Green Hotels of Africa

Managing Africa’s most environmentally friendly hotels

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The industrial precinct of Cape Town International airport seems an unlikely location for one of Africa’s most revolutionary hotels, but that is precisely what the aptly named Hotel Verde is. An official project of Cape Town World Design Capital 2014, Hotel Verde is the most innovative on the continent in terms of its green practices, while simultaneously offering guests a combination of luxury, convenience and inspiration.

While many hotels worldwide pay mere lip service to environmentally conscious trends, genuinely ‘going green’ is an ambitious, often costly undertaking – one where developers must put not only their money, but also their thinking where their mouths are. Mario and Annemarie Delicio, owners of the innovative 145-room Hotel Verde, located a mere 400 metres from the Cape Town International Airport terminal buildings, have done just that. From construction methods and materials to operational technology and processes, to suppliers and products, their multiple award winning hotel goes all out to live up to its ambitious slogan as ‘Africa’s greenest’.

Hotel Verde is managed by VERDE HOTELS Africa’s very first responsible hotel management operator. The group takes on the retrofitting of existing properties and the constructions of new developments and delivers a turn-key hotel management model based on the principles of Thrivability, extending the conventional borders of sustainable and responsible tourism. VERDE HOTELS integrates Thrivability into the design, construction, refurbishment and operations of their hotels, in order to showcase social, environmental and economic best practice. In 2015 Hotel Verde teamed up with the Green Building Council of South Africa, to assist in piloting the Existing Building Performance toolkit. The hotel was subsequently certified as the very first, six star Green Star SA Project, based on this tool. This provided yet another third party verification of Hotel Verde’s status of world leadership in green building operation, ensuring the hotel is continually operated with stringent efficiency and sustainability targets.

Hotel Verde is geared not only towards an ethical and environmentally-friendly synergy, but also towards a truly comfortable and memorable experience. And it’s all achieved with both panache and sincerity. Everything that could be done to keep the hotel carbon neutral has been considered. A green vegetative roof regulates the temperature of the reception area. LED bulbs are used throughout the facility, while occupancy sensors ensure no air conditioning is used unnecessarily in rooms or public areas. All hotel appliances (such as washing machines, driers, dish washers, office equipment etc.) are energy-savers. Shower water is sterilised and filtered by a state of the art grey water plant and used to flush toilets, while a 40 000-litre tank collects rainwater and subsoil drainage water for irrigation. Three wind turbines and photovoltaic panels are used to generate electricity and elevators are fitted with special regenerative drives that harness 30% of input energy, which is then fed back into the grid.

Cobiax void formers, plastic spheres made from 100% recycled polyethylene were utilised wherever possible in the building design, saving almost 1300 tonnes of concrete, another major environmental plus point. Another intriguing innovation is Hotel Verde’s ground source geothermal field, an intricate system comprised of a hundred boreholes drilled underneath the hotel basement floor, into which high density polyethylene pipes, more than 13 km in length, are inserted and through which water is circulated. The pipes are connected to a number of ground-source heat pumps, acting as a heat sink in summer and a source of heat in winter. The hotel also encourages all its local suppliers to support initiatives by minimising unnecessary packaging. Recycling takes place wherever possible, with zero waste to landfill being the eventual goal.

Wherever one goes, you are subtly encouraged to ‘do your bit’. The hotel’s environmentally friendly ethos and staff’s genuine enthusiasm for it are infectious, especially because it’s all achieved so stylishly. Staff members are warm, welcoming and consummately professional. The hotel encourages visitors towards more eco-friendly habits through a novel incentives system. Recycle waste, reuse towels, refrain from using aircon, or utilise power-generating gym equipment and you’ll be awarded ‘Verdino’ coins - ¬to be redeemed at the 24 hour deli or hotel bar. Every Wednesday evening, the hotel observes earth hour, serving dinner by candlelight and switching off electric lights.

