Victorian beauty gets a makeover.

The Savoy has had a £220 million makeover and is now one of the most environmentally friendly luxury hotels in the world – it’s enough to make the competition green.

Jackie Mitchell reports.


The Savoy hotel in London’s Strand reopened its doors last October following a three-year £200 million refurbishment. The landmark hotel, built by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas staged at the adjoining Savoy theatre, opened on 6 August 1889. It was the first luxury hotel in Britain with electric lights throughout, electric lifts, bathrooms inside most of the lavishly furnished rooms and constant hot and cold running water.


The latest refurbishment included the whole building – the iconic entrance, the American Bar, the Savoy Grill and the 268 guestrooms and suites. A vital part was the installation of £2.4 million-worth of green technology which could reduce the hotel’s energy bills by 40 to 50 per cent. The hotel’s green initiatives, supervised by Debra Patterson, the Savoy’s Environment Manager, includes the appointment of its first Green Butler, with an in-depth knowledge of ‘all things green’ around London.


The Savoy’s strategy is to recycle up to 90 per cent of waste from the hotel which includes both in-house recycling, donation schemes and the services of several external specialist waste contractors. Through a comprehensive programme of recycling, reusing and reducing, the Savoy manages to divert hundreds of tonnes of waste from landfill. In-house schemes have been introduced for recycling the more unusual items like candles, spectacles and stamps. “If the item has a second life, we donate it,” Patterson says. “We support so many charities.” Items that are donated include Christmas decorations, slippers, linen and bath items. Its waste contractor, Brewsters, recycles any material, which the hotel can’t, as well as providing data so it can monitor its carbon footprint. The Savoy also works with Thames 21, a charity that keeps London’s rivers clean. Staff are encouraged to volunteer to pick up litter on the stretch of river bank behind the Savoy.


In an effort to reduce excess packaging waste, the Savoy has joined with UKOS plc, its office stationery supplier in the launch of the Box4Life Project, a sustainable reusable packaging option. Under this scheme, stationery is delivered in a corrugated polypropylene box instead of the standard cardboard box. The reusable box simply folds flat after delivery and is collected by the UKOS driver on their next visit.


Food waste


The Savoy works with PDM Group on recycling food waste from both the hotel and its famous restaurant Simpson’s-in- the-Strand. In the kitchen, food waste is separated into designated bins, which are collected daily and taken to PDM’s facility in Silvertown, East London. There it is bulked up with other commercial catering waste and transported to the company’s energy renewable power plant. It is estimated the equivalent energy generated provides sufficient power to light 20 per cent of guest rooms.


Cooking oil from the hotel restaurants is recycled and turned into biodiesel via PDM’s oil management system, Oilsense. Patterson says: “At this stage, it is too early to say how much biodiesel we are currently generating, but we anticipate processing approximately 1,000 litres of used cooking oil per month.”


Energy and water conservation


The hotel’s energy consultant, Evolve Energy, has implemented a carbon reduction strategy which will reduce the hotel’s carbon emissions in the long term by 3,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and its energy consumption reduced by at least 40 per cent. Major initiatives have included replacement of four 35-year-old boilers with new high efficiency, low temperature hot water boilers. A combined heat and power (CHP) plant has been installed to reduce the hotel’s reliance on the national grid by about 50 per cent. Patterson explains: “Basically the CHP plant becomes the lead boiler and uses natural gas to produce electricity, with the bi-product being hot water which is used to heat the domestic hot water and the building.”

Another initiative is the Inncom system, which is designed to switch off the lighting in guest rooms when guests are out of the room. “When the guest returns the lighting is restored as the guest left it,” says Patterson. “It also allows the temperature in the guest room to deviate by up to 3°C each side of the preset temperature of 21°C when the room is not rented.”


Another innovative system reclaims the heat from all kitchen appliances to preheat hot water. “The central compressor plant for all kitchen fridges and freezers releases the heat drawn off the refrigeration cycle to preheat the domestic hot water through a heat exchanger,” explains Patterson.


The Green Butler


Nicolas Ollivier is the hotel’s first Green Butler. His services are part of the new environmental package ‘Elements’ enabling customers to experience the ‘green’ side of London. “The butler is there to offer advice on interesting ‘green’ areas of London, the best eco restaurants and eco bars, environmental architecture and eco retail,” she says. “He is also able to talk about The Savoy’s own environmental initiatives.”


There’s been so much interest in the Green Butler concept, that Patterson is devising a training programme for all the Savoy’s 14 butlers. “I’m compiling it at the moment and then it will be rolled out to all Fairmont hotels,” she says.


Green Partnership Scheme


Patterson has worked for the Savoy for 13 years as PA to the general manager. When the Fairmont Group took over the Savoy in 2005, it gave a presentation and mentioned its green partnership programme. This was something that caught Debra’s attention, so she asked the general manager at the time if she could run it, becoming the hotel’s Environment Manager, an additional role.


She says: “There was an enormous learning curve and it took a year to launch with lots of trial and error. One of the biggest problems was finding suppliers with an environmental background – this was a huge hurdle. In the last three years, there has been an explosion in awareness.”


Under the green partnership programme, Fairmont encourages all its properties to adopt environmentally friendly practices to help reduce the carbon impact of the local environment. All of its hotels are audited on a quarterly basis.


Green Team


An integral part of the hotel’s environmental programme, says Debra, is the Green Team. This has a representative from every hotel department who has a passion and interest. “In the early days I was lucky to get anyone, but now the interest is overwhelming and we have up to 15 members – sometimes two people from one department,” she says.


The Green Team holds meetings and goes through projects such as the herb garden, which will be launched in March 2011. “It depends on where people’s passion lies – it could be admin, ideas, poster campaigns,” she says. “Without the Green Team I couldn’t manage it. You need a team – it can’t be a one person job. The Green Team has to ensure a department acts responsibility and feeds back information, carrying out training if necessary. Each team member has a different role and teaches the rest of their colleagues.”


She adds that as part of job descriptions, staff must follow the hotel’s environmental policy and best practise. Patterson holds staff inductions where she talks about the Green Team and the hotel’s environmental policy.