Sustainable Hotel Bathrooms: A look at new age designs and faucets that are helping in water conservation

Bathrooms account for about 40% consumption of water in hotels

Hotel Bathroom Design, New age faucets and fixtures, Sustainable bathrooms, Sustainable hotel bathrooms, Water-conserving products, Water-saving fixtures, Nature, Hotels, Tourism, Water crisis, Chennai Crisis, Sustainable hospitality, VitrA, Kohler, HSIL, Bathroom design, Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, H&R Johnson, The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, Evolve Back, Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa
Apu Sista 2016

The water crisis in Chennai has affected tourism and hospitality in very critical ways. By all accounts, bathrooms account for about 40% consumption of water in hotels. Hotelier India explores how bathroom design and faucets have evolved to be more sustainable.

If you are wondering why an article on bathroom design, should focus on Chennai’s water crisis, here is what you need to know: The crisis has brought to our notice several reasons why conserving water and running hotels sustainably will be a necessity in the future, and not a luxury. The tourism industry and the hospitality businesses in Chennai, a city that has been deprived of rains in the last 200 days, have been affected by the fast depleting ground water levels and the intermittent municipal water supply. For the third consecutive year, the capital city of Tamil Nadu has faced severe drought conditions, which has massively hit day-to-day operations. 

Several schools, colleges and workplaces have been forced to shut, while restaurants and hotels struggle to continue their operations. Many hotels have put out sometimes discreet and sometimes obvious request letters urging guests to use water prudently. Over the years, the tourism and hospitality industries have majorly contributed to Chennai’s growth story. According to India’s Ministry of Tourism, more than 4.8 million foreign tourists visited Tamil Nadu in 2017, catapulting the state to the top three tourism destinations in the country. At the moment, about 8,000 hotels across budget, mid-budget and luxury categories are running in Chennai and its suburbs. The water required by these hotels and restaurants amount to about 150 million litres a day. But supply is far lower than demand. In order to meet the water requirements, local authorities are not just transporting water from far-flung regions, but are also desalinating seawater. Yet, the supply is 40% lower than the city's basic requirement.

Hotels and restaurants are paying double the price to procure water in order to keep their establishments running efficiently. The major cause triggering water crisis in Chennai include rapid urbanisation, groundwater depletion, decline in average rainfall and lack of self-sufficient systems to manage and conserve water. Recently, NITI Aayog, the Indian government’s think tank released a report which also hinted towards the rapidly intensifying water crisis in India and its cities. As per the report, around 21 Indian cities — including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad — will run out  of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people; 40% of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030. If adequate measures are not implemented for water conservation, India will face a six per cent loss in its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, the NITI Aayog report said. With nearly 70% of water contaminated, India ranks 120th of 122 countries in a global water quality index, the report highlighted. This is where hotels come in. 

Startling facts about water

  • India holds about four percent of global freshwater and 16% of its population
  • According to World Resource Institute (WRI), the growing demand for water in industrial and energy production and for domestic purposes are stressing India’s limited water resources
  • According to the country’s Central Water Commission, India requires at most 3,000 billion cubic meters of water annually and receives 4,000 billion cubic meters of rain

The big water guzzlers

Several hotel operations — particularly the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms are completely dependent on water for everyday operations. The alarming water shortage and limited access to portable water in India have posed a serious question on the hospitality industry and the way it functions. Is the industry ready to do what is necessary to conserve water and become self-sufficient?

Treated water is used in the flushing systems of Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa bathrooms

Among the areas that use the most of amount in a hotel, and where there is more likely to be wastage, are the bathrooms, particularly upscale and luxury bathrooms that offer spa-like facilities such as a Jacuzzi, rain showers and bathtubs. Hoteliers and design professionals share their views on sustainable bathroom designs and products that will change the way a hotel approaches this very extravagant space of luxury and relaxation within the private space.

Sustainable design

Bathrooms account for a substantial usage of hotel’s water and energy consumption. A hotel guest, on an average, uses about one-third more water per day, than a local. On an average, a hotel guest’s water consumption per capita varies between 100 to 2000 litres per bed per night, depending fundamentally on the services provided by hotels. These facts are self-explanatory as reasons why hotel designers and hoteliers need to look at how bathrooms are designed to reduce water consumption and minimise the environment impact.

With growing awareness about the judicious use of water and its management, hotel bathrooms are emerging as core opportunities for designers, suppliers and developers to create a more eco-conscious space. However, environment concerns need to be balanced with the needs of guests. Internationally, a lot of hotels are finding ways to address concerns about depleting water sources, without completely eschewing the luxury experiences guests seek out in an upscale hotel. Debra Patterson, environment ambassador at London’s The Savoy hotel, one of the few hotels in the world to have one, says that careful design, including bathroom design, was at the core of the property’s recent £200m refurbishment programme. The aim was to provide exclusive facilities guests would expect while “seamlessly blending sustainability and luxury without compromising the product for our guests."

In India, while we may still not be opting for expensive refurbishment programmes to become more eco-friendly, hoteliers and hotel designers are working towards creating a more sustainable eco-system. 

