Changing Rooms – The Repurpose and Reinvention of Hotels


Principal, Rob Harris say’s the growing repurposing of historic buildings as hotels is a positive for London’s lifestyle sector.

“Having specialised in the hotel and leisure industry for the best part of 15 years, it is fair to say I have witnessed a few changes within the market, from art-deco design to the latest ‘home from home’ and Airbnb ‘staycation’ styles that currently seem to be dominating. The London hotel scene has dramatically hotted up over the last couple of years, standing now as arguably one of the world’s leading lifestyle markets.

So the question is, how has this shift happened for our capital, and what must be done to continue this growth? As a building services engineer, I’m always excited when a client approaches me with the ambition of transforming an alternate building typography into a new, bespoke hotel. It is this theme of repurposing buildings and their existing systems that really seems to have caught on. More and more hoteliers and large chains seize this opportunity for the positive development of their brands. By stretching previously rigid brand standards this allows the possibility of a building that was once an office, or once an old bank (e.g. The Ned – City of London) to become the next hot-spot in London hospitality. The rethinking and repurposing of these buildings brings something that new builds can’t, character, and in many cases an embedded sense of place, community and critically an underlying story to be told/incorporated into the brand. By transforming these buildings into something new, the opportunity for creative flare is huge and from our perspective offers the opportunity to present technical and comfort solutions that do not conform to the norms. We focus on the performance of systems and guest experience, not old compliance metrics, amending engineering systems to suit. That’s not to say a good quality shower and a comfortable, quiet and easily controlled room are not still prime design requirements!

When I first started out in the industry, the majority of city hotels had a defining purpose, for guests to ‘stay’ or conference with colleagues. Fast forward 20 years, with a more discerning and expectant public who have immediate access to broadcast the quality of their experience, a hotel is now much more than a place to stay. Brands and independents are offering an experience, a place to visit, dance, drink, relax or work within. The lines have blurred between work, play and home life and guests expect more flexibility, and our solutions to their needs must therefore react – a good hotel will reflect both the community and bring the community in. This shift in the market has not only focused the industry on giving the public what it wants from these buildings, but opened up a greater return on investment – an exciting time for our sector”.

Click here to purchase a hard copy of New London Quarterly’s 37th issue; Featuring Rob Harris – Changing Rooms.

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