Implications of Health and Safety in Design for the Hospitality Industry
An industry white paper conducted by The International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), in 2000, stated there are approximately 301,423 hotels worldwide, and North America only accounts for 65,000; however, North America leads with the most hotel rooms at approximately 4,574,364. That is a lot of bathrooms! But what are plumbers and engineers doing to help create better environments for the guests? How can they provide a more safe and healthy stay?
The design and guest amenities of hotels are becoming a major factor in guest lodging decisions. Let's face it; the options for places to stay are nearly endless. Choosy travelers, whether they be venturing out for business or leisure, assess the competition on factors that include measures to ensure cleanliness as well as available technology and appointments. Designers and developers are being challenged to create hotel environments or experiences that meet or exceed high customer expectations. Such design decisions can have major cost associations to be considered by both the design team and hotel management. Yet, with guests gravitating to those hotel brands that market extensive features and the highest degree of guest comfort measures, all of us need to sit up and take notice.
Design ElementsInterior design concerns itself with more than just the visual or ambient enchantment of an interior space, it seeks to optimize and harmonize the various uses of the interior environment. Both universal design (barrier-free) and sustainable design (green, eco-friendly design) are more than a growing trend in the design and technology of hotels. Products have become increasingly in demand for being long-lasting, safe and effective.
Club Med recently underwent a major renovation to spruce up an aging hotel and didn't just stop with new fixtures. The architect on the project was recently quoted as stating: "The bathrooms became a priority,"
Build It and They Will ComeA study of a hotel guest survey presented at the NYU Hospitality Investment Conference in June of 2001 showed that 57% of guests wanted bathrooms with fully controllable lighting, heating, water flow and temperature. A spacious shower and a soaking/whirlpool tub with responsive water controls were also important to 42% of the guests surveyed.
"Women are very conscious of the design and cleanliness of the bathrooms in the guest rooms,"
Generational GapThe hospitality industry faces a challenge like most other major organizations today-binding the generational gap. Hotels and restaurants have to accommodate the affluent and aging baby boomers, yet still attract the Generation X and Y for decades to come. One area of commonality is that all of these generations are concerned more than ever with cleanliness and health.
Neil Howe, a Virginia-based author, economist and consultant on generational issues was quoted in the Arizona Republic: "It's a bit like mixing oil and water. Every time you try to accentuate your appeal to one generation, you end up rubbing another generation the wrong way."
Clean It UpA 2003 International Journal of Hospitality Management research study titled, "Hotel Cleanliness-How Do Guests View It,"
Slippery When WetIn November 2001, a jury awarded a plaintiff $1.75 million for an injury sustained when the safety grab bars in the tub at a Holiday Inn in Chattanooga, TN, detached from the wall.
The number one place of injury in a hotel or at home is in the bathroom. In fact, this accounts for about 42% of accidents in a hotel. But what is a hotel to do? Hotel-industry experts speculate that the use of marble and other smooth, easy-to-clean materials means the accident rate is likely to increase, yet luxurious bathrooms sell rooms.
Marriott representatives (whose brands include JW Hotels, Courtyard, Renaissance, Residence Inn, TowerPlace Suites, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, Ramada and Ritz-Carlton) commented in a New York Times article that new hotels managed by Marriott "have grab bars in tub/showers"
Building the AccessibleThere are more than 50 million Americans with disabilities. A 1990 study by the Department of Education found that 20.3 million families in the U.S. have at least one member with a disability. The percentage of people with disabilities is larger than any single ethnic, racial or cultural group in the world. The New York Times reported that spending by travelers with disabilities exceeds $13.6 billon annually. Considering the height of the bidet, ease and dimensions of shower access, grip bars, and reach and operations of the faucet in every room is a move that makes an entire property more friendly and accessible.
Going GreenConsumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and they are supporting companies that are environmentally friendly and socially conscious. The hotel industry as a whole is perceived as environmentally unfriendly because of water use, heated pools, restaurant buffets and disposable amenities and products.
There are simple, yet often overlooked opportunities for hotel companies to up-sell to the ecologically astute audience by becoming green-minded in their approach to water usage and waste. These include offering the option of less frequent linen changes, the timing of landscape irrigation for optimum water saturation, and offering bulk soap dispensers in guest or public washrooms. Several manufacturers offer the hospitality industry these added amenities
Hotel designers and developers are open to suggestions on environmental and money-saving options and benefits that include eco-friendly products and systems. In some cases, entire properties are being designed with the environment in mind. Incorporating systems for water and wastewater reuse, heating and cooling, and waste disposal with ecology in mind reduces resource consumption and protects guest and environmental health. Becoming a resource in this area can make the designer a more valuable resource to the industry.