Case Study: Auberge Resorts

Several weeks ago, Auberge Resorts launched a challenge - Boost the energy efficiency of the Esperanza Resort. Their hope was to tap into the MindSumo community to explore potential methods of reducing energy consumption at their exclusive resort in Los Cabos. Students were given a detailed energy data and told to propose a solution that would be feasible in Mexico and didn’t compromise the 5 star luxury experience.

Auberge received 20 solutions in 12 days. The most innovative proposal came from John Dannenhoffer, a Mechanical Engineering student at Johns Hopkins University. His solution focused on the benefits of evaporative cooling towers.  The project management team at Auberge is now sharing his proposal at the Owners Meeting this month. We look forward to seeing how John’s idea will impact the resort’s energy and cost savings for years to come!

View John’s entire proposal…

 Living in the lap of luxury has its perks, but it comes at an expensive cost. Water and energy usage can very high to keep a living environment cool and dry when the surroundings tend to be quite the opposite. A number of solutions to this problem exist, but when it comes implementation, priorities need to be set. My view of these priorities include the following:

  • Easy implementation: Long-lasting construction projects seem like a drag to most of us during our commute, outside our apartments, etc… but when you are paying for the best relaxation experience possible, construction outside your villa can be a deal breaker. The solution needs to be quick and easy to implement
  • Immediate and substantial impact: The solution needs to come into play quickly and take a big bite out of the current energy usage.
  • Longevity of solution: While having brand new technology is always fun, being on the bleeding edge of innovation, especially in the energy business, has its drawbacks. Buggy systems, unforeseen challenges, companies (and their technical support) going bankrupt, and the “next best thing” coming out soon after a purchase are all problems with purchasing brand-new technology in a fast-moving field. If money and time are invested in a solution, the solution shouldn’t be outdated a few years after installation.
  • Out of sight-out of mind: While some people are impressed with solar panel arrays and think windmills are beautiful, some will invariable hate the looks and sounds of these (not to mention air stagnation/pollution and dead birds from windmills). The solution should have the most minimal impact on the guest experience.

In accordance with these priorities, a great way to increase energy efficiency for the Esperanza Resort would be to employ evaporative cooling towers augmented with unique geothermal enhancements. An evaporative cooling tower operates on the same principle as being cold after exiting a pool. Even if the water temperature is close to the outdoor temperature, we still feel cool because the water slowly evaporates from our skin. These towers do this on a big scale, very efficiently (evaporative cooling units are considerable more efficient than central AC units, which are significantly more efficient that small AC units) by cooling water and then this cold water can be used to cool air (or whatever else is needed) at a separate location. Furthermore, rather than huge air ducts to transport cool air, very cold water can be transferred in ordinary plumbing systems to remote locations (private villas maybe). This means that a central cooling location can cool air for your whole resort, rather than having a lot of small air-conditioning units placed around the resort.

A way to increase the efficiency even more would be to incorporate a geothermal cooling system. Any kid who has dug even a few feet into sand at the beach knows how much cooler the earth gets as depth increases. After using the cold water to cool things throughout the resort, it will return warm to hot. By pumping the hot return water through pipes deep in the ground, the water will be significantly cooled, decreasing the amount of cooling needed at the cooling tower. Furthermore, because of the proximity to the beach and loose, easily dug earth, the construction cost and construction time of installing this geothermal system will be greatly decreased. It could even be installed directly under the beach.

This system would greatly improve energy efficiency of the Esperanza Resort while meeting all the desired priorities. Installation of the system would be inexpensive and could be done very quickly. A lot of the system components can be built off-site and shipped to the resort pre-made, greatly decreasing construction time. This solution will provide immediate and substantial energy reductions for both water cooling and air conditioning. The system will have superior longevity. Evaporative cooling systems have been in significant use for decades, meaning that improvements are now incremental rather than revolutionary. A cooling system installed now would still be up to date years from now whereas solar and wind energy solutions will become obsolete in only a few years. Evaporative cooling systems also have very low maintenance costs (only minor seasonal maintenance). Lastly, because this system would centralize cooling, small (noisy) AC units or large central air ducts would be removed. Also, the geothermal part of the solution would be entirely underground. Overall, the system greatly improves energy efficiency of your resort while maintaining a superior guest experience.