Luxury without compromising the earth

The skillset of a Chief Engineer will need to be upgraded with data science concepts to understand deeper energy analytics, says Rahul Prabhakar, Chief Engineer, ITC Grand Chola Chennai

Almost 18 years back, an engineering management trainee from Delhi College of Engineering joined the ITC Hotels division. But the young electrical engineer had no background knowledge about the role of an engineer in the hotel building sector. At ITC, he got exposed to multiple streams of engineering, from fire design to architecture domain, all under one roof. And over the years, Rahul Prabhakar has successfully performed various roles – Assistant Engineer, Six Sigma Black Belt Manager, Energy Auditor, Chief Engineer, Sustainability Manager, EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) Auditor, Chief Fire and Life Safety Officer. At present, Prabhakar is Chief Engineer, ITC Grand Chola Chennai. 

“ITC Hotels has heavily invested in building my career foundation and one of the important differentiators about the Group is that the engineers are fully empowered to conduct scientific research before proposing any technology into the business DNA. I have also been given multiple opportunities to attend sustainability conferences and exhibitions in Italy and Dubai World Expo which further exposed me to the various futuristic sustainable technologies,” says Prabhakar.

Role redefined post-pandemic 

As the hotel’s building will ultimately get impacted due to climate change in future, the role of a Chief Engineer gets transformed as a Chief Sustainability Engineer or Chief ESG Engineer. In the coming decade, the hotel business model needs to be protected from climate disasters like heat waves, cold waves and increasing sea levels. “Also, the skillset of a Chief Engineer will need to be upgraded with data science concepts to understand deeper energy analytics. As Machine Learning (ML) will become more advanced, ML algorithms will give analytics programmes more power to modify operations and increase efficiency of intelligent building energy management systems optimally. A key element of smart building technology, ML will continue to evolve until its ability to analyse and even understand the data will far surpass that of humans,” he explains.

Engineering innovations to reduce carbon footprint

  • Renewable electrical energy based electrical boilers in place of fuel based boilers.
  • Reduce dependency on local sourcing of water by producing drinking water with atmospheric water technology by capturing moisture from air (Atmospheric Water Generator) under SunyaAqua 2.0 initiative.
  • Energy efficient heat pump for hot water generation which is used in guest rooms etc.
  • Electronically commuted motors for air handling units.
  • Energy efficient heat transfer fluid for closed loop heat exchange process.
  • Far Infrared Technology for cooking gas ranges.
  • Vacuum degasser to remove dissolved gases and make the laminar flow in chilled water loop system and thereby enhancing energy efficiency.
  • Sensor less energy efficient chilled water pumps.

Guest & staff engagement in sustainability initiatives

To create awareness about the sustainability initiatives taken up by the hotel for a greener tomorrow, various events are organised and relevant communication shared with guests, employees and stakeholders on important days like Word Environment Day. “We constantly engage with them via various communication channels like print, electronic and social media, in-room communication via QR code-based technology. Under our Responsible Luxury credo, we invite guests and visitors for an eco-tour, an initiative undertaken to create awareness about our sustainable practices that are demonstrated at the property, such as SunyaAqua, the in-house water bottling plant, atmospheric water generator unit etc,” he says, adding they have recently launched a social media campaign on E.A.R.T.H campaign wherein they have introduced ITC Grand Chola’s pillars of sustainability:

E: Embodied Renewable Energy use for enlightening operations 

A: Atmospheric water production by using bio-mimicry project 

R: Recycle waste in a new avatar

T: Treat water respectfully 

H: Harvest daylight and rainwater

Sustainability and luxury

“Our belief is guided by the philosophy that luxury brands must have sustainable practices embedded in them. At ITC Hotels, we call this Responsible Luxury – ‘Luxury without compromising the earth and sustainability without compromising luxury’. Many of our climate-conscious service design initiatives such as renewable energy, single-use plastic mitigation strategy, SunyaAqua, responsible sourcing, organic composting, daylight and rainwater harvesting are wholeheartedly accepted by our guests,” says Prabhakar.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER MAY-JUNE 2022'


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