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If everyone is special, no one is…
Rating tools are designed, fundamentally, to enable transparent and fair comparisons between products. However, there are currently so many green rating tools in the market that both the consumers and hoteliers find these actually defeat their purposes. If everyone is special, no one is, so the saying goes. CWH has, therefore, compiled a short list of the best-known rating tools/schemes in the market relevant to Australia's hotel industry, in an effort to shed some light on this confusing topic, and start a discussion in our industry.
The four best-known rating tools/schemes for the hotel industry in Australia are Green Globe, Green STAR, Green Star, and NABERS. Green Globe is a global certification/rating scheme for the travel and tourism industry. Green Star is the rating tool originally developed by the Green Building Council of Australia for commercial buildings, while Green STAR is a certification program managed by AAATourism. NABERS, the latest rating tool by the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage, developed its rating tool for hotels last year. The four rating schemes predominantly measure water usage, waste management, and energy usage of a building when it comes to sustainable practices. Greenhouse gas emission then can be deduced mainly from the energy usage. Other common measurements of sustainable practices include: indoor air quality, transport, material, landscape diversity etc. However, currently, different rating tools come in at different phases in a hotel's life cycle, which arguably makes them all relevant to hotels. The struggle, however, is for the end-users. "Should I choose a hotel with low VOC paint and organic products, or the hotel that practices water saving initiatives?", or even worse: "How do I know the truth behind their marketing campaigns?" And that ultimately becomes the main question for hoteliers: "Which rating tool will give me the best acknowledgement and remain the most current in this evolving market?", and "Which rating is best for my hotel given its future strategy?"
Though not using the world "rating" in their program, Green Globe, sold, distributed, and managed in the Asia Pacific by EC3Global in Brisbane, offers a range of certifications that rely on industry benchmarks and best practices, as well as the United Nation's Agenda 21 - principles for sustainable development in assessing an organisation's sustainable practices. There are Bronze Logo, Silver Certification, Gold Logo and Platinum Logo to be awarded, depending on an organisation's level of commitment to sustainable practices, and the length of time they have committed. This program is applicable to all stages of a hotel development and operation, from precinct planning and design standard, to on-going operational performance. Green Globe is the only global program among the four rating schemes; hence the argument for its suitability as the common rating scheme for the hotel industry across countries, seeing that it could provide a consistent and holistic approach to all. It is also understood that Green Globe does apply a certain level of locality when it comes to data for per capita energy use, greenhouse gas and other emissions, wastes to landfill, water consumption etc. However, since the program's Gold and Platinum logos are directly related to the length of time an organisation implements sustainable practices, it can be argued that the two Bronze Logo and Silver Certification do not provide a scale comprehensive enough to compare accommodation properties at different levels of their ‘greening' game. That is also because Green Globe appears to focus more on qualitative measurement than NABERS and Green Star. Its benchmarks are used as a trigger to achieve Bronze Logo and Silver Certification, without showing whether a hotel just passes their benchmark, or is much more advanced in their sustainable practices.
Green STAR - with capital ‘STAR' - is an accreditation program by AAATourism. This certification program was developed between AAATourism and Green Globe, and can be regarded as an entry to the Green Globe program. Green STAR is predominantly a "Have you done these sustainable practices in your hotel?" checklist. Green STAR does not take into account the outcome of these initiatives. There is no rating in the Green STAR accreditation program.
Developed by the Green Building Council of Australia to evaluate potential building performance, Green Star in Australia is the equivalent of LEED in North America. Green Star only applies to new-built or under-construction buildings to evaluate the probable performance of that building in consideration of its imbedded features, technologies and management. However, while LEED allows for hotel rating, Green Star for hotels is still under development. It is expected that the new Green Star for Hotels - or whichever name it may come under, when finished, should mirror the existing Green Star for the commercial sector. Therefore, it is helpful to understand the commercial Green Star tool to facilitate a quicker and better appreciation of the Hotel tool when it is finalised.
While Green Globe is the program more tailored to the hotel industry with a longer history behind it, the rising importance of NABERS is not to be under-estimated. NABERS was developed by the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage and is managed by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. It is a performance-based rating tool for existing buildings in the commercial sector, including offices, hotels, retail etc. Feedback we get from the industry indicated that government bodies are using NABERS Offices in assessing commercial buildings in contract negotiation, and they have started to look into applying the same concept with NABERS Hotels. There are also discussions about a possible mandatory disclosure of NABERS ratings for commercial buildings with a Net Lettable Area of 2,000m2 or more advertised for leasing, sub-leasing or purchasing. This move from the government in regards to commercial buildings could potentially spill over to other sectors, including the hotel industry, resulting in NABERS ratings becoming more relevant for the hotel industry. The current draw back of NABERS Hotels is that it only measures the operational performance of existing hotels and only focuses on CBD hotels, leaving resorts and other accommodation sectors unguided.
