Whitbread opens its first all-electric Premier Inn hotel
The UK’s largest hospitality firm, Whitbread, has opened its first new-build Premier Inn hotel that has no connection to the gas grid.
The five-storey hotel in Swindon, Wiltshire, has 195 bedrooms. It is kitted out with fully electric equipment in the kitchen. It is also fitted with an air-source heat pump to provide hot water.
Additionally on site is a mechanical ventilation system capable of recycling heat.
In designing the hotel, energy efficiency was a priority. The building has been certified as BREEAM ‘Excellent’. In addition to considering the energy efficiency features of the building envelope, the hotel is fitted with LED lighting, digital lighting controls and a digital building energy management system.
Whitbread’s sustainability programme lead Clare Thomas told edie: “From a practical perspective, the primary focus was to reduce energy needs, especially during colder months, and where we do need to use energy, ensure that this is only coming from renewable sources.
“The site is constructed following an innovative Passivhaus-influenced ‘fabric first’ design philosophy, optimised to minimise energy requirements for space heating through keeping heat exchange with the outside to a minimum. The hotel uses natural sunlight, heat generated as a by-product by electrical equipment, mechanical ventilation with passive heat recovery and an air-source heat pump to keep the building at an optimal temperature in all seasons.”
Whitbread will procure 100% renewable electricity to serve the new Swindon Town Centre Hotel. Onsite solar panels will cover an undisclosed proportion of the site’s demand, while the rest of the electricity will be sourced using tariffs backed with renewable certificates.
Whitbread’s head of construction for the UK and Ireland, Richard Aldread, said: “Premier Inn Swindon Town Centre is our first all-electric hotel without connection to a mains gas supply and is the culmination of years of hard work and commitment to designing and operating lower-carbon hotels – which has helped us reduce direct operational emissions by over 50% since 2016.
“It represents a significant milestone as we endeavour to bring our operational emissions to zero by 2040.
“We have ambitious plans to expand the number of Premier Inn bedrooms towards our long-term potential of 125,000 rooms in the UK and Ireland, up from 83,500 currently, and this should not happen at the expense of net zero commitments.”
Whitbread has pledged that, from 2026, all new-build Premier Inn hotels will be all-electric with no use of fossil fuels. The Swindon Town Centre location is set to serve as a blueprint to inform the design of other new hotels.
Regarding existing hotels, Thomas believes they could “absolutely” be retrofitted to be electric-only. In fact, this is a necessary facet of Whitbread’s net-zero transition plan, which includes the removal of all gas connections across its estate through to 2040.
The use of gas currently accounts for some 70% of Whitbread’s operational CO2 emissions.
Thomas explains: “We’re trialling the retrofit to electric only energy now in a small number to sites to make sure the technology we have is working well for both us and our guests – and to work out the best way of swapping out our gas boilers to electric air-source heat pumps in a full hotel with inevitable space constraints.
“We’re also carrying out an estate wide net-zero ‘readiness’ audit of our sites at the moment to be clear on which sites should be scheduled and when, so that we can stay on track to meet our interim decarbonisation targets in a way that makes most sense commercially.”
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