Sustainable Hospitality: LEEDing the Sector Through Water Reduction

Jennifer Butler's picture
Jennifer Butler
Interior Designer
July 3, 2018

Based on the sheer scope of the sustainable hospitality industry, it’s no wonder that the UN has set sights on international tourism as a key avenue for reaching their 2030 goals for sustainable development.

The Fairmont utilizes a “Water Management Program” that reduces their total water consumption by using fixtures including low-flush toilets and tap aerators.
The Fairmont utilizes a “Water Management Program” that reduces their total water consumption by using fixtures including low-flush toilets and tap aerators.
Credit: Fairmont Hotel

2017 was the International Year of Sustainable Tourism as declared by the United Nations. The tourism industry, including work-related travel, generated approximately $7.6 trillion in revenue and 292 million jobs in 2016 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. That amounts to 10.2% of the world’s GDP and 11% of the global workforce.

"Tourism has become a pillar of economies, a passport to prosperity and a transformative force for improving millions of lives," said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a 2016 address.

Based on the sheer scope of the industry, it’s not wonder that the UN has set sights on international tourism as a key avenue for reaching their 2030 goals for sustainable development.

sustainable hospitality Fairmont

While the UN is aiming at the industry to make a dent in sustainable development, luxury hoteliers are also actively implementing sustainable improvements. These developments are notably more altruistic than one might expect, not compromising but enhancing hospitability and comfort for their guests.

A Sustainable Hospitality Luxury Experience

Comfort and premier hospitality for guests while away from home is ultimately the goal for luxury hotels. Making sustainability a priority may not seem like a primary strategy for enhancing guest comfort... However, there are benefits in making sustainable improvements appear to be in the interest of both improved luxury comfort for guests as well as reductions in cost and energy consumption for resource-intensive hotels.

Implementing sustainable practices in the hospitality sector doesn’t just make economic sense... It is also becoming a matter of preference.

"We see a lot of savings when we run these hotels in a sustainable way. But if you look at our consumers, they are also concerned about these things. They are out there looking at what companies are doing", stated Maxime Verstraete, VP of Corporate Responsibility for Hilton.

Investors and guests who see that a building is LEED certified understand it to be a demarcation of a building that goes above and beyond the norm. When one looks to book a luxury guest room or meeting space they are looking for environments that set the bar higher.

A LEED certified hotel could differentiate itself by delivering luxury environments and experiences that surpass its competition. LEED buildings do not just make a statement about sustainability, instead they offer an experience that aligns with the luxury lifestyles of people who care about comfort and quality of life.

Sustainable Hospitality Case Study

For the Fairmont in Washington DC, the goal was to update their old building, a historical landmark, to be more comfortable for hotel guests and to enhance the overall guest experience.

Implementing sustainable strategies not only achieved the goal of providing their guests a more luxurious stay, it also minimized inefficiencies and improved maintenance.

Water Management

To achieve LEED credits toward Indoor Water Use Reduction, the Fairmont needed to reduce fixture and fitting water use beyond the prerequisite requirement. Depending on the type of certification being pursued, the prerequisite requirement is different.

Sustainable hospitality Fairmont Hotel

For the Fairmont, a LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Management for Hospitality project, water reduction is required to meet or fall below the baseline. Alternatively, under the LEED Interior Design and Construction for Hospitality rating system, the WE prerequisite would require a 20% reduction of aggregate water consumption from the baseline.

At the Fairmont, a sleek Kohler freestanding floor mount bath filler includes a hand-shower with a 2.5 gpm water output, meeting the prerequisite minimum code criteria for Indoor Water Use Reduction and also convenience and beauty for the Fairmont’s discerning guests.

To achieve credits for WE, additional water conservation is required. Since the Fairmont in D.C. has been occupied since before 1995 the baseline is 150% of the water use that would result with all fixtures meeting minimum code requirements outlined in the prerequisite.

Additional water reduction under the LEED:O+M Hospitality rating system rewards a 10% reduction with 1 point and a 30% reduction with up to 5 points. Under LEED:ID+C Hospitality, a 25% reduction earns 2 points and a 50% reduction earns up to 11 points.

The Fairmont utilizes a “Water Management Program” that reduces their total water consumption by using fixtures including low-flush toilets and tap aerators.

A tap aerator, or faucet aerator, is a fitting applied to the tip of a faucet that introduces air into the flow of water essentially separating a single flow of water into many tinier streams. The result is reduced water output because there is less space for the water to flow through. Additional solutions for reducing water consumption include WaterSense labeled low-flush toilets, urinals, lavatory and kitchen faucets.

Lasting Influence

Ultimately, water conservation for hoteliers cannot compromise luxury comfort with conservation efforts.

However, with advancements in technology, such as offsetting water reduction solutions with increased water pressure by modifying the design of plumbing fixtures, guests can seldom detect that they are conserving water at all. In a hospitality setting, upfront costs can certainly be high, but the payoff is also quicker.

Hoteliers choosing to implement more sustainable improvements and practices in a healthy tourism industry have an opportunity to make a global impact by being mindful of and conserving available resources now so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.


1, “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 kicks off” January 2017
2,“The Long and Winding Road to Sustainable Tourism” by Heather Clancy, June 9, 2017
2,“How a Smart D.C. is Smart on Sustainability” by Scott Wayne, September 21, 2016


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