Greening the Bathroom

It’s often said that the key to a good hotel room is a good bed and good shower. Just as bedding has morphed from merely comfortable to comfortable and eco-friendly, so too are the bathrooms. These days, hotels are offering up more than just a hot shower; they’re offering bathrooms with efficiency, sustainability, and a sense of the eco-
conscious design that consumers are finding increasingly more important when making their choice of stay.

As many hotels embark on multimillion-dollar renovations in the wake of reduced lending opportunity for new development, bathrooms have a chance to join the rest of the guestroom as a pillar of the hotel industry’s movement toward green design and operations.

Hotels such Disneyland Hotel, which remodeled its Signature Suites with eco-friendly bathrooms, as well as many others, have adopted the trend.

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“More and more it’s becoming desirable,” Naomi Howard, CEO of Native Trails, a manufacturer of bath fixtures and furniture, says of the trend toward eco-friendly bathrooms. “Hotels are more and more starting to go for LEED certification, so having products and different attributes of design can contribute toward LEED points. That’s really desirable for a lot of people.”

Hotels have taken to LEED certification for many reason, none more important than the cost savings over time that energy efficiency can offer. The bathroom is one of the areas of a guestroom that can offer significant operational cost savings through use of efficient water systems, recycled water for flushing toilets, and the use of materials that can be reclaimed. Bathroom fixtures and furnishings made from recycled materials help contribute to LEED points.

CREATING BUY-IN

Ultimately, as consumers clamor for eco-friendly accommodations, the bathroom is an area that can present a hotel as something different, and something in which the consumer can really buy into as a “green” property.

“Hotel designers are trying tap into what makes people feel good, and one of the things that gives hotels an important edge is green design,” Howard says. “Having that as part of their story has an edge in drawing clientele.”

Howard says the bathroom is clearly a place where a hotel can present its case as an environmentally friendly hotel to consumers. “Clearly, with water usage, there are so many opportunities from water saving devices to materials that are used,” Howard says.

Native Trails makes its products, such as tubs, sinks, and bath furniture, from recycled material and reclaimed wood. “They’re all electrical wire and pipes and that sort of thing that are melted down and transformed,” Howard says. As for the furniture, the company’s Vintage Collection is made from reclaimed winemaking materials.

Eco-design is not only about efficiency these days, but also about marketing. Howard says bathrooms are no different, and that each piece needs a story to tell to help portray the eco-friendliness and communicate the message to the consumer.

“It has to have a story, too, other than just the fact that it’s ‘green’,” she says. “I think people need a story and a little, ‘Oh wow, that seems interesting.’”

PRESENTING ‘GREEN’
Of course, an eco-friendly bathroom should also look the part. Manufacturers of fixtures and furniture for the bathroom are making those products to look like they are part of the environment. Native Trails creates its products to have a natural and uplifting look, Howard says.

“The furniture that is made from reclaimed wood will have a lot of texture because it’s weathered, and it’s not chemically treated,” Howard says. “The only way you can get that texture is through nature. By taking wood from old fencing or barns definitely gives it a look that you just can’t really replicate.”

Texture can also help tell the story. “Hotels don’t always have the opportunity to tell the details behind the pieces, so the pieces need to tell the story for [themselves] to a certain degree,” Howard continues. “Having materials that are really interesting really helps to do that.”

Another key to efficiency in design is to have products that are versatile. Products that can be assimilated into multiple design styles can significantly help hotel designers present various stories within one hotel bathroom.

While hotels continue to adopt environmentally friendly designs, bathrooms are being renovated for efficiency. That’s a trend that is poised to continue to grow along with the rest of the green movement in the industry.

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