In today’s post recession economy, the advent of next generation consumers, the ‘millennial effect’ and increased market competition are heavily influencing the gaming industry’s bottom line. Every budgetary dollar is scrutinized and many gaming operators are looking for economic and marketing advantages, seeking untapped methods for maximizing returns on their design, construction and operational investments.

There is an economic strategy that could potentially save a gaming operation hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, while improving the environmental standard for casino guests – sustainability. While not a new term or idea, the implementation of sustainability initiatives could become the essential strategy needed to protect your gaming interests and revenue share.

Defining Sustainability

In this context, sustainability can be defined as ‘Environmental stewardship through good decision-making and efficient casino design as translated into potential cost savings.’ The formula has been proven, and gaming enterprises must begin by elevating internal perceptions about the value of sustainability if they are to receive all the associated cost benefits and advantages to be derived from sustainable initiatives. But how do you translate ‘sustainability’ into your program for full effect, and can you trust that ‘sustainability’ will actually pay back?

Some within the gaming industry have made significant strides at rebranding their corporate values toward sustainability. Operators such as Ho-Chunk Gaming, the Tohono O’odham Nation and Caesars Entertainment have shown significant confidence in the form of companywide ‘green’ programs and/or in registrations for sustainable certifications. The Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore recently achieved LEED Gold certification, a testament to their efforts and commitment to environmental business practices.

This signals a growing trend in the gaming industry where environmental stewardship is becoming more prevalent within the owner’s design, construction and operational goals, especially when it aligns with corporate objectives and positively impacts ROI – a model heralded by John Elkington’s ‘Triple Bottom Line: people, planet and profit” concept.

Not sure how to start integrating sustainable programs at your casino? Whether you are designing a new property or renovating your existing operation, it’s not too late to receive economic benefits. Following are five suggestions on where to start to see the biggest return on investment.

Energy Efficiency

According to the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings, by sector, are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources at 41%. Of that, the majority of that energy consumption comes from a building’s lighting, followed by space heating and space cooling.

1) Establish energy conservation goals. Setting achievable goals and committing to them as part of your company’s core values can be a very powerful tool in maintaining your financial objectives. A goal of 1% or 2% energy reduction annually can amount to significant savings over time. Set small goals initially to make sure they are, in fact, achievable. The inertia generated from each little victory will add up, and before you know it, you are well on your way to meeting, and most likely exceeding your long term goals.

2) Re-commission your existing facility. As technology improves and existing equipment ages and loses efficiency, have your existing HVAC systems re-commissioned. This activity could help you avoid the need for new or additional equipment, thus resulting in net capital savings. Re-commissioning can help you implement numerous cost effective strategies to reduce your heating, cooling and electrical loads. Also, upgrade your current light fixtures. Of the aforementioned 40% energy consumption, lighting can account for roughly 25% of that overall demand. For example, florescent lights with electronic ballasts are about 12% more efficient than conventional magnetic ballasts. According to the University of Michigan Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health, fixtures with electronic ballasts can result in a 5%-10% space cooling cost reduction, due to the amount of heat generated by the lights.

3) Design for performance. Leveraging performance-based whole-building analysis during the early stages of design can help optimize the building envelope, building site orientation and energy efficiency, typically resulting in reduced mechanical equipment size. Performance-based analysis allows for refinement and optimization of your building providing a potential for first cost reduction followed by decreased operating costs.

Energy modeling is an effective tool that allows an architect to conduct cause and effect studies on multiple design iterations, and helps to align the owners sustainable, programmatic and aesthetic goals with the overarching fiscal goal. Design impacts can be identified early and decisions made to mitigate potential unnecessary first costs or operating costs by evaluating fluctuation in energy demand. Imagine saving 50 tons of cooling load with 1 ton costing approximately $2,500. That’s a potential realized savings on equipment alone of $125,000 depending on the trade-off taken to achieve it.

Water Conservation

Water conservation can contribute significantly to your economic goals; whether its first costs on new construction or operational cost for an existing property, lowering water usage saves money and will help to extend the life of existing supply and wastewater facilities.

4) Use less. Water conservation is as much about retraining habits as it is about using highly efficient plumbing fixtures. The largest uses of water in hotels are restrooms, laundry operations, landscaping and kitchens. By using high efficiency toilets, shower heads, and faucet aerators you can use 20% less water than conventional models.

According to the EPA, operating costs and environmental impacts are highly influenced by water use. Industry estimates suggest that implementing water efficient practices in commercial buildings can decrease operating costs by approximately 11 percent, and energy and water use by 10 and 15 percent, respectively.

5) Capture for reuse. Consider taking advantage of your site’s alternative water sources. Depending on your level of commitment and/or your cost benefit analysis, utilizing alternative water sources is not for everyone. On-site generated water can vary greatly in quality and should be evaluated carefully for the appropriate use. Potential alternate sources for outdoor water usage/landscaping include: rainwater, foundation drain water, treated gray water and condensate from air handler equipment.

According to the EPA, outdoor water use can account for between 5-30 percent of a facility’s total water use. Using regional, drought tolerant landscaping in conjunction with efficient irrigation systems can provide for significant water savings. The proverbial low hanging fruit in terms of potential infrastructure cost impacts is the use of captured rainwater for irrigation purposes. Remember, check with your local ordinances regarding capturing rainwater since there may be restrictions on water rights, as there are in California.

Consider each method presented above, and start tallying your savings – the returns add up fast; and this is far from an exhaustive list of sustainable methods available (waste diversion tactics in both construction and operations also offer a high return rate). Become informed about the sustainable advantages. Rescued revenues can contribute to reinvestment programs for existing facilities or investment in community building. Remember, good companies stick to their values; great companies question and challenge their values regularly.