By Amrita Phookun, Principal Leader-Design, Olive Living-Embassy Group

From Instagrammable to Sustainable: The Aesthetics of Green Design in Hospitality

Amrita is a thoughtful designer, who crafts aesthetic designs leveraging strong planning, strategies and design management for spaces. She is a well-versed versatile specialist with 12 years of experience in architecture planning, interior design & change management, design & construction of large scale corporate, healthcare, and mixed use & residential high rise buildings. Well-known in executing buildings from the concept design stage to site management, client interface, troubleshooting design and site issues with developed attention in detail. She has successfully executed international projects and has had experience of onsite execution and construction techniques in the UAE.

Instagram-ability & sustainability is all about balancing present and making future sustainable through aligning and designing creatively over time

The intersection of sustainability and design in the hospitality industry has become increasingly important as businesses and consumers alike recognise the need for sustainable practices in design and operations. Our planet is facing pressing challenges due to the irresponsible depletion of natural resources. Architects and designers can play a crucial role in offering solutions and replacing obsolete products with innovative and sustainable ones that can ensure lower consumption of resources and less waste. Green awareness in the built environment is the absolute need of the hour, and it is gradually gaining its due in the construction industry.

‘Social media design’ is another very interesting commercial facet of the experiential design of spaces that is taking centre stage from a consumer’s point of view. It is difficult to escape the bandwagon around ‘Instagram-worthy’ design because the social and cultural acceptability of a built space is determined by social media. Having said that, this trend can be utilised by designers and architects to promote bigger issues such as sustainability, eco-consciousness, construction waste reduction, and more to a larger and sometimes younger audience, as long as this phenomenon is used with mindfulness and responsibility.

A few important main points to be highlighted are-

Materials & Architecture: Unique aesthetics in a space, brand, or experience are usually an amalgamation of authentic thought and unique materials. When materials such as reclaimed wood, bamboo, recycled metal, recycled & upgraded PVC products and plastic are consciously integrated into architecture, they can bring about the green changes that we should strive for as an industry. This in turn may also lead to the creation of a ‘cover-worthy’ space, the USP of which lies in its materiality. Biophilic design is another significant direction that is becoming very popular in green-conscious aesthetic spaces. Designers are progressively advocating for the incorporation of natural elements, including green walls, living roofs, and more, into the interior and exterior architecture of buildings.

Energy Efficiency: The integration of renewable energy resources such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting, as well as simpler solutions like planning a building with enough cross ventilation and air movement, can lead to the reduction of the carbon footprint of any hospitality or commercial establishment. Utilising energy-efficient lighting and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems ensures optimal comfort for guests while saving costs and minimising energy consumption.

Zero Waste Initiatives & Upcycled Decor: Zero waste initiatives can be as straightforward as waste composting, recycling operational waste, discarding single-use plastic, and repurposing construction material & furniture. Especially in the hospitality industry, which has the advantage of bulk, these small changes can go a long way. Further, the ‘Instagram-design’ generation is very invested in staging and decor – this can be used advantageously to promote upcycled and repurposed interior spaces and furniture. Though this is usually DIY, these changes would really be apparent only when designers work in tandem with larger manufacturers to make a conscious effort to aid this process.

Local & Organic Sourcing: Construction material and craftsmanship, when sourced locally, are not only more climate-appropriate to the area of construction but give any building a more authentic, regionally cohesive design approach that connects a building to its surroundings while giving it a sense of place. As architects and designers, understanding that a glass façade is not always the appropriate direction is a necessary and sustainable thought process. Using locally produced clay tiles, terracotta cladding, fly ash bricks, printed ceramics, hemp, jute, and recycled fabric for upholstery are some easier ways to use locally sourced materials. The use of local art and artisans to create curated art moments in a space is a very effective way to integrate regionality into design.

Moreover, using farm-to-table and organic methods in sourcing produce for in-house restaurants and food facilities could be a good place to start. These green initiatives also add a warm and sensitive touch to your Instagram posts.

Technology Integration: Hospitality is one industry where the smart integration of technology in operating spaces can make a significant impact. Systems such as room-wise energy, water consumption tracking & control, remote receptions management, and paperless electronic check-ins & billing, amongst others, can make hotels much more sustainable and efficient. It modernises the space experience, giving it the edge this industry needs. As designers, it is of paramount importance that we relook at how hotel receptions and check-in experiences are designed.

Building a Community: As an industry, we are seeing a shift away from conventional corporate hotel check-ins and loyalty programmes. The modern traveller is more interested in experiences and meeting like-minded people. More than ever before, hotels are positioning themselves as part of the local community. By hosting community events, offering memberships for fitness & wellness facilities, and making co-working spaces accessible to non-guests, they are transforming into vibrant neighbourhood hubs. This evolution has changed how hotels are designed as spaces. Hotel amenity design is transforming to fit the new normal. This is probably one of the best times to experiment with hospitality design and make an impact.

Final Thoughts

Design doesn’t need to move away from ‘Instagram-ability’ to sustainability to create impact and green awareness. Both can coexist in harmony, provided the design practices and initiatives are mindful, responsible, and innovative enough to accommodate both. Green and conscious spaces can also be extremely photo-worthy, the balance of which lies primarily in an authentic idea, conscious materiality, and execution. This dual focus on aesthetics and sustainability represents a powerful approach to shaping the future of the hospitality industry.

Closing Comment: Like Jane Jacobs said in her book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’- “New ideas must use old buildings”.