Government building grabs LEED-Silver

Already the first LEED-certified structure in the Cayman Islands, the Government Administration Building has garnered further recognition from the US Green Building Council. 

 

In March, the Elgin Avenue office