Sustainable interior design for hotels avoiding opportunism

Sustainable hotels are no longer a trend but a necessity. Customers are on the look-out for and detect if there is consistency between image and values or if it is a mere opportunistic marketing tool to appear ‘green’. In that case, it is self-evident that the lack of follow-through means the proposition will fail.


To be recognised as 100% sustainable, it is not enough just to appear so. It must permeate every area: the interior design of the property must also be imbued with sustainable actions such as:

• Restoring furniture; that which already forms part of the hotel as well as pieces inherited as heirlooms, to which can be added those sourced in second-hand markets. This restoration should be based on using eco-friendly pigmentation and renovation products.

• If, eventually, some decorative items need to be disposed of, this needs to be done in strict accordance with the correct procedure for dealing with waste products and the recycling process.

• The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification guarantees that material is taken from places such natural spaces not converted into plantations and trees that have not been genetically modified without compromising the conservation of the forests.

• PVC-free materials.

• Use of water-based paints.

• Acoustic soundproofing throughout the entire building

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification): an American standard based on energy efficiency, water saving, interior air quality and innovative design.

• Vertical gardens that enable greywater from showers and washbasins to be regenerated using a purification system that helps supply water to other areas.

• Use of noble, natural materials such as stone, cork, clay, etc.

• Textiles with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) using 100% organic cotton with a thread-count density of 200 to guarantee its durability.

We visited the Hostal Grau, which incorporates all the aforementioned parameters. Additionally, all of the writing desks in the bedrooms and public areas are recovered from ancient ‘masia’ farmhouses, the bedside tables are made with banana tree trunks and the mirrors are restored by groups at risk of social exclusion specialised in handicrafts. The Endorphins group supports occupational therapy for people with intellectual disability so that they can take part in the whole process: design, production, sales and profits. This organisation is one of those chosen by this boutique hotel located close to the Ramblas in Barcelona.

In this respect CSR (corporate social responsibility) should also be evident in the hotel shop with locally produced products.

Chill-out hotels

According to the hoteliers interviewed, customer relaxation is the new yardstick for measuring a successful approach to sustainability. We shouldn’t forget the essence of the hotel: to be restful. To the three central pillars of good hotel management: bed + shower+ breakfast a new factor is added; chilling out.

Handmade beds in coconut fibre, environmentally friendly wool, natural rubber, seaweed, cactus fibre, elasticised horsehair; natural aromas that avoid an “air freshener” effect all contribute to the sense of respite and complete rest.

The Quiet Hotel Room, standard, an initiative of the Knowledge Centre Sound Insulation in the Netherlands, brings together “quiet spaces even in the midst of noisy settings”. All hotels offer the guarantee of a standard that measures the level a room’s level of soundproofing which is classified into three groups of silence.

Chill-out hotels or ‘digital detox’ tourism is the new growing segment for those who, on a daily basis, are exposed to electromagnetic waves generated from electronic devices and telephone lines.

Facility manager

The inexorable demand for coherent sustainability needs to be controlled by a specialist in charge of everything from procurement policies and supplier relationships through to the efficiency of the building, the architectural interventions and the analysis of key indicators.

This newly created hotel position is far removed from the conventional maintenance technician who operates in a corrective rather than preventative way.

The Facility Manager, however, occupies a strategic role that interprets the figures to extract conclusive and practical readings in order to assess if objectives are being achieved. It is the equivalent, therefore. of a financial director for the area of sustainability.

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