Royal London Asset Management launches fully electric hotel and minimises whole life carbon

06 February 2023
Glassfields Thumbnail

Royal London Asset Management launches fully electric hotel and minimises whole life carbon

06 February 2023
The Leonardo Royal Hotel in Bristol is Royal London Asset Management’s first fully electric hotel, with all heating, cooling and hot water provided by air source heat pumps and mains electricity. A whole life carbon study in line with the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) Advancing Net Zero guidance evidences that the project outperforms best practice standards for both embodied and operational carbon. All space has been designed for the wellbeing of guests and staff.

Key Facts

  • 61% lower embodied carbon than the LETI ‘business as usual’ benchmark
  • 50% better predicted operational efficiency than the CIBSE benchmark
  • On track for BREEAM Excellent


Royal London Asset Management (RLAM) has committed to achieving Net Zero Carbon by 2030 for all directly managed assets and developments, (1) and by 2040 for all indirectly managed assets. (2) RLAM is also a founding signatory to the BBP Climate Commitment. Reducing whole life carbon was therefore a priority during the development of the Leonardo Royal Hotel in Bristol. This 200-bed hotel, with a restaurant and associated public realm, forms part of RLAM’s Glassfields regeneration project, which is transforming a neglected city centre site into a vibrant commercial district.


Buro Happold undertook a whole life carbon study in line with UKGBC Advancing Net Zero guidance to understand whole life carbon emissions at Glassfields. This was completed based on RIBA Stage 4 information for construction. It covered substructure, superstructure, façade, internal finishes and building services. 

Minimising embodied emissions

  • 70% Ground Granulated Blasted-furnace Slag (GGBS) cement replacement used in the substructure cement mix, reducing total embodied carbon by 8.4%. For the superstructure, recycled binders in cement mixes specified with 30% GGBS in floor slabs and 40% in the remaining concrete elements.  
  • The design incorporates flexibility for reuse and new technologies to allow the building to adapt in the future, such as limited use of suspended ceilings and minimal use of raised access flooring. 
  • 95% of waste diverted from landfill through reuse and recycling. 
  • Material efficiency reviewed at each RIBA stage to preserve any embodied carbon added value to engineering decisions.

Minimising operational emissions

  • All-electric heating, cooling and hot water system.
  • Hot water generated by a roof mounted CO2 heat pump, instead of a gas boiler. This uses CO2 as a refrigerant (R744), with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of just 1. 
  • Heating and cooling provided by a hybrid Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system. This operates primarily using a water-based solution and requires 40-50% less refrigerants than conventional VRF systems. It also improves comfort levels and is flexible to change refrigerants as new options emerge.
  • High levels of insulation achieved air tightness of 2.94 m3/(h.m2) at 50Pa and U-values 35-40% better than Building Regulations, helping to minimise drafts and reduce energy demand for heating. Other passive design measures include solar shading to cut cooling demand and prevent future overheating.


  • Improved indoor air quality through low VOC emitting materials and a ventilation system capable of filtering out particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10).
  • Large windows throughout, for natural daylight and views outside, with high levels of acoustic control to minimise external noise. 
  • Layout of staff areas designed for accessibility and ease of maintenance and servicing, including cycle storage areas, changing rooms, bright offices and canteen spaces.

Additional sustainability measures

  • Biodiverse planting and bird boxes to enhance the ecology of this former brownfield site. Landscaping includes drought-resilient plants that rely solely on precipitation during all seasons.
  • All aggregates, concrete, cement, plasterboard and blockwork have BES 6001 responsible sourcing certification of Very Good or higher.
  • 40% reduction in mains water use against the BREEAM baseline, through low-flow fixtures and fittings.
  • Sustainable drainage captures water run-off and building levels are designed to withstand future flood scenarios.
  • Cycle parking for staff and guests, and eight minutes’ walk to Bristol Temple Meads train station for sustainable travel.
  • Community engagement, including the main contractor employing two apprentices and supporting five work placement students during construction, and building a new kitchen and staff room for a local school.
  • Mental health first-aider on site during construction hours.


