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New Hotel Still Offers Water-Saving Opportunities


The InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco opened to rave reviews in 2008.

"We went from zero occupancy to 100 percent in three days," says Harry Hobbs, the hotel's director of engineering. "InterContinental Hotels wrote us a letter telling us we were their most successful hotel opening in 60 years of the company."

But as a recession swept across the country starting that year, the hotel's occupancy rates began to fall, and reducing the hotel's maintenance and operating costs was critical to riding it out. Leaning on his past experience opening and maintaining hotels, Hobbs knew that money- and energy-saving opportunities existed.

"It's been my experience with most of the building products I've worked with that the way the process is managed these days yields less-than-optimal results, and I think the public at large expects that new equates to better and more efficient," Hobbs says. "The fact is the codes require minimums. If you build just to meet code you're meeting the minimum requirement. And we met all codes. But anybody who thinks building a new building immediately gets them a great product has a lot to learn."

The hotel's experiences offer a lesson to managers who believe only facilities with decades of operation are worth investing in to improve efficiency. Through a series of plumbing upgrades, the hotel has saved millions of gallons of water and is positioning itself for even greater savings as California battles through one of the worst droughts in its history.

One of the hotel's primary water-conservation projects was replacing sink aerators throughout the hotel. In 2010, the maintenance staff replaced sink aerators in all 550 guestrooms of the 32-story hotel and in the kitchen hand-washing stations. The city utility provided the 0.5-gallons-per-minute (gpm) aerators to the hotel at no cost to install in place of the 2.2-gpm aerators that had complied with the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

The hotel's water-saving measures help save an estimated 3 million gallons of water a year on guest room operations, assuming full occupancy. The new aerators account for two-thirds of that amount.

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