Upper Eastside Hotel’s green transformation


Cape Town’s Upper Eastside Hotel, owned by Spear Properties has achieved a 5-Star Existing Building Performance (EPB) Green Star SA rating.

Always striving for exceptionality, Upper Eastside, which is a franchised Hilton Hotel and the first DoubleTree in South Africa, started implementing greener policies over the last six years. This made for a relatively smooth Green Star SA submission process and although originally targeting a 4-Star EBP rating, achieved a 5-Star rating straight out of the starting blocks.

Management centric

EBP is designed to reward facility management practices, ensuring that a building operates optimally. Where projects have achieved a base building rating it recognises management actions that ensure the building operates as intended by the design. For all projects targeting EBP, the main actions require auditing installed performance, monitoring on-going usage and taking corrective steps to remedy inefficiencies. In essence, it rewards best business practice on an on-going operational basis and the certification is renewable every three years.

Sally Misplon, green building consultant appointed to execute the Green Star SA certification submission, agrees with hotel general manager Francois Steyn that for buildings that pre-date the current trend in green infrastructure, “achieving EBP certification can be a greater challenge”. Older existing buildings are coming off a lower performance base, which can limit the opportunity for effective intervention and make achieving that targeted star rating a costly exercise.

In the case of the Cape Town Upper Eastside Hotel, Misplon conducted audits of lighting lux levels, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO1) and thermal comfort in each and every room, and facilitated audits of green cleaning products and transport usage. Consequently, management plans were established for maintenance, landscaping, cleaning product procurement and alternative transportation – and the effects of implementation are noticeable.

“The really rewarding part of this work is when you see the corrective action being implemented. When I work on a project, I sit in the building’s offices, so when I witness a non-green product being sent back to the supplier, I think ‘Yes, it’s working,’” says Misplon.

With emphasis on improving green management practices, the hotel has implemented a waste separating area where hotel waste, guest waste and residential tenant waste are sorted. Wasteplan provides the waste disposal service. On the transport front, a shuttle service runs to and from the V&A Waterfront four times a day and a late night shuttle service is available to take staff home. When it comes to landscaping, things like washing paving, irrigation, pesticide and fertiliser use are managed even though the landscaped area on the site is minimal.

Misplon attributes the relative ease with which the hotel achieved its 5-Star rating to the health and safety requirements of the hospitality industry and the closely monitored, prerequisite participation in Hilton Hotel’s LightStay programme, which includes ISO 9001, 14001 and 15001 certifications. “Many of the hospitality health and safety documentation and management plans are similar to the management plan requirements for Green Star SA, so a lot of the documentation was already in place and only needed a bit of tweaking to meet the green requirements.” She says this, together with management’s passion and commitment, made for a smooth submission as everyone was on-board and ready to make the required changes.

Going local

Steyn, who wanted to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint and support the local economy, emphasises the effort that was required in adapting their procurement policies to meet this objective. As a Hilton Hotel, the group predetermines procurement policies. Consequently, existing policies include requirements to purchase through established supply chains from international sources as far afield as China or the US.

Caroline Coates, DoubleTree’s marketing manager, worked closely with the Hilton brand operating team in Dubai to find suitable local alternatives to the centrally produced goods recommended by Hilton. This encompassed everything from menus printed on recycled paper to upholstering. “In our current refurbishment programme, we have sourced upholsterers from a block away in Walmer Estate,” says Coates, illustrating how the team sought suppliers in close proximity with the goal of maximum positive impact on the local community.

The menu in the restaurant also had a complete overhaul with the objectives of being local, seasonal and sustainable. This includes only serving Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) green category fish. “[Even] the guy who supplies our bread is literally on the other side of the building,” says Coates. They contracted Urban Harvest to install and maintain a rooftop garden with over 50 crates growing right above their restaurant. From this, chef Simon Kemp is able to select greens and vegetables to create daily cuisine.

Spreading the word

Steyn emphasises the importance of education and spreading environmental knowledge. Beyond buying local produce, they also sponsor agricultural training through Urban Harvest’s corporate social investment programme and take on graduates to receive training in their own kitchen. In this way Steyn hopes that beneficiaries will “learn how to cook the food that they have learned to grow, so that they can become competent with additional meaningful skills”. The in-kitchen training is offered through Hilton Worldwide University, which focuses on improving sustainability performance.

The team wanted the local community to benefit from their actions, but also for everyone who enters the hotel to learn something about best practice for the environment. To this end, they targeted the learning resources credits and installed television displays that report on their monthly energy, water and waste recycling performance. “Guest education and buy-in is an important part of our strategy,” says Steyn. Guests receive information on the environmental goals of the building on arrival and are asked for their co-operation in aspects that contribute to water efficiency and waste recycling.

Measured results and shared benefits

The laundry opt-in programme, together with efficient sanitary fittings that include low-flow showers, taps and dual-flush toilets has resulted in a 42% saving in water usage. On the energy side, the building sports an energy efficient heat exchanger that works in conjunction with the air-conditioning system instead of the traditional boiler system. Over a period of 36 months, lights were retrofitted with LEDs throughout, together resulting in a 63% saving in energy consumption against industry benchmarks.

As part of a mixed-use development, some of the services are shared with the two residential blocks. The heat exchanger provides hot water to the west block and the waste recycling services are extended to both residential blocks.

As 90% of all building stock comprises existing buildings, the opportunity to have the greatest reduction in on-going environmental impact comes not from the new buildings that are built according to best practice, but from those that operate according to best practice on an on-going basis. As one of the first hotels to target a green rating in the country, Cape Town Upper Eastside hotel is taking bold steps toward a brighter future.

By Peta Brom