RLAM will take lessons from the Leonardo Royal Hotel to future projects to minimise both embodied and operational emissions and, thus, the cost of carbon credits to achieve Net Zero Carbon status from 2030. Buro Happold modelled what the offset costs would have been on this project, based on a price of £20 per tonne of carbon and use of Gold Standard offsets. Innovations to minimise emissions reduced potential offset costs for embodied carbon by around 36% against the baseline, and operational carbon by 50%.


  • Accelerating the transition to Net Zero Carbon.
  • Supporting RLAM’s Responsible Property Investment (RPI) goals.
  • Reducing operational costs for occupiers, with cheaper, cleaner energy, particularly in view of rising energy prices.
  • Increasing occupier appeal and promoting wellbeing for hotel guests and staff.
  • Building in resilience, including futureproofing around more stringent guidance on refrigerants with high GWPs.
  • Giving RLAM a new platform for future hotel developments, diversifying its portfolio.
  • Identifying opportunities to minimise emissions on future projects. RLAM has established a Lessons Learnt Tracker that it applies on all projects to drive continuous improvement.
  • Contributing towards an industry evidence base for Net Zero Carbon hotels.

Results include:

  • 61% lower embodied carbon than LETI’s ‘business as usual’ benchmarks, adapted for hotels, at 350kgCO2/m2 for RIBA stages A1-A5. This is 36% ahead of LETI’s 2020 design targets, adapted for hotels. (3)
  • 50% better operational efficiency than standard hotels, at 304 kWh/m2/yr, against the CIBSE typical benchmark for hotels of 610 kWh/m2/yr and outperforming the CIBSE good practice benchmark of 390 kWh/m2/yr.
  • CIBSE Building Performance Awards 2022 Finalist.
  • On track for BREEAM Excellent.
  • Considerate Constructors Scheme Excellent rating, scoring 44 out of 50.

Challenges and Achievements


How do you achieve Net Zero Carbon in hotels?

Industry benchmarks for embodied carbon in hotels and Net Zero Carbon targets for hotels are currently limited. The Cornell Hotels Sustainability Index and Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) project provide reference points for operational energy. The lack of embodied carbon benchmarks and Net Zero Carbon targets creates a challenge in determining appropriate project targets. Until industry benchmarks and targets are established, it will be difficult to credibly claim Net Zero Carbon status for hotels. The UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard is working to develop these targets in 2023. At the Leonardo Royal Hotel, RLAM’s consultants blended embodied carbon targets for offices and residential as a proxy. Hopefully, the Leonardo Royal Hotel case study will contribute towards an evidence base for net zero hotels.

Other challenges in achieving Net Zero Carbon in hotels includes the typical lack of control for landlords over operational usage. The Leonardo Royal Hotel is occupied on a Full Repairing and Insuring (FRI) lease and RLAM does not directly engage with hotel guests. Occupier engagement and good handover of predicted building performance information are therefore key to reducing energy and carbon intensity.

  1. Directly managed property assets are those over which RLAM has complete operational control, greater than 50% equity share and joint ventures where they would cover the proportionate amount of emissions. Developments are any new development or major refurbishment that comes online from 2030 onwards.
 2.  Indirectly managed property assets are either partially managed by RLAM or managed wholly by the occupier.
  3. As embodied carbon targets are not yet available for hotels, RLAM’s consultants blended LETI’s:

  • ‘Business as usual’ benchmarks for offices and residential of 1,000kgCO2/m2 and 800kgCO2/m2 respectively, producing a blended benchmark of 900kgCO2/m2. 
  • 2020 targets for offices and residential of 600kgCO2/m2 and 500kgCO2/m2 respectively, producing a blended target of 550kgCO2/m2.

*Please note that the information on this page was supplied by the BBP Member and the BBP assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content