Shresht Kashyap, principal architect, KNS Architects

“Technology and going green are key components of hotel design at the present times. Hotel chains — from economy to luxury — are introducing more features to bathrooms in terms of design, lighting and technology. The trending requirements these days include larger shower areas with well-illuminated area for grooming, rain showers, spa jet bath and different lighting effects to suit the mood, besides a bathroom mirror television, an automated WC with heated seats and eco-friendly materials and water recycling options,” says Shresht Kashyap, principal architect, KNS Architects.

While technology is enabling bathroom suites to conserve resources, new-age fixtures and fittings are contributing to make them more sustainable. With increasing emphasis on the need for saving valuable resources such as water, the need to implement ecofriendly solutions are no longer just another choice; it is imperative if hotels have to function efficiently.

Atif Ansari, chief engineer at Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa

“Water-saving units are the recent advancements and help in decreasing water usage by 20 per cent as compared to conventional toilet systems — fittings such as high-efficiency dual type flushing systems and showers that ensure savings, touch push knobs for low transmission noise, half-turn mixers and faucets. We have STP systems in place for recycling waste water and that treated water is used in the flushing systems at our property,” states Atif Ansari, chief engineer at Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa.

Integration of technology in bathtubs, showers, hand showers, etc. displayed at Kohler Experience Centre, Delhi, Photo Courtesy: Andre J Fanthome

With the world facing a global freshwater crisis, a lot of brands are researching flushing and bathing techniques that help save water. Sharing his experience while designing the Kohler Experience Centre, Delhi, senior project lead at Studio Lotus, Tanuj Biyani explains, “We integrated several water saving products in the layout, one of them being the Katalyst spray tech for showerheads, which reduces water usage by up to 30%. Similarly, Grohe has the EcoJoy range of products, which reduces water flow when the ‘eco’ button is pressed. Using pressure reducing valves in the main plumbing lines further reduces water output from fixtures.” Auto-sensing faucets and flow regulating fixtures are a vital first step in achieving sustainable bathroom design.

Bathrooms are being designed as much for sustainability as grandeur. Courtesy ITC Maurya, Delhi

New-age ecofriendly materials too are helping to create ‘green’ bathrooms. Vikas Sabharwal, director and principal architect, of a Gurugram based architecture firm, ivpartners says, “Use of natural materials for finishes with details that prevent wastage and spillages go a long way in preventing costs of unnecessary cleaning, housekeeping and maintenance whilst conserving water.”

The bathroom space of Toy room at Aloft Hotel, Aerocity effortlessy blends luxury with sustainability

Another effective way to make bathroom spaces sustainable, as proposed by Architect Abhigyan Neogi of Chromed Design Studio, is “the inclusion of requisite glazed surfaces for introduction of natural light and the consideration of a proper drainage system that aids in designing a user-friendly ambiance.

“Sharing a very different perspective is Amit Singhal, director of GPM Architects & Planners, who proclaims that energy efficiency has to be at the core of the design process, not just for bathrooms but for the entire hotel structure. “We try and design to reduce dependence on energy with passive solar techniques, attention to orientation and facilitating wind movement. Since the desired facilities require large interconnected spaces, it’s crucial to design a monolithic structure that enables structural, fire fighting and public health engineering efficiency, which can be resourcefully monitored from the basement levels, right till the top. The design should also ensure natural light in all bathrooms, with huge skylights and windows for elevating the experience,” he adds.

Westin Sohna Resort and Spa's Premier Villa bathroom with skylight roof

At Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, due to the provision of adequate natural lighting in bathrooms, one doesn’t require to be switching on the lights until late evening. Pankaj Behl, the executive housekeeper at the resort says, “Sustainability is at the core of our business and service. In terms of lighting, we only prefer LED lighting for minimum energy consumption. As a standard practice with hotel chains, we place linen change cards in rooms, offering options to guests for re-using bed linen and towels to conserve water. We have low flow aerator in all our water fixtures and faucets which save us four to litres of water per minute of usage. We are gradually switching towards water efficient toilets to save by having WCs which operate on the principle of vacuum. As we are a resort spread across 45 acres of land with lush greenery, we use most of the recycled water effectively for irrigation purposes.”

Srikant Peri, general manager, Dharana Wellness at  Shillim 

As a luxury property, Dharana Wellness at Shillim offers all the key ingredients of a luxurious stay at its property to pamper and comfort its guests. “For us, exceeding a guest’s expectation is of prime importance, but we also ensure that all this is done with minimal waste and zero impact on the environment,” says its general manager Srikant Peri. “We have various settings for the flow of water which can be controlled by guests. We consciously request our guests to follow a sustainable method of living during their stay at the retreat. Besides, we have a recycling water plant on the property where water from the pools is recycled to fill them up again. We also use our rainwater harvesting tanks for watering the in-house organic garden and the plants.”

Apart from water and energy, another key area of waste is the packaging of bathing products. Tanuj Biyani asserts that the nature of the industry is such that most hotels throw out the product shortly after it’s opened, leading to a waste of both the product and the packaging. A lot of business hotels have wall mounted dispensers to account for this. An interpretation of the same in the luxury segment would help reduce wastage.

