LEED takes the lead in new gov’t building

A landmark NC-LEED certified building is on the horizon for the Cayman Islands Government’s Office Accommodation Project. The certification is intended to ensure a high performance, healthy, durable, affordable and environmentally sound new home for 32 Government departments.

Discussing the LEED program

Presenters Bill McGuire, Mike Hess and Wendy Landry discuss the LEED program with Government Office Accommodation Project Special Projects Coordinator Tristan Hydes and Project Manager Jim Scott. Photo: Basia Pioro

‘We think this will be a great thing for Cayman as it will be the first such building here, and likely in the entire Caribbean,’ said Jim Scott, Project Manager for the Government Office Accommodation project.

The 150,000-square-foot government building, which will double as a hurricane shelter for its staff and other Government personnel, will be the first of two intended to replace the Glass House and the 56 other office locations the government is currently leasing.

The Glass House was built in 1975 and has come to the end of its lifespan. The Tower building was never built for government use, and given its current state it is actually more expensive to retrofit than to tear down and start anew.

The approximately $50-million project calls for the new building’s completion in 2008 on the vacant Racquet Club site adjacent to the Glass House.

Once the new building is completed, the Glass House will be demolished and the site will become a park.

Under the proposed design-build strategy, interested firms are given the project’s general specifications and requirements, and must come up with an overall plan to meet them, specifying cost and design.

The bids are being assessed by a five-person technical team supported by a number of consultants, who will then submit their report to a 23-person steering committee.

Potential bidders on the project recently heard about LEED certification from consultants and US Green Building Council representatives Wendy Landry, Mike Hess and Bill McGuire, of Florida-based firms GreenTime-GRG.

‘Worldwide, buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of our energy use, 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 40 per cent of all raw materials use, 30 per cent of all solid waste output and 12 per cent of all potable water use,’ said Ms Landry.

Citing the environmental, health and productivity, community and social, and economic benefits of LEED construction to ‘planet, people and purse,’ Ms Landry explained the certification levels are based on a points system which describes the way the building uses resources both in its construction and throughout its life.

For the Cayman Islands Government, the primary motivation for seeking LEED certification was financial, said Mr. Scott.

Economically speaking, the benefits of LEED certification include initial cost savings, reduced operating costs, and multiple offshoot benefits such as increased property value, more rapid lease out, and reduced liability risk.

LEED strategies being considered for the new building include site sustainability, promoting such things as effective storm water management, site lighting that reduces light pollution and innovative use of open space.

The building will also need to incorporate water efficiency measures, energy efficiency measures, and high indoor environmental quality.

Speaking on water efficiency, Mr. Hess urged contractors to rethink traditional plumbing.

‘By using composting toilet systems, the building could save over 600,000 gallons of water per year,’ he said.

Dual flush toilets which allow the user to regulate the amount of water used to flush could lead to savings of 100,000 gallons, while waterless urinals could save 200,000 gallons, and ultra low flow sinks could save 300,000 gallons.

‘If you commit to water efficiency, an initial cost saving could also be reflected in reduced cistern size,’ he said. ‘And don’t forget rain, cooling coil condensate and grey water can also be used to promote water efficiency,’ he said.

Energy efficiency provides the most points in LEED certification.

Attendees heard about how standard and simple design features can significantly reduce energy efficiency.

‘Once a building is built it’s much more difficult to retrofit for the purposes of energy efficiency,’ said Mr. Hess. ‘Building right the first time is the answer.’

The key is to start by focusing on building orientation, its energy conservation envelope, minimizing internal electrical loads and making use of available daylight for lighting.

For example, additional insulation applied correctly could save the building $14,000 a year, while higher performance glazing could save up to $56,000 a year in cooling costs.

Higher efficiency fixtures and controls could lead to $60,000 a year in savings, while using water cooled chillers could save $200,000 a year.

Minimizing hot water demand will also lead to savings.

Attendees also learned of the benefits of commissioning, which lets the building owners know that once constructed, the building’s systems are designed, installed, functionally tested and capable of being operated and maintained to perform in conformity with the design intent.

Mr. McGuire provided numerous examples illustrating commissioning procedures and the important findings and savings that led to improved efficiency.

‘With the price of fuel climbing at an alarming rate, it is essential for Government, and the private sector as well, to ensure that all avenues are explored in the quest for efficiencies in all areas of new building construction,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts told session attendees.

‘We hope the private sector will similarly commit to these technologies and take advantage of LEED certification for their projects.’

The LEED certification was developed in 1995 by the US Green Building Council and has been embraced across the globe by institutions, universities, corporations, and governments. A residential program is now in the pilot phase as well.

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