Consolidation in the market
To a certain degree, the commercial sector is trying to resolve the problem of NABERS lacking measurements for the design and construction phases of buildings. Green Building Council of Australia has recently announced that Green Star and NABERS are looking at the two schemes' complimentary components, which in principle should provide a basic framework toward a single rating tool for Australia as building owners are using NABERS to re-evaluate the ratings estimated by Green Star once the new buildings "settle down". However, this potential synchronisation between the two rating tools, NABERS and Green Star, is not specifically tailored to the hotel industry. Similarly, hotels can also undergo both NABERS and Green Globe certification programs to satisfy different objectives.
In another development in the green rating world, Green Globe has recently announced that, in a cooperative effort between EC3 Global and the Green Building Council of Australia, they are developing a new Building Planning & Design Standard to plug the gap in Green Star rating for hotel design and construction, as the current Green Star is only tailored for commercial properties. This is a much welcomed move by both parties in their effort to guide new-built hotels toward a better sustainable approach. Of note, however, is the fact that this potential rating tool will only be applicable to new hotel design and construction, not existing hotels.
Internationally, LEED - the US rating tool from the US Green Building Council; BREEAM - the UK rating tool from BRE; and Green Star - from Green Building Council of Australia; have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form a working group in an effort to align these three tools and provide consistency in measurement and reporting. This should allow easier comparisons on building performances around the globe. This also emphasizes that the hotel industry in Australia needs to understand Green Star in preparation for its increasing importance to the industry.
Another thought to be considered in the green rating discussion is the need to avoid the same situation the traditional hotel star rating system is suffering from: though hotels and resorts are seemingly rated under the same scheme globally, the fact that this rating scheme is typically controlled by specific auto club in each country has resulted in an ambiguous situation in which a 5-star hotel in Europe can be vastly different from a 5-star hotel in Asia or the US, for example. The balancing act to create a globally consistent green rating tool without sacrificing unique local inputs that can affect the sustainable performance of the properties rated is quite an equilibrium that may not be possible to achieve. Or is it?
Some terminologies you may come across in reading about sustainable practices in the hotel industry:
Many hotel owners, and sometimes hoteliers we spoke to find it hard to ask the questions, as they don't know what to ask, and where to start. If you find yourself in this situation, Cushman & Wakefield Hospitality are more than happy to assist you to understand and response to your environmental responsibility, from NGERS to NABERS.
If you have any further thoughts and opinion on this matter, or any other sustainability issues in the industry, we would be delighted to hear from you. Our contact details are below.
Cushman & Wakefield is the largest fully-integrated real estate services firm in the world. Founded in 1917, it has 227 offices in 59 countries around the globe and 15,000+ talented professionals. Cushman & Wakefield is involved in every stage of the real estate process, from strategy to execution.
Cushman & Wakefield Hospitality provides a wide range of consulting services for hotels, resorts, serviced apartments and mixed-use developments. We specialise in operations analysis, market research, demand analysis and have developed a detailed understanding of the dynamics of the accommodation industry. This allows us to complete comprehensive market demand forecasts, which form the base for market and business assessments, financial projections and valuation services. We also advise on the development of new hotels, working with developers, architects and other development team members to conceptualise the optimal product for a particular site. Through the integration of consulting and valuation services with design management and project direction services, we can provide our clients with a full suite of services from site analysis and project conception, through market analysis and financial evaluation, to construction administration and project delivery. Our services include Market Studies, Valuation Services, Property Development, Revenue Management, Sales & Marketing, Asset Management, Design Advisory, Technology Solutions, Operator Search, Transaction Services as well as Shared Ownership Solutions.
Vivian Nguyen is a hotel consultant at Cushman & Wakefield Hospitality, specialising in sustainability and green hotel development. She has organised a range of workshops and information sessions to discuss sustainability in the hotel industry, and is in the process of developing an environment audit service specifically designed for the hotel industry.
Vivian has a Bachelor of Commercial from the Blue Mountains Hotel School, where she graduated with Dux of School title, as well as a Master degree in International Hotel Management from University of Queensland, in which she focused on sustainability and green hotel issues. She was later admitted to University of Queensland's Dean's Honour Roll for her excellent academic results in this Master degree.
If you need any further information on how to best prepare for the changes brought about by the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and the shift in the market in terms of sustainability practices, or how to measure your property's energy, water, or waste management, you can contact Vivian at:
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