By Christopher Huff The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Hema Patel, CEO of Orangeburg-based Courtesy Management Inc. says going "green" can boost the morale of hotel guests and employees. The use of solar panels, reflective roofing and tankless water heaters are just a few of the more eco-friendly options on the market.
The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
A local hotelier says going "green" with your business is not only good for the environment, it can save you money.
Hema Patel, CEO of Orangeburg-based Courtesy Management Inc., gave a presentation about her "green hotel" -- Holiday Inn and Suites Columbia-Airport -- at a luncheon Wednesday at Claflin University. Courtesy Management Inc. is a hospitality company that manages and develops hotels in South Carolina.
The luncheon was part of Claflin's International Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Entrepreneurship, held April 11-13 in Ministers' Hall. The conference was a joint venture between Claflin and the University of Calcutta, one of India's oldest research universities. The theme was "Women Eco-Entrepreneurs Across the World."
"Why would you want to go 'green?'" she said. "For me, the operational cost is reduced. Utility bills are lower. We use less water."
The use of solar panels, tankless water heaters, reflective roofing and more are eco-friendly and lower costs.
Going "green" also can boost the morale of hotel guests and employees, she said.
And the hotel has a reduced carbon footprint compared to non-sustainable hotels, she said.
Years ago, "I had no idea what sustainability was," she said. "What happened was my daughter was in architecture school and she came home one day talking about facing a building in a certain direction so that the sun can do the heating and talking about ... the roof, the cisterns, all this kind of stuff."
"She said, 'Mom, you should make your hotels sustainable,'" she said. She listened to her daughter but didn't pay much attention to the ideas presented at first.
Then at a conference in Atlanta, she heard a panel discuss sustainable hotels. One of the panelists had just opened a platinum LEED-certified sustainable hotel.
"And when I listened to him, I thought to myself it made a lot of sense," she said. "It made a lot of sense to consider building a hotel that's sustainable."
"Hotels use a lot of energy," she said. "Think of the number of toilets we have in there. So it is a building that really needs to be sustainable."
She said that a lot of things in our world are free and enjoyable, like watching the leaves turn in the fall.
"If we don't start considering what's happening to our environment, eventually it's not going to be there for us," she said.
On the drive from Orangeburg to Raleigh, North Carolina, to get final permits for their new hotel, she convinced her husband to make the building sustainable.
"I usually can't convince him and I kind of coerced him and he kind of said 'Yes,'" she said. They decided to completely revise their plan.
"Of course, that's not the way you build a sustainable hotel. It's something that should be planned out long before you even start construction," she said.
But even though they didn't start from scratch, it worked out for them. The hotel has 122 rooms and is 84,000 square feet, with 5,000 square feet of meeting space.
"And we opened on Earth Day 2010," she said. "It took us two years to get certified. It is a very tough and stringent certification," she said. "We had to go back and explain a lot of things a lot of times. And it's also very costly."
But the upfront cost is outweighed by long-term savings.
Patel was named the 2013 South Carolina Hotelier of the Year by the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. Following a career first in biochemical research and later a 14-year teaching career, Patel began the pursuit of a lifelong passion for entrepreneurship with her husband. She soon established herself as one of the first leading female South Asian hoteliers in the United States.