Designing, Building and Operating Hotels Efficiently

Donal O'Leary
For the most successful results, hotel owners and developers need a sound understanding of the relationship between design, development costs and ongoing operational costs.

The following provides some guidance that hotel owners and developers should understand for the most successful results, starting with a carefully-constructed brief. 

Realistic from the outset

It's vital to understand which market is being targeted and to ensure the end product will be appropriate for selected demographic. For example, here in the Middle East, hotel bedrooms are typically larger than average, but the overall facility should be tailored to suit the purpose – it's all too easy to get carried away with grand ideas. The food and beverage requirements should be clearly understood, alongside any recreational/leisure/spa provision, recognising that luxury and mid-market hotel products require very different levels and types of facility.

Get the detail right

A successful hotel's design will be closely aligned with its operational brief. We recommend spending sufficient time on the feasibility study - test the brief and don't rush. Look at costs and programmes, considering the detail of value and returns, and make sure your hotel is affordable from the outset. That means considering whole life costs, not just capital costs.

A relatively cheap building to construct may cost a lot more to operate and maintain, than a slightly more expensive alternative with the right specification and quality of materials and systems.


Market forces will obviously influence location, as will proximity to complementary amenities, but it's also a good idea to consider workforce accommodation – both construction workers and hotel workers. There is a significant cost attached to staff residences and transport, and a hotel occupying prime real estate will prefer to provide these off-site.

Availability of utilities and general infrastructure in specific locations is a further consideration with potential cost and programme impacts if not readily available.


It's important that project timelines are realistic at each stage. Allow enough time for completion of design before procuring the contract, and give the contractor enough time to build the facility. It's worth comparing different procurement routes, ensuring that each method is properly understood, together with their respective costs and risk profiles so that rules of engagement are clearly understood before contracts are entered into.

Modular methods of construction

Although the capital cost may be slightly higher, prefabricated construction usually brings greater operational efficiency and lower maintenance costs as a direct result of the quality of build in a controlled environment. Bathroom pods, for instance, offer efficient and cost-effective quality control, as well as sustainability benefits of minimising waste etc. 

Space planning and utilisation

Consider the orientation of the building, looking at sun path analysis, as this may reduce heating and cooling requirements. For maximum efficiency, explore the best layout of the floorplate, and the impact of stair core location, how many rooms per floor and the width of corridors. Plan location of key functional areas to avoid need for transfer structure. Plan efficient back of house areas, to provide as much revenue generating space as possible.

Energy-efficient systems

A frequently encountered issue is the less-than-efficient hotel mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) system. These are designed to function in certain ways, to achieve the intended levels of efficiency. However, it's common for hotel maintenance teams to operate the system 'their' way, rather than how it's designed to work – thus negating the intended efficiencies.

A frequently encountered issue is the less-than-efficient hotel mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) system.

MEP teams will benefit from briefing and training, to ensure their understanding of how the whole building was designed and intended to work.

Sufficient resilience should be built in to the electrical system, with back-up power supply to maintain critical functions of the building during power cuts. Categorisation of key systems will ensure that safety priorities are clear.


Understanding an owner's intentions for the asset from the outset can impact on the approach to the design and construction. An owner, who is looking to develop and sell on assets as part of an investment strategy, will be looking to construct as cost effectively as possible, to increase the opportunity for margin.

An owner with a longer term mind-set and one that is interested in the operational costs and efficiencies of the building in performance will be open to the options to spend more capital in the expectation of significant operational cost savings. Bringing sustainability initiatives such as the use of LED lights rather than traditional light bulbs requires more capital but brings long term cost benefits whilst being sustainable.

Faithful+Gould has a strong global and regional hospitality portfolio. Our integrated project management, programme management and cost management leadership ensures cost-effective results that support operational excellence.

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