By Cara Federici, CEO & Founder, The Madison Melle Agency & tech theory group

Eco-forward design takes on new meaning.

From the use of reclaimed materials to renewable energy, sustainable design practices have found their way into most hotel developments today. Yet, going green takes on a new meaning when it comes to the future of hospitality design.  In both rural and urban settings, hotel guests crave connection to the outdoors and its positive wellness benefits. As a result, an innovation movement across the industry focuses on creating more immersive, natural environments for hotel guests– often going well beyond the status quo. 

Hotel design has seen a surge in biophilic design, a concept that emphasizes connectivity to nature through the use of plants, grasses, trees, and other natural landscapes with outside air ventilation, raw elements, organic materials, and sunlight. While the pandemic has challenged traditional socialization spaces in hotel lobbies, the ability to connect interior design with the aesthetic and realism of outdoor environments reduces the feeling of isolation and helps simulate the benefits of nature. Creative spaces with plenty of natural daylight, oversized windows, indoor/outdoor corridors, live plants and style inspired by nature, work in favor of reviving interior spaces and uplifting guests’ moods.

Hotel renovations that reflect sustainable fixtures and organic materials have also been on the rise. Choosing certified or organic materials such as wood, glass, stone, or metal that meet ecological standards for hotel refurbishment is a design technique to address sustainability concerns in existing structures. Green renovations and improvements are more carbon-friendly than rebuilding from scratch, and updated buildings can also reduce energy consumption levels.  Moreover, mindful design practices using natural materials help to alleviate a wasteful reputation of the hospitality industry’s past. 

Along with biophilic design, more and more hotels are deploying sustainability practices in their hotel operations. Take Qatar’s newest eco-floating hotel concept, for example. Designed by Hayri Atak Architectural Design Studio, this self-sustaining design uses solar, wind, and tidal energy to power electricity. A sustainable roof collects rainwater for greenery irrigation. While an eco-floating hotel might be realized far into the future, many hotels are now starting to tap into renewable energy with the goal of going carbon neutral through innovation.  Design techniques for carbon neutrality include solar facilities and zero-water waste irrigation systems.

According to a new poll by Virtuoso, travelers surveyed said it’s important to choose an entity with an exceptional sustainability policy. Not only does sustainable hotel design reduce carbon footprint and minimize ecological impact, but green practices may also provide a higher return on investment for those who utilize them versus counterparts who do not execute eco-conscious efforts. 

All in all, hotel design and sustainability are becoming more symbiotic with every step toward the future. Emphasizing outdoor spaces and a natural ethos into hotel design strategies and implementing sustainable practices is crucial for hotels to continue the innovation that’s already begun.  Going green is no longer just the ability to recycle– it is the ability to create healthy, forward-thinking guest experiences and an opportunity to humanize the design process.