Build to Last
Innovative building materials are making it simpler to construct hotels and more viable to operate them
By Vinita Bhatia
The landscape of hotel design has changed from merely servicing its guests to creating experiences; and innovative building materials have greatly helped in this transformation. Globally, brand custodians, project heads, project managers, designers, architects, interior managers are employing best practices to optimise building space and material. These range from designing and building hotels with eco-friendly materials to working closely with material engineering professionals to create âsmart architectureâ tools and practices. It is interesting how the entire ecosystem involved in hotel design and development is working cohesively to innovate and evolve across all levels.
Talking about this, Bobby Mukherjee, architect at Bobby Mukherjee & Associates pointed out how hotels have managed to reduce construction time considerably by creating dry wall partition systems across the property. However, in countries like India, the requirement for brick or block work still remains, especially in wet areas like bathrooms, which tends to add to the build time.
âHowever, there is an increasing adoption of smart materials that have a real-time response to stimuli. There are also those considered to be âsmartâ due to smart design: their original structure or the composition of their materials are in nanoscale, providing them with unique properties. Electrochromic glass, phase-changing materials diminishing cooling loads in the building, are just some of the examples,â he noted.
Elaborating about these high-tech materials, Mukherjee said that design and development are seeing the usage of super alloys, ultra-durable textiles, advanced glass technologies, phase-changing materials, etc., in construction. âSince paint, concrete and other cement-based composites comprise one of the largest groups of building materials in the world, there is a great effort made to improve its properties to make it more ‘smartâ. Smart technology integrated with design and construction is still at its nascent stages, and so it isnât inexpensive. That said, a growing shift towards adopting these measures will make it the norm sometime in the future,â he added.
According to Sunita Reddy, founder, chief architect and designer of ACME Designers, a multidisciplinary design firm in India, smart designs are those where operational activities are incorporated into the design. Over the past 10 years, her Bangalore-based company has been offering services in architecture, interior design and landscape design, and has been using materials that save time and reduce the wet works on-site. âWe plan and design for maintenance-free materials to be used on the interior as well as the exterior. So, when it comes to a choice of materials between laminate veneers and polished, we choose high-end laminates that are easier to maintain and are washable. The designs are done in such a way that it takes into account pest issues, and have plenty of open ceilings for restaurants and food & beverage areas,â she stated.
In the hotel industry, high-tech materials are often used not only to reduce time but also handle other on-site constraints during development, like manpower shortage. Many developers and project heads opt for modular or pre-cast materials like gypsum boards and dry walls instead of wet walls, and even prefer modular toilets that can be precast and delivered to the site. This also results in consistency in addition to faster build time.
Globally, the key to faster and optimal hotel design and development is standardisation. This is best achieved by adopting modularisation and industrialisation of the product. According to Shwetank Singh, VP, development and asset management, InterGlobe Hotels it ensures consistency in quality and helps in avoiding bespoke site-specific execution which leads to inconsistency of output.
âFactory fabricated solutions assembled at site is the way to go. Steel structures is another way to go. Use of new-age partition system is gaining ground, both internal and exterior faĂ§ade system like Knauf system/ co-developed with specialised vendors and specialised solutions that are executed/fabricated in the factory and assembled at site through specialised workforce,â he claimed. âUse of Revit and Building Information Modelling (BIM) along with simulations (solar / wind) for energy optimisation also helps in creating factory development modular elements, which help in reducing the overall building time.â
Ashok Chowdhary, director, technical and projects, Cygnett to believed that standardisation is important as it becomes easier for developers/ architects to construct the hotels faster and at a reasonably lower cost. Sourcing of locally available building material for construction also reduces the cost and construction time. âUse of Critical Path Method (CPM) or Programme Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) in scheduling/planning helps developers to deliver the projects on time. Environment-friendly materials like fly ash bricks, drywall construction, engineered marbles also help to reduce the construction time of the building. Similarly, prefabricated construction for cottages of resort hotels also helps to reduce the cost and time.â
The prevalence of standardisation and modularity across the board has helped developers usher in effective and efficient utilisation of material and space. While this the adoption of best practices reduces the build time, it also brings down the delivery time during execution phase. All this has a direct bearing on finance and ability to helps to build faster means lower capital investment and infusion in the project, explaining why developers and hotel chains are keen to embrace smart and high-tech construction materials.
