"Most of our efforts take place behind the scenes, just so it will minimize guest impact." Paul Savarino, New York Palace Hotel

“Most of our efforts take place behind the scenes, just so it will minimize guest impact.”
Paul Savarino, New York Palace Hotel

If you were to say that a commitment to renewable energy must be a Spartan endeavor, Paul Savarino would beg to differ. Savarino is the director of property operations at New York’s luxury New York Palace Hotel in midtown Manhattan, and the hotel is in the midst of an ambitious plan to have the hotel operate on 100 percent renewable energy. The plan will reduce energy costs for the hotel and give it a greener footprint, which is important to the current owner, Northwood Hospitality. Savarino shares how these plans will transform the luxury hotel industry for the better.

gb&d: Luxury hotels aren’t known for their green efforts, so what’s involved when a high-end hotel decides to go green?

Paul Savarino: It’s definitely more challenging for luxury hotels to implement green changes, as you never want them to impact the guests in a negative way. So most of our efforts take place behind the scenes, just so it will minimize guest impact. This includes running our building the past two years using 100 percent green power through purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, recycling, composting, green purchasing practices, and, of course, our cogeneration system—it makes a huge impact in reducing our emissions. However, our guests are entirely unaware of its existence. But that doesn’t stop guests from asking us, with greater frequency, how we help protect the planet. When we explain our programs to them, they’re usually pleased.

gb&d: What other behind-the-scenes efforts do you do?

Savarino: Our ‘Green Meetings’ initiatives involve turning off unneeded lighting, use of all electronic sales materials, nonplastic water containers, and special paper recycling programs. As we began to renovate the towers area of the property, we began replacing incandescent lighting wherever possible with LED units, first in the behind-the-scenes employee areas and the banquet and meeting area. We’re now doing that as we renovate the hotel’s 900 guest rooms and suites as well as replacing all the windows with thermal-pane, energy-efficient windows and implementing automated shades. The retrofits should save the hotel about $150,000 in electric bills annually.

gb&d: Building retrofits definitely add to monetary savings, but what about energy savings at the hotel?

Savarino: There’s also real opportunity there, primarily in the environmental air-handling mechanics. Building controls are being changed and upgraded that impact energy use. This involves tasks such as replacing and recalibrating the facility’s automation controls, air-handling units, and pump mechanisms. We’ve also recently replaced the building’s main cooling tower and utilized variable frequency drives on all motors and full automation. It may not be all that sexy, but the savings and energy efficiencies are upgraded, not to mention the comfort of our guests.

gb&d: How does the cogeneration plant factor into your energy savings?

Savarino: It was a very ambitious, energy-saving project and quite exciting. With the assistance of our installation partner, RSP Systems, we finally finished installing our energy-efficient cogeneration plant. It’s the largest of its kind installed in a New York hotel. The project took two years, and the plant provides heating, water, and power for the hotel. What this system does is direct the hotel’s waste heat through sophisticated heat exchangers and supplements our normal heating load for the seven fall and winter months. [During] the other five months this same waste heat is directed through an absorption chiller to produce about 200 tons of chilled water.

The big impact comes in the winter months when this recycled heat significantly lowers our electric bills. We also anticipate moderate summer electrical savings in creating chilled water for less. The total cost was a little over $6 million. But a $2 million award from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, an anticipated $650,000 federal tax credit, plus the recurring savings helps us quickly recover the entire cost of the project.