Cayman Enterprise City aims for green

Read our article in the Cayman Financial Review Magazine, eversion 

When it comes to being environmentally friendly, Cayman Enterprise City has a green advantage that no other office complexes in Grand Cayman have: It’s business model. 

The territory’s first special economic zone encourages tenants to share office space and infrastructure, meaning that the building footprint is kept to a minimum, says Cindy O’Hara of Design Cayman, the developer and a partner in the project.  With other office buildings and office parks in the Cayman Islands, tenants generally provide their own office infrastructure, even if it is used only part of the time.

“For instance, imagine if every single client in Cayman Enterprise City had to have a boardroom how much square footage that would take up, how much energy, how much cost,” O’Hara says.

“And how much of every day do companies use their boardroom? So for us, it’s about creating facilities that are shared, which brings down their square footage needs and is more efficient for us and our clients.”

Currently, Cayman Enterprise City clients are situated in temporary office space in HSBC House on West Bay Road, with potential other space at three other temporary sites.  However, sometime in the second quarter of 2012, Cayman Enterprise City is scheduled to break ground on a multi-phased Class A office campus in Savannah, which will eventually become the location of hundreds, if not thousands, of companies and some 5,000 workers.

O’Hara says people who work in  Cayman Enterprise City’s eventual home will see a set up different than anything else in Cayman. 

“It is a community or a campus in comparison to an office park, and there’s a distinct difference,” she says, noting that in addition to boardrooms, Cayman Enterprise City companies will share a
host of other infrastructure space, including a data centre, reception areas, kitchens and support equipment rooms.

All of this helps reduce the need to build, meaning even Cayman Enterprise City’s business model is environmentally friendly.  But that’s only the beginning of green for the project.

The LEED standard When it comes to building green, the buzzword standard today is LEED– Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Having already worked to get the
Government Administration Building to the LEED standard, O’Hara would like to see Cayman Enterprise City attain the same standard.

“But I don’t think we’ll do it on the first couple of buildings,” he says. “It’s not because they won’t meet the LEED requirements, but it takes a lot of paperwork to create a LEED certified building.”

The U.S. Green Building Council,which administers the LEED programme, has strict verification standards that require extensive documentation of the many building methods and materials used
in attaining the standard. O’Hara says that on a project the size of Cayman Enterprise City, it’s really a full-time job for someone just to oversee the LEED accreditation process. Eventually, she wants to hire a person to do just that.

“But the project has to have a certain critical mass first to make it worthwhile to hire that person,” she says.

In the interim, Cayman Enterprise City will still build green; it just won’t be documenting everything the USGBC requires for the LEED certification. Energy efficiency With the cost of Cayman’s electricity increasing in conjunction with the cost of oil in recent years, being energy efficient is becoming more important in all construction, especially commercial buildings.

As is the case with most buildings in Cayman, the biggest part of energy costs is cooling. 

“So it is best to design the buildings in a regime that brings the energy costs down.”

Using adequate insulation, light reflecting colours and the proper window glazing are several ways Cayman Enterprise City will attain energy efficiency, but using landscaping to help cool the buildings is another way.

“The site lends itself to a lot of possibilities,” O’Hara says.

By keeping trees where they are or replanting them from other places on the site, O’Hara says it will provide cooling shade to the buildings.  O’Hara says the site building layout
itself will also help provide shade. 

“We’ve created a plan so the buildings are close together to create shade, just by virtue of their own shadow,” she says.

In addition, various window shades will be used to prevent direct sunlight from penetrating the interiors as much as possible, while still providing natural light.  Cayman Enterprise City will use a
variety of lighting solutions in its offices spaces and in its common areas. She says that people tend to want to put too much light in their buildings, leading to wasted energy.

“What we’re looking for is the correct amount of light and to put light where people need light, rather than just creating a blanket of light all over a space,” she says.

All of the Cayman Enterprise City buildings have been designed to be no wider than 50 feet for a couple of reasons.

“The buildings are designed to take advantage of natural light as much as possible,” she says, noting that 50 feet is considered the maximum depth of penetration for natural light, after which artificial light is required.

“By having windows on both sides of the building, we’ll actually be able to shade the light and it will still be effective lighting.” O’Hara says another benefit to keeping the buildings a maximum of 50 feet wide is Cayman Enterprise City aims for green that it maximizes space.

“Fifty feet is the most economical span for construction without columns,” she says. “I want the inside to be as flexible as possible, so by making it 50 feet, I have no internal columns.”

In addition to its other energy saving designs, Cayman Enterprise City will use photovoltaic panels on the roofs of five of its first phase buildings to produce solar electricity. O’Hara said the idea is to use solar energy to provide electricity to common areas and exterior lighting.

“We’re going to phase that in and over time, and as technology gets better and cheaper over the next five years, we can move totally off the grid for water features, site lighting, lobbies, hallways
and anything that isn’t space that a client is renting.”

Green materials Using materials that are truly environmentally friendly can be challenging in Cayman, partially because almost all building materials have to be imported.

“If you have to ship materials from thousands of miles away, it’s not going to be very environmentally friendly just because you shipped it,” O’Hara says, noting that a lot of fossil fuel is burned to get those materials to Cayman.

O’Hara says that Cayman Enterprise City will use locally sourced materials whenever possible–like local cut stone–but she concedes that there are many building materials that have to be
shipped it.

“If we have to ship it in and we can choose environmentally friendly or energy efficient materials, we will,” she says.

“We’re also going to bring in materials that we won’t have to bring in more than once or at least will last a long time. So, we won’t skimp on the quality of materials and we’ll look for long warrantees and materials that are resistant to our corrosive environment.”

In addition, Cayman Enterprise City will use green materials that are literally green: various trees and plants that will not only give the project a sense of the Cayman Islands, but will help beautify it
and keep it cool. O’Hara says plants like vines and ferns will be used to cover some walls on the Cayman Enterprise City buildings.

“The plants themselves on walls offer some ventilation because plants have a lot of air space in between so they act like insulation,” she says.

“They also absorb sunlight and heat and they’re not going to transfer that heat to the inside of the building like a material would.”

Only indigenous plants will be used, not only because they lend a sense of Cayman to the development, but also because they are used to the Cayman climate and require less maintenance. 

Plants will also be used on the rooftops of certain buildings, where they will not only help absorb heat, they will also provide a pleasant setting for tenant social events.

“We want to get people outside,” says O’Hara. “It’s a culture we’re trying to create.”

Cayman Enterprise City will use well water for its landscaping and when it comes to the water design elements, no chemicals will be used.

“I’m going to have a zero chlorine tolerance because we don’t need it,” says O’Hara, adding that Cayman Enterprise City will use a combination of saline system–which use brackish-like water to control algae–or natural ponds with induced water circulation.

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