Zeal Hotels was founded in 2012 by Tim Wheeldon and Tony Clark to create a group of sustainable hotels to ensure that staying in a hotel, whether for business or pleasure, would not harm the planet but also guarantees excellent guest experience and comfort levels.
Zeal Hotel’s ‘Mindfully Modern’ concept will offer a sustainable upper mid-scale hotel brand. The different room types, doubles, twins, execs & bedroom apartments, will cater to both the corporate & leisure markets. It will also feature numerous electric car charging points, a gym, gardens, a bar and a restaurant, where the enhanced food and beverage offering will have a distinct ‘local’ flavour.
The company’s first sustainable hotel with 142-rooms is presently a site at Exeter Science Park, adjacent to J29 of the M5 Motorway and less than a mile away from Exeter airport. Planning application has recently been approved by East Devon District Council. The company expects to start work onsite in the second quarter of 2023, with the hotel opening in the fourth quarter of 2024.
The hotel is aiming for a minimum BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’, with a target of ‘Outstanding’.
“The hospitality industry is behind the curve regarding the ESG targets & we need to focus our attention, particularly on the sustainable construction & operation of our hotels. Pressure is mounting on Investors, lenders & owners to develop and operate more sustainable hotel assets and doing nothing is simply not an option”
— TIM WHEELDON | ZEAL HOTELS
Why was Exeter chosen for the first Zeal Hotel?
Exeter has a broad mix of private & public sector employers and is one of the UK’s fastest-growing economies. It is also the centre for business and tourism in Devon. The growing number of companies locating and re-locating to Exeter and the increase in tourism in the Southwest has resulted in heightened demand for hotel accommodation in the area.
Exeter Science Park (ESP) comprises 60 acres of development land. The ESP has excellent sustainability credentials with best-in-class construction techniques, low carbon buildings and energy production, and a large quantity of EV charging points across the park. All buildings on ESP have a significant focus on being developed in a highly sustainable way, and the Zeal Hotel will achieve, if not surpass, this requirement.
ZEAL HOTELS IS STRIVING TO DEVELOP THE FIRST TRULY NET ZERO CARBON HOTEL
The construction of a typical commercial building contributes around 40% of a building’s carbon footprint over its lifecycle. However, it is both the construction and the operation of buildings that Zeal Hotels focuses on. It considers its carbon footprint before a hotel is built, utilising carbon negative building materials where possible, giving each hotel the best chance of a light footprint throughout its useful operational life and with an aspiration for a net zero carbon footprint.
For example, Zeal Hotels has a systematic hotel layout concept that lends itself to off-site pre-fabrication construction techniques and enables standard, suite and apartment rooms to be arranged in any required configuration and mix (see model).
This system allows for change, with minimal impact on the existing building. Further, the buildings will promote energy and resource conservation by using natural building materials and new sustainable management techniques.
Zeal Hotels also strives towards Net Zero Carbon by being efficient, ethical, and accountable:
Efficient: Zeal Hotels strives for minimal wastage, smart use of resources, and thoughtful end of-life strategies across the build and running of its operations.
Ethical: Zeal Hotels considers the wider, social impact of its hotels across the whole supply chain with particular focus on the local supply chain, holding ethics in the same regard as economics.
Accountable: Zeal Hotels constantly monitors data on its environmental and ethical performance and looks for improvements to demonstrate sustainability leadership in the hospitality industry. One example is Energy Use Intensity (EUI), which is an indicator of the energy efficiency of a building’s design and/or operations.
Zeal Hotel – Exeter with 142 beds, has an EUI score of 51, which is very low compared to two direct competitors in Bridgewater, with EUI scores of 214 and 198. Strategies that have been particularly helpful in reducing EUI have been voltage optimisation, extensive insulation, and renewable energy generation on site, using solar, and heat pump technology.
Another tool that assists Zeal Hotels stay on track to be carbon efficient is The Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM), which enables hoteliers to estimate carbon and stranding risks associated with premature obsolescence due to legal regulations and changing market expectations.
It shows that Zeal Hotel – Exeter is at significantly lower risk of becoming ‘stranded’ in the near future, compared to its direct competitors, which are, one later this year and the other in 2025/26.
Tim Wheeldon concluded: “Owing to the recent crisis in the cost of energy, the payback on our investments in being sustainable is coming much faster than we anticipated.”