Jose Ramapuram, director marketing, Evolve Back

Evolve Back, a group of boutique luxury hotels, with properties in tourist destinations such as Coorg and Hampi, is contributing its bit towards the cause of green hospitality. Jose Ramapuram, director - marketing of the group, says, “As our properties are spread over 20 to 35 acres, there is a requirement of a considerable amount of water to maintain the horticulture and greenery in the resorts. Almost 95% of this need is met with treated water available from the STP. Similarly in the bathroom, since the water in the Jacuzzi has very less added chemicals, it is recycled to replenish the water bodies within the property. Besides, by using air showers and foam faucets, 20% - 30% of water is saved. On the energy management front, we have replaced geysers with heat pumps which help us to reduce consumption by 70%.”

Leveraging Technology

New innovation in technology ensures that bathroom brands stay up-to-date with the sustainable trend. The concept of smart bathrooms has led to a transitional shift, with efficient energy management and water management becoming a pre-requisite for the hospitality industry. Sanjay Kalra, president, Bath Products Division, HSIL Ltd, says, “While aesthetics plays a crucial role in designing a luxury bathroom, today’s consumers are becoming more experiential with their choices. They are also inclined towards water and energy conservation. The most widely used material for bath fixtures is quality stainless steel; it is highly durable, stain-resistant and negligibly prone to rusting, even with the excessive usage of water. Brass, zinc, chrome and plastic are also used as base materials for bathroom fixtures such as showers, faucets and shower rods. Our Alchymi bathrooms strive to achieve this harmony through an amalgamation of the finest materials and technological processes via FloSense technology.”

Queo F-Automode Electronic Water Closet by HSIL

Another innovative technology offered by HSIL is the vortex flushing technology (splendour vortex) in water closets. It boasts a unique flushing mechanism that creates a powerful swirling movement while flushing, making it more effective while utilising less water. The brand has also introduced ‘Automate’, the first Indian wall-mounted closet with symphonic flushing. The uniquely designed faucets have water-saving aerators with a unique PCA DC technology, which ensures a steady and even supply of water in all pressure conditions, mitigating the requirement to use extra water in low-pressure conditions.

Surfaces add to the hygiene experience in a bathroom and can be made energy efficient. H& R Johnson’s Royal Care Slabs from Johnson Porselano are easy-to-maintain surfaces that reduce excess usage of cleaning agents. Dinesh Vyas, senior vice presidentmarketing, H&R Johnson says, “The royal care slabs are slim tiles that use lesser raw material, resulting in energy saving and conservation of natural resource. Another offering for bathrooms is the recently launched Johnson International collection from Johnson Bathrooms, the latest in faucets and sanitaryware.” The new range of water closets has no concealed rims that can be a breeding ground for bacteria, making the product more hygienic and easier to clean. The 3/4.5 litre dual flush technology uses up to 50% less water than conventional water closets and help prevent water wastage.

Over the years, Kohler has come to be known for the revolutionary technology they have introduced in the bathroom space.“Technology and research has been at the core of all our bathroom range," says Salil Sadanandan, president, Kohler, K&B South Asia, Middle East & SSA. All Kohler toilets launched over the past three years, and to be launched in the future (including collections such as Modern Life, Trace, Span) are designed to exceed toughest ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) flushing standard for all types of waste — heavy and light, even as they conserve at least 20% water with every flush.”

Arkitekt series from VitrA that offers practical solutions for restroom interiors with a choice of washbasins, wallhung WC pans, WC seats and urinals

The recent range of eco-friendly products launched by VitrA is adding a new dimension to all of hotel spaces. “Hotels are heavy footfall areas and VitrA’s AquaSee series with savvy new sensor technology helps to preserve natural resources, with practical, water- saving faucets. AquaSee has built-in photocell activated washbasin mixers, including T4 with a swivel aerator, Wing and Nature basin mixers and a cascade-flow faucet, which respond to user pressure by automatically turning water on and off, offering 50% water saving in public restrooms,” says Serhan Ateş Yağız, India country manager, VitrA.

VitrA Powerbox — a user and nature friendly technology, harnesses natural energy powered by water coursing through a built-in dynamo, which creates an electrical current and transmits it to the battery. Powerbox can supply the energy needed by as many as five photocell mixers. The Powerbox Energy Generator can be installed without a power connection to all mixers during the construction stage. It does not require renovation work, if the regular mixer is replaced by a photocell mixer.

How hotels can get guests on board

  • Offer feedback of the hotel’s achievements on the sustainability front to guests through discretely placed flyers in the suites
  • Make guests active participants in improving the footprint of the hotel by detailing the part they have played in the process, particularly when it comes to saving water in the bathrooms in suites’ and rooms. Offer guests incentives, such as a free drink or even loyalty points, if they do well on the water conservation front. But for that, hotels need to monitor their usage
  • Put a timer in the shower; you don’t have to tell guests to use it, but if it’s there, they may well try it out of sheer curiosity
  • Instead of having a generic card requesting guests to reuse towels, hotels can personalise the message. They could provide guests information about how conserving water helps the local communities

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