towards the destination, in terms of both design and local culture. One of Albert’s projects, the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, Jordan, nominated for a prestigious Aga Khan Award, is a great example of a project that incorporates sustainability issues within the region. Spending time with the Jordanian architect, Ammar Khammash, a specialist in the history of vernacular architecture of the region, steered the project in the use of numerous devices drawn from the vernacular. Mud straw render was incorporated into the design; a screen created using local rocks act as solar baffles, and open, shaded corridors were implemented.

On a recent project in the region, Dunes Resort, Middle East, a destination resort featuring 250 guest rooms and 21 branded residences, SB Architects drew from the wind-whipped forms in the area for design inspiration, from the wind-carved coast to distinctive patterns in the landscape and sand dunes. When visiting the site, we were greeted with gusts of wind at the top of each dune, and experienced a reprieve from the wind and sand when reaching one of the valleys between the dunes. Dunes serve both to protect plant and animal communities inland, and on sandy shorelines, provide natural coastal protection against swells and reduce the impact from coastal storms. Emulating this natural, flexible form of protection, we designed the resort’s main public spaces and pool areas in the “valley” between the dune forms. Sand dune-inspired guest wings were used as a windbreak to protect the pool and public amenity areas from the strong winds that can occasionally occur in this region.

Albert’s Key Takeaways

One of the conversations revolved around the hesitancy of developers to invest in sustainable systems and solutions on hospitality projects. Two decades ago, it was hard to justify the cost of solar panels to heat water, as the main use was in the mornings and early evening. Today, we have tools to store this energy to use as/when needed, and photovoltaics are now much more efficient and affordable. Luckily, today’s generation of developers strives for a sustainable solution.

With technology moving forward at a lightning pace, the innovation in the industry is astounding, especially the new materials. Spider Silk, one of the strongest materials in the natural world is almost as strong as some steel alloys. The shell of shrimps and insect cuticle, Chitin, is a new bioplastic that can match aluminum in strength. Biodegradable and inexpensive, Chitin can be molded into a variety of 3D shapes.

The final thoughts from the panel were ‘measure and manage. With smart building systems, if operators can measure what they use then they can manage it more efficiently and sustainably.

The hotel sector accounts for around 1% of global carbon emissions and that number is set to rise. We all need to play our part; otherwise, future generations are heading towards irreversible climatic collapse.

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