Green construction draws interest

A recent gathering of architects, engineers, and others involved in the construction industry highlighted the brewing interest in the Caribbean in green construction.

Cayman Architects Surveyors and Engineers – along with Mike’s Ice and UCCI – presented the Energy Savings and Environmental Benefits seminar, attended by professionals from Aruba, Cayman, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago.

Led by representatives from Trane, a leading heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems manufacturer, delegates learned about the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design programme and the role HVAC can play.

LEED certification, which rewards environmentally-friendly design and construction, can be applied to new projects as well as retrofits

‘We are hoping people in attendance here can take something away that will spark an interest in building or renovating with green in mind,’ said Mike’s Ice CEO John Harvey.

Presenters Raul Palacios and Carlos Soberon made a compelling case for energy efficient construction.

‘In the US, buildings comprise 30 per cent of all energy use,’ they said.

‘And in Grand Cayman, we estimate HVAC comprises about 65 per cent of a building’s energy use, making it a logical jumping-off point.’

They outlined several available technologies that have successfully reduced energy use, and thus carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Successful green buildings use 36 per cent less energy than conventional buildings, and cut CO2 emissions by 30 to 50 per cent.

‘The benefits are environmental, social, and most significantly, economic. Saving energy means lower costs. Energy efficiency will save a significant amount of money over the life of the building.’

Recognising the long-term rewards, the Cayman Islands government has chosen to pursue LEED certification for its new Office Accommodation Project, which while adding six per cent to the upfront cost, is anticipated to bring significant cost savings over the building’s lifespan.

A number of other projects under construction in Cayman are also actively pursuing LEED certification, including a new office building and a new hotel.

Aside from its educational component, the meeting was also an opportunity for Mr. Harvey to introduce the idea of forming a local branch of the US Green Building Council.

In the United States, the USGBC oversees the LEED certification program, as well as promoting and supporting research and development in green construction techniques.

‘We are hoping to start a Green Building Council branch here to provide a centralised source for green building information,’ said Mr. Harvey.

Citing the example of Chile, where five green building projects went ahead in one year once its local GBC was established, Mr. Harvey noted that because not only Cayman’s electricity but also drinking water production is subject to fuel costs, energy efficient construction makes more sense than ever.