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Shaping a low carbon, sustainable hotel

Zeal Hotel, Exeter
Zeal Hotel Exeter hero

In 2022, we supported UK-based hotel developer, Zeal Hotels, with their planning submission to develop a low carbon, sustainable 142-room hotel at Exeter Science Park.

Our integrated engineering, energy and sustainability advice supported the planning submission for a 142-room sustainable hotel at Exeter Science Park.

For Zeal Hotels, their concept is called ‘Mindfully Modern’. They are creating an industry-leading low carbon hotel brand which delivers first-class guest experiences and comfort.

The development seeks to incorporate innovative, low carbon building and operation standards.

As part of our multi-disciplinary delivery, our structural engineers, in collaboration with our fire safety engineers, led the conceptual design delivery to shape the proposed build and construction of the hotel.

Sustainable structural solutions

The hotel sector has been slow to act and is lagging behind in the race and requirement to be zero carbon by 2050. Approximately 80% of the hotel stock that will exist in 2050 has already been built and the hospitality industry has to reduce its carbon emissions by 66% on 2019 levels by 2030. This is a huge task and the later it is left, the more expensive it will be.

Zeal Hotels addresses this by pushing the boundaries and challenging the established construction of hotels by introducing low carbon concrete options, specifying a minimum of 50% cementitious material in all structural elements.

Also, we were able to re-use onsite soil (fill) to minimise the amount of excavation needed, as well as the movement of this soil to and from site, and reduce the retaining wall requirements.

Soil from the site will be placed beneath the building and strengthened via Vibro Stone Columns (VSCs), which have lower embodied carbon than other stabilising techniques such as lime and cement stabilisation.

By placing strengthened soil beneath the building, the foundation depths can be reduced, reducing the overall volume of concrete.

Sustainable civil engineering solutions

Working with the landscape architects, McGregor Coxall, our civil infrastructure design work is also ensuring that the overall scheme meets its sustainability targets.

In collaboration with McGregor Coxall we introduced permeable paving, minimised the surface water run-off, and eliminated the need for underground pipes by designing in swales to transport water. In addition, we advised on a re-working of the site to mitigate the use of retaining walls and other structures around the site, which has also limited the amount of excavation needed.

Our geotechnical specialists have advised on how to reuse excess materials as structural fill, and our transport planning team has provided an overall transport, access and movement strategy for the site.

Carbon verification framework

Supporting the overall process to enable Zeal Hotels to develop a low carbon hotel, our Smart Energy & Sustainability team has produced a framework to deliver a carbon verification and validation process.

Capturing embodied carbon and in-use, operational carbon, this will ensure the design and delivery approach meets the net-zero expectations and provides Zeal Hotels with a justifiable statement on what has been achieved.

Images courtesy of ECE Westworks

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