Hotel IAQ Getting Better, Says This Traveler

I'm writing this from my hotel room at the NFPA World Safety Conference and Expo in Boston. Through the rain-pelted window, I have a sweeping view of Boston Harbor and the city skyline. From the sky to the water, everything is expressed in shades of gray. Boats of various shapes and sizes are passing one way and then the other.

06/01/2007


I'm writing this from my hotel room at the NFPA World Safety Conference and Expo in Boston. Through the rain-pelted window, I have a sweeping view of Boston Harbor and the city skyline. From the sky to the water, everything is expressed in shades of gray. Boats of various shapes and sizes are passing one way and then the other. It's mesmerizing; like watching an aquarium on 42-in. black-and-white plasma TV.

The only sound is the HVAC supply diffuser. It's on because I turned the fan on in the middle of the night. I awoke around 1 a.m., feeling stifled, realizing that at this hotel, I had to turn on the HVAC. Not a problem—just the press of a button. I left the temperature setting alone; it was 68

Yep. That's right. The HVAC system is working! It's comfortable in my room, and although I hear the diffuser, it's OK; it's a soft background sound, not a distraction. There's no funky smell, no excessive humidity.

It's not always like this. Just a few weeks ago, I was praising Fortuna that my hotel room had operable windows, which I didn't shut for four days and nights. It was one of those hotel rooms with cloying indoor air. The system was unable to control both the humidity and the temperature, and the hallways serving the non-smoking rooms smelled like smoke, because they were unable to control the ventilation patterns in the smoking areas. After getting stuck in smoking rooms a few times, I've been frequenting hotels that have banned smoking altogether, so when one of those hotels is not available, it's really noticeable.

Traveling about 30 to 50 hotel room nights a year for over 10 years, I've experienced the best and worst of hotel rooms. The worst was when I had to share a smoking room of an Atlantic City casino for four nights with a colleague who snored. I still have nightmares of senior citizens wearing oxygen masks playing the nickel slots. The best experience was a hotel on Maui Island, Hawaii, that had operable windows and a ceiling fan for an HVAC system, and plumeria trees right outside the window.

Overall, though, I have to say that things are getting better. With some chains eliminating smoking altogether, it's easier to avoid second-, third- and fourth-hand smoke. And perhaps because of some stellar lawsuits due to mold outbreaks, hotels are paying more attention to humidity control. Higher energy costs are driving hotels to renovation, too, giving them an opportunity to offer more to travelers than softer beds and better TVs.

But let me not steal the thunder of the moment. Somewhere in Boston, an HVAC system is working and a job well done is noticed.

Send your questions and comments to: Michael.Ivanovich@reedbusiness.com





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