Not only do double glazed windows keep rooms soundproof (there is not a hint of aircraft noise throughout the hotel), but spectrally selective glass also filters out the sun’s hot rays, significantly reducing the hotel’s reliance on conventional air conditioning. Toiletries and detergents are 100 % bio-friendly. The hotel kitchen, which produces high quality meals starting with a red-eye commuter’s dream - a superior breakfast buffet served from 4.30 am onwards - grows its own herbs and vegetables, buying in all other supplies from as close to source as possible. A cool, lush ‘living wall’ cum vertical garden separates the hotel lounge from the bar and dining area, purifying the air and creating a sense of serenity.

Corridors on all four hotel floors are decorated with art inspired by themes from nature and created by local school children, crafters and artists. Outside, beyond a relaxing dining patio, a scenic reclaimed wetlands and water wise endemic fynbos garden is found. Here guests can enjoy some fresh air and a wander along a 320 metre walking trail. In addition, there is an outdoor gym and a chemical free, natural eco-swimming pool with a sun deck to enjoy on warmer days.

In recognition of its accomplishments, Hotel Verde was recently awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certificate for new construction. LEED is the United States Green Building Council’s programme and utilises a stringent set of tools and guidelines to assess green buildings, recognising best-in-class practices. Platinum is the highest level awarded. “We achieved 96 points out of 110 on their rating system due to our use of some of the most advanced, environmentally-conscious construction methods and operational practices in the world,” explains hotel sustainability consultant, Andre Harms of Ecolution Consulting. “As a result we’re the only hotel in Africa to have qualified for platinum status, and only one of six in the entire world.”

“We are proud that our aim to be a Thrivable environmentally protective hotel has been recognized by our industry peers, on a global level. My team at VERDE HOTELS is committed to ensuring we operate hotels for future benefit of the planet and its people, yielding a thrivable business for owners and investors, on an international level.” said a very proud Samantha Annandale, CEO of Verde Hotels, during the recently held Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards where Hotel Verde was winner as the global best Urban Accommodation category.

In three years, Hotel Verde has become known locally and internationally, not only for its sustainable design, construction and operational practices; but also for being one of Cape Town’s most quirky and creative hotels.

Other initiatives by Verde Hotels include Verde Accra in Ghana.

The Ghanaian capitol of Accra has undergone extensive development over the past two decades, transforming it into a city worth the accolade ‘Gateway to West Africa.’ A new addition to this burgeoning metropolis is Hotel Verde – Accra, placed within the vicinity of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) are taking it to the next level, to that of Thrivability and is set to be Ghana’s most environmentally responsible property yet: Hotel Verde —Accra.

Leading the charge of the Green Economy on the East coast of Africa, the Chairman of the Bakhresa group, Mr. Said Salim Awadh Bakhresa announcement that the old Mtoni Marine Hotel in Zanzibar, 2km from Stone Town, will be redeveloped into Zanzibar’s greenest hotel.

Hotel Verde Zanzibar is set to take sustainable development to new heights in East Africa and become a flagship for tourism in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

Mr. Bahkresa has commissioned the Verde Hotels group to manage the development and operate the hotel as a certified sustainable establishment that offers a carbon neutral hotel experience. The group will work with Estim Construction who have a strong reputation for project excellence in the East African region. The hotel will be pursuing independent certification utilising the Green Star rating tool from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

Verde Hotels intends to integrate sustainability into every facet of their involvement in the construction, as well as throughout the hotel’s daily operation.

The sustainability strategies that will be implemented in the redevelopment phase include passive and active design strategies that optimise resource efficiency. Some of these include: renewable energy generation; regenerative drive elevators, grey water recycling systems, responsible procurement, waste minimisation and management and indoor environmental quality optimisation.

Hotel Verde Zanzibar will showcase the integration of 5 star luxury and environmental best practice. The hotel will feature 142 ultra-stylish rooms, luxury suites, a spa, gym, various eateries, entertainment and marina. The contemporary design fused with local Tanzanian elements will be an attraction for the locals.

Jacques Maritz - For more information, visit : www.verdehotels.co.za and www.hotelverde.com

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