The first LEED International-certified ‘green’ home is nearing completion on Grand Cayman.
The Sailfish Estate in Sunrise Landing will become the first home certified through the recently launched LEED International Program, an offshoot pilot programme of the United States Green Building Counsel’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Up until the launch of the new programme, LEED certification on private residential buildings has been limited to the United States and its protectorates.
Although the LEED programme has been extended to commercial buildings globally, no LEED-certified homes had been built outside the US prior to Sailfish Estate.
The home is being developed by GreenTech (Cayman) Ltd, which was the only company in the Caribbean region to have one of its projects accepted into the LEED International trial programme, based partially on the Sailfish Estate’s extensive energy efficiency and environmentally friendly design. Aside from GreenTech, the only other countries with entities chosen to participate in the LEED International Programme so far are China and Saudi Arabia.
GreenTech’s Managing Director James Whittaker said his company was honoured to be part of the LEED International pilot programme.
”The Sailfish Estate will set a new standard for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly design and construction here in Cayman and throughout the Caribbean,” he said.
GreenTech is building Sailfish Estate as a showcase home for what it hopes are many more energy-efficient homes it will build in the Cayman Islands. Mr. Whittaker said architecture and green building have been a passion of his for a long time and that he became interested in introducing a new level of green building to Cayman.
“I decided a few years ago that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right and do it to the best of my abilities,” he said.
Since that time, GreenTech has spent much of the time planning, acquiring expertise and forging partnerships in the green building industry.
“At this point I have no doubt there are few, if any, companies in the region with the expertise GreenTech is able to provide to the market,” he said.
The LEED certification in itself in the Cayman Islands has nominal benefits for residential home builders because the government doesn’t yet give cost incentives to build to LEED standards the way local governments in the United States frequently do. As a result, building to LEED standards in Cayman will cost more initially than traditional building methods.
However, doing the things required to get LEED certification can have tremendous benefits here not only in the costs of running and maintaining a home, but also in making it a healthier place to live. In addition, Mr. Whittaker said the higher costs to build are offset by the savings in energy.
“In the final analysis, it actually doesn’t cost more at all,” he said. “In fact, it ultimately costs a lot less to build this way.” Mr. Whittaker said an extensive energy analysis conducted on Sailfish Estate, which will have 5,373 square feet of living space, shows the home’s primary energy usage will exceed no more than $217 per month based on current CUC rates. This doesn’t include the savings generated by the electricity-generating solar energy system.
“If you take the costs savings of our home over a traditional concrete block home built to local codes, it doesn’t take long to see a rapid return on your investment to building highly energy efficient,” said Mr. Whittaker, noting that return on investment for energy-saving systems occur two or three times faster in Cayman than in the US because we pay two or three times more for electricity.
“It’s not a hard sell at all.”
To ensure energy efficiency in the home, a LEED-certified engineer conducts energy modelling on the building, using Cayman’s weather model to mathematically arrive at the proper cooling needs.
“It will tell you exactly what you need to cool the house optimally,” Mr. Whittaker said, adding that many homes have too much air conditioning, increasing the cost of building and of running the house.
Using a HVAC cooling system will also have benefits beyond energy efficiency.
‘It’s not only optimal in terms of cooling, but also optimal in terms of air quality,” Mr. Whittaker said, adding that the system is designed to prevent the growth of mould in the system.
“It’s a very tight envelope that nothing can get through, not even mould,”
Sailfish Estate will also use materials that are more easily maintained, reducing operating costs even further.
Although Sailfish Estate will use recycled or other sustainable green materials in its finishes, the home will still be quite luxurious.
“With the Sailfish Estate, we also wanted to show that a home can be ‘green’ yet still have all the luxuries and advanced technologies you would expect to find in a modern home,” Mr. Whittaker said. “This will likely surprise many people. When you walk through this house you won’t feel like you’re in anything other than a high-end luxury home. That’s very much by design and illustrates what can be achieved with the right people and products.”
To get the kind of energy efficiency needed in the house, some of the products – like the doors and windows – basically had to be luxury to begin with.
“It will have the best doors and windows you can buy, bar none,” Mr. Whittaker said, noting that the windows are also hurricane-rated.
The Sailfish Estate will also feature well-thought-out landscaping that will provide passive shading to the structure.
The house is being marketed by the luxury-home seller Cayman Islands Sotheby’s International Realty for US$1.9 million. The company’s Sheena Conolly said her company was delighted to market Sailfish Estate both locally and internationally.
“It’s a very exciting project,” she said. “It’s great to be starting the LEED International homes programme for the Caribbean right here.”
Upon completion, which is scheduled for next month, the Sailfish Estate will be available for viewing by appointment.