Zaid Sadiq, executive director, liasoning and hospitality, Prestige Group added, âThese materials can be installed with minimal alteration. As they are factory finished, it enables quality control, less wastage and makes the process more environmental friendly. This in-turn speeds up the project work reducing the consumption of energy, time and saving significant cost.â
While aesthetics play an important role in hotel design and development, especially in interior spaces, today architects are making more practical choices. âWhile earlier, hospitality brands preferred expensive marble flooring, with the considerable development in ceramics, they are opting for large format ceramic/porcelain tiles that provide opulence in a more cost-effective manner. In addition, they reduce the construction time while looking very similar to high quality marble. Fixing this in the bathrooms, for example, is done very quickly and cost effectively,â Mukherjee noted. Similarly, many hotel chains in the upscale category are replacing high-maintenance real wood and laminate wooden flooring, with ceramic wood-looking tiles as an alternative as they are quick to install, cost-effective, and easy to maintain.
Even practices have become practical. Reddy said that in some projects when concrete is used, her company tries to make it as light as possible on the slabs. âFor inaccessible places, like hill stations, where it is difficult to get good quality of labour, we propose more of steel structures so that it pre-fabricated units can be built in the factories and it can directly erected on-site. This may not look economical at first glance, but in the long run it works out better, as there is an option of easy remodelling of the structure if needed,â she pointed out.
Ravindran Nair, general manager of Express Inn Nashik agreed with her. âUsing the latest materials and technology reduces the time of construction, the construction cost and there is optimum utilisation of manpower.â
Ashok Chowdhary, director, technical and projects, Cygnett noted, âEnvironment-friendly materials like fly ash bricks, drywall construction also helps to reduce the structural cost of the building. Additionally, finishing materials like engineered marble and engineered wood are highly cost-effective and durable.â
While design plays a huge role in reducing operational and maintenance costs, the right choice of materials have their own part in this scheme of things. For instance, while choosing a grand chandelier for the banquets area, it is important that to ensure the orientation of the coves are downwards so that birds do not make their nests in it.
Most of the hospitality projects by Prestige Constructions use building cladding material, which has resulted in reducing the operational cost towards heat light power load. Over a period of time, cladding has helped with decreasing the maintenance cost and provided strong protection, while adding a decorative appeal to the faĂ§ade. The company also believes in using weather-proof emulsion paints, which benefit its hotels by reducing the heat of the building, water leakage and also help to withstand extreme weather conditions, keeping design aesthetics in mind.
Sadiq said, âThe use of mill-work building materials and prefabricated structures and material have resulted in minimal wastage at the site level. There is minimal alterations as these materials are built as per design and hence provide more area to finish work, saving time and ensuring that the work happens in a controlled manner.â
âThe use of simulation tools to achieve optimal solutions, which in turn leads to low fault products created at optimal capex. This warrants better utilisation of resources ensuring least downtime at optimal running / maintenance costs,â recommended Singh.
For the projects she is involved, Reddy designs HVAC systems in a way that when the occupancy is low, only parts of it can be switched off in zones, minimising operational costs. Even the plants do not shed lots of leaves, making them easy to maintain in the long run. âWe try to limit the variety of materials used. For each project, the goal is to have one design language that is followed throughout, a theme that is used in all the zones, leading to an optimised usage of materials and minimal waste,â she added.
The industry has also seen an increased adoption of vacuum glazed windows, which offers better sound insulation, leading to an amplified in-room guest experience. These contemporary looking windows are also designed to provide longevity and comfort.
Chowdhary added, âThe finishing material like engineered wood and engineered marble lend a polished look to the hotel at a reasonable cost, extending a wow guest experience efficiently.â At the same time, Nair of Express Inn Nashik said that thicker walls help in reducing the sound and giving a cleaner finish to the walls.
Luckily, as the Indian product market has evolved, hotels in Indian are less dependent on China and other countries for sourcing their hospitality requirements. Mukherjee said, âThis means that we today support local artisans and manufacturers, greatly reducing our carbon footprint and offering eco-friendly solutions to guests. Ceramic alternatives have replaced marble and wooden flooring, which supports the fight against destruction of the environment by saving trees and mining of marble in quarries.â
The gradual, but constant, shift towards high-tech new materials is welcome, since the hotel industry leads the design trend for other industries. It acts as an inspiration for corporate places, commercial establishments and even homes. So, if hotels use sustainable materials and practices, they will inspire a wider grid of people and create a lot of positive impact.