Meet the hotel engineer prioritising the planet

Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney is distinctively luxurious with commanding views spanning Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

With award-winning accommodation and dining it offers hospitality from the heart. The local and global community returns time and time again to experience a sincere and enthusiastic service, and part of this dedication to guests is a serious commitment to sustainable, ethical practice.

The hotel’s director of engineering is the distinguished and inspiring Anura Yapa, who was awarded the AHA National Award for Excellence in 2016 and has been a recipient of the HM Hotel Engineer award twice.

More recently he was inducted into the Hall of Fame after being named Engineer of the Year for three consecutive years at the Tourism Accommodation Australia (NSW) Awards for Excellence 2018.

For nine years Anura has been the president of the Australian Institute of Hotel Engineering NSW chapter. He was also recently recognised as an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of Hotel Engineering Inc. for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of the hotel engineering industry.

Benefiting from the wealth of Anura’s engineering experience, the Shangri-La Hotel is leading the way when it comes to energy-efficient practice.

Described as profound, productive and a workaholic by colleagues, Anura brings talent and passion to the hotel’s energy-saving initiatives that have been implemented in stages to reduce energy and water consumption and to meet the Shangri-La brand’s ethical and environmental commitments.

Anura told us: “Hotels today have many more opportunities with new and evolving cutting-edge technologies to improve energy efficiency than ever before.

“Some of these technologies include energy management control systems (EMS), variable speed drives (VSD), room management control systems, LED lamps and environmentally friendly energy efficient chillers, plus modernised high-speed lifts with latest technology.”

View from Shangri-La Sydney. Supplied

Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney worked alongside Enman Energy and engineering consultants, who upgraded the hotel energy management facilities with these cutting-edge technologies as part of a project to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Targeted software, hardware and services minimise energy consumption in hotel spaces, particularly those with intermittent occupancy. In common areas and guest rooms, down lighting has also been replaced by innovative, low-power LED down lights.

In 2014 a long-proven chiller plant energy management system, the Enman ‘Enertrol’ proprietary EMS system, was commissioned and has been a significant energy-saver for the hotel. Completion of another highly efficient chiller project with the same EMS technology is now nearing its completion stage.

With the implementation of EMS control of the chiller plant, the hotel’s NABERS star rating, is expected to improve and this is an enormous achievement for Shangri-La, according to Anura.

Furthermore, Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney is leading the hospitality industry with a series of sustainable initiatives right across the board.

It is the first hotel in Sydney to introduce wooden key cards to replace the 52,000 plastic key cards that are thrown away each year. Sourced from well-managed, plentiful, legally harvested and sustainable hardwood forests, these wood and bamboo key cards incorporate an RFID chip, laser-engraved logo and instructions, and are lightweight and durable.

Just Water has also been introduced into the hotel’s club lounge and guest rooms, reducing the use of plastic bottles by 360,000 per year.

The carton is 100 percent recyclable, made with 82 percent renewable packaging and plant-based plastic in the shoulder and cap made mostly from sugarcane, and 54 per cent paper from responsibly harvested trees that contribute to 74 percent fewer harmful emissions than standard plastic bottles.

What’s more, ORCA clean food waste recycling technology was introduced at the hotel, diverting hotel food waste from landfill reducing the release of greenhouse gas, and methane gas. The hotel has also initiated paperless check-in and check-out, and DocuSign to replace internal paperwork.

Anura seeks every opportunity to take advantage of all available resources, gaining government grants for upgrades and equipment, plus NABERS and energy auditing sustainable initiatives. His approach to the environment and sustainability is innovative and tactful, which benefits both the hotel and the community.

He is also a key contributor to the technical working group of the Sustainable Destination Partnership program with the city of Sydney’s Making Sydney a Sustainable Destination, planning for environmental sustainability in the accommodation and entertainment sector.

Accom News asked: “What’s next?”

Anura replied: “We had been talking about ozone depletion, global warming, climate change, pollution and so on… for last few decades but unfortunately not enough action was taken by the majority. We acted and recognised how important it is to educate every manager in the hospitality industry.

“We focus on the issues related to energy saving and water usage, water quality and water conservation and waste management strategies. This includes waste reduction, waste recycling and waste disposal methods in the hospitality industry.

“My personal task is to train passionate young people to fill the gap for much needed technical staff in the hospitality industry.

“My aim for a training program is to not only ensure recipients receive technological expertise, but also know their environmental responsibilities to make a cleaner planet.”

According to Anura the strength of support he has received from the EXCOM team at Shangri-La Hotel Sydney, especially from the general manager, Philippe Kronberg, has been essential to the program’s success.

Philippe said: “The hotel is regarded as an early adapter of emerging environmental initiatives that use more renewable resources and less paper, plastic and fossil fuels therefore it sets an impressive industry standard.”

Anura comes across as a proactive, results-orientated team leader who takes time to appreciate his engineering team at Shangri-La and their support.  A firm believer that he is in a position to make a difference in hotel engineering, he delivers quality and uniqueness with the support of industry experts and members of his institute AIHE.

Our industry and planet are very fortunate to have Anura fighting for their future.

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