Bill Bensley’s sustainability plea

During his keynote address at the Thailand Tourism Forum 2020 in Bangkok on 20 January, Bill Bensley launched his open-source “Sensible Sustainability Solutions” white paper for the global Hotel Industry, incorporating over three decades of experience from designing over 200 hotels around the world and in celebration of 30 years since he created BENSLEY.

Deeply passionate about conservation, sustainability and philanthropy and a man who seriously walks his talk, Bensley wants to shout his message from the treetops for all to hear.

“I am done with designing lavish hotels just to put heads on beds.  Every hospitality project that we have on the drawing boards right now has a purpose and a candle to light.  Those of us in hospitality – be it designers, owners or operators – have the power of reaching thousands of people through our hotels and spreading this message of purpose.  We should shoulder more responsibility concerning issues such as education, clean accessible water, alternative energy, energy consumption, food waste, wildlife protection and conservation, he said.  Let’s all lose the greenwash and do something real,” he exclaims.

After his dynamic keynote speech at the Global Wellness Summit’s held in Singapore in October 2019, Bensley was deeply honoured, humbled  to be awarded their Leader in Sustainability Award.

The concise Sensible Sustainable Solutions White Paper outlines 20 suggestions for hotel designers, owners and operators on designing better hotels to help fight climate change and make the world a better place, covering three core pillars:

  1. Build with a purpose – hotels with a strong sense of local community, educating guests and employees, creating new experiences and championing environment issues – all of this can increase profits.
  2. Think locally and sustainably – including everything from branded amenities, water bottling plants, sourcing locally and farming/landscaping in a way that is sensitive to both the community and environment.
  3. Build sensibly – the keys to building smart in terms of building materials and energy conservation through architecture, as well as aspects such as upcycling and using solar panels to harvest the sun.An amazing statistic – in one HOUR the sun provides more power than the entire world needs in one YEAR!  Think about that!

 WHY?  BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

“By issuing my standards to all hotel companies, I am sharing an unbranded, open source archive of lessons which we have learnt about hotel design, purposes, and sustainability. Everything here is, I believe, low hanging fruit for the hospitality industry. It is my dream to have a positive impact on our planet’s future by harvesting that fruit. In the next 5 years, over 15,000 new hotels will be built. For each of those, every hotel operations company will have a set of standards that they issue to architects like me, explaining how they want their hotel to stand apart from the rest. Very few, surprisingly few, of these standards specify concrete statements or changes regarding sustainability,” Bensley explains.

“It is my hope that “Sensible Sustainability Solutions” will give hoteliers ideas to create, hand in hand with hotel operators, eco-friendly hotels – not just greenwashed – using ideas which align with owners rigorous standards (we promise it can be done, as we use these on every project!). I have long believed that hotel design should take advantage of that human attention by way of teaching, providing experiences, and setting examples of sustainability.  Through these ideas, we can save money, improve communities and better our environment. We really must understand, NOW, in the 11th hour of life on earth that our world requires some serious rethinking. We are in the midst of the world’s 6th extinction, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to save our planet.”

There is a fundamental illusion in the world today, that we are separate from nature, when the reality is, we are nature.  This fundamental misunderstanding is what is wreaking havoc on the world’s environment; our society points to us as the superior life form on the plant.  Why should anyone protect nature if they don’t think they are part of it?  In focusing on our economy we have forgotten our age old wisdom that cross-culturally, from Eskimos to Aboriginals, says in a nutshell – if you disrespect the balance of nature, a price will be paid!

HOW?   BY EMPLOYING COMMON SENSE 

By way of this white paper on all that Bill has learnt in over 30 years of designing and building hotels, he is sharing ideas, suggestions and lessons in building and running hotels sustainably, as well as using hotels as tools for change, both in terms of the environment but also for the communities they can support. Throughout the paper he cites examples of hotels he has designed that showcase these principles, including Four Seasons Tented Camp and Four Seasons Koh Samui in Thailand, Capella Ubud in Bali, the Siam Bangkok, Rosewood Luang Prabang, JW Marriott Phu Quoc in Vietnam and his co-owned Shinta Mani and Bensley Collection Hotels in Cambodia.

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