Can stainless steel make your hotel eco-friendly?

Camilla Kaplin, senior manager - environment at Outokumpu, explains what hotel designers, crafts people and hospitality managers should look out for when they want stainless steel as part of a sustainable interior, when investing in bar or food service stations.

tels are under attack from increasingly sophisticated hackers, intent on stealing sensitive data, such as guests’ credit card information and identification documents.

In the last decade, there have been around 30 data breaches for high-profile chains including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and even Trump Hotel Collection.Consequently, hundreds ofmillions of customers have had personal detailsstolen and billing information compromised.

There is a belief among cybersecurity professionals that hotels are either not doing enough to combat this growing threat or usinginadequate solutions.

“The challenge with hotel chains in general is that they tend to be looking at running things as low-cost as possible,” says Joseph Carson, cybersecurity expert and chief security scientist at Thycotic.

“At the same time, I don't think that they see the value of the data that they are actually collecting and processing. And that ultimately becomes the major issue.When you don't see the value yourself, but attackers do, then they'll take advantage of your failure to protect it.”

Cyber criminals are continuously seeking opportunities to exploit. Not only can a data breach harm a hotel brand’s reputation, but owners will also be hit with hefty penalties from authorities. The EU’s GDPR law has imposed tighter rules on how companies treat customer data and how long they can hold onto it, with considerable fines imposed on those found in breach of regulations

“Hotels hold millions of pieces of data, which can have a great value on the dark markets. Therefore, when hotels are not properly protected, criminal hackers will continually exploit wherever possible in order to extract whatever they can,” explains Jake Moore, cyber security specialist for ESET.

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Consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for environmental credentials. Sustainable performance can therefore be a vital competitive advantage for the hospitality industry.

With its hygienic and aesthetic properties, strength and durability, stainless steel is used widely in bars, kitchens and food service counters.

However, while stainless steel from different suppliers may appear the same, some have a better carbon footprint than others, which can help to burnish a hotel’s eco-friendly reputation.

One cabinet maker putting this into practice is a leading supplier of stainless-steel furniture to major hotel and restaurant chains in the Nordics. Norway’s Temoco delivered a flagship project for the state-of-the-art Flashbar at the Marski Hotel in Helsinki, Finland.

The company’s owner, Morten Larsen, has been at the helm for 30 years. For him, sustainability is an integral part of the business’ DNA. He says: “as an innovative company, we can’t afford to do things otherwise.”

This prompted him to launch a green campaign in 2007, demanding that suppliers provide recyclable materials and use less plastic, and focus on cutting pollution and providing fair wages, health and security for workers.

However, when he researched the sustainability of stainless steel, he was disappointed to find that most stainless-steel producers have poor environmental credentials. He discovered that while two suppliers might provide stainless steel that is physically and chemically identical, their carbon footprint can be drastically different.

This search led him to Outokumpu, a Finnish company that is also the world’s largest stainless-steel producer.

“I chose them because they go to great lengths to produce their steel as sustainably as possible. For example, more than 85% of their raw materials are recycled, while the finished product is 100 % recyclable. The carbon footprint of their products is one-third of the global average, while 80% of the energy used is carbon neutral.

“As craftspeople, we must educate and inform our clients about all the benefits that sustainability gives to the environment and the economy. We believe that soon, more players in the market will begin to pay more attention to sustainability.”

Sustainable stainless-steel production

Some stainless-steel suppliers base their production on iron ore and other virgin raw materials. In addition, they use energy from fossil fuels to run their furnaces and buy electricity from coal-fired power stations.

However, other stainless steel suppliers source low-carbon electricity to power their furnaces and other equipment at their steel mills. And they also use extensive energy efficiency measures to minimise carbon dioxide emissions.

Using one tonne of recycled stainless-steel scrap saves the steel industry 4.3 tonnes of CO2.

They also recycle scrap material instead of using freshly mined materials. This makes a huge impact on the carbon footprint. According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institut, using one tonne of recycled stainless-steel scrap saves the steel industry 4.3 tonnes of CO2.

Since Larsen first chose Outokumpu as a supplier, it has increased its use of recycled material to more than 87%. This compares with an average of about 70% for stainless steel producers across Europe and North America and around 44% worldwide. Therefore, using recycled stainless steel can impact a project’s sustainability considerably.

Calculating your carbon footprint

Growing pressure across the construction industry has led to the development of a new approach for construction similar to the energy ratings that apply to a wide range of products in Europe.

The new approach to construction products is based on Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). These are documents that enable like-for-like comparison of the materials, equipment and components used in buildings.

EPDs contain data on the environmental impact of products, including equivalent carbon dioxide emissions. It enables interior designers, craftspeople and hospitality managers to calculate the carbon footprint of their own projects and compare similar products from different suppliers. As a result, they can choose products that minimise the environmental footprint of their bars and hotels.

While EPDs are voluntary, their use is growing as a resource for all sorts of materials and equipment.

The key point about EPDs is that an official certification body must verify them. For example, the Institut Bauen und Umwelt, a German association, lists more than 1,800 active EPDs on its website for every imaginable type of building material, from bricks and concrete to decorative panels and components for ventilation systems and electrical equipment.

EPDs provide data on carbon footprint in the form of CO2 emissions at every step of a product’s life, from mining and material production to manufacturing, lifetime use and end of life.

Average carbon footprint data can also be found in industrial databases. These are a good guide to the average values and are helpful for making high-level estimates.

However, being average values, they don’t provide the accurate carbon footprint for any particular supplier or product the way EPDs do. So, while EPDs are voluntary, their use is growing as a resource for all sorts of materials and equipment.

Selecting the right grade and surface finish

The other important consideration when buying steel is to choose a grade that suits the project. There are many different grades available, all with a diverse mix of alloys. This varies the corrosion resistance, strength and formability of the stainless steel and its price.

For cabinet makers and craftspeople working in the hospitality industry and commercial kitchens, two popular grades are 403 and 304. Like all stainless steels, these get their corrosion resistance from a microscopically thin layer of chromium and iron oxide.

Even if the surface is scratched, this passive layer will reform, and that is what makes stainless steel so hygienic and easy to clean.

A textured finish can complement the interior design and be easy on the eye.

Surface finish is also important, particularly for high-end interiors. Many surface finishes are available, such as super matt, brushed, polished and mirror finish. Brushed finishes are often used for food preparation surfaces as they are easy to wipe clean.

Alternatively, a textured finish can complement the interior design and be easy on the eye. For example, a linen finish has a subtle texture inspired by natural cloth and is widely used in architecture.

These textures are embossed into the material’s surface with rollers at the steel mill, and a polymer film is applied for protection during transport and forming in the workshop. As a result, the textured surface will be as good as new when the film is removed during final installation.

Looking ahead at a long lifetime

The final aspect of sustainability is durability – after all, if a surface lasts a long time, it minimises the use of raw materials, representing good value for money.

As a strong and corrosion-resistant material, stainless steel can last a lifetime and provide a striking design, like the art deco stainless steel portico at London’s Savoy hotel that has remained spotless since the 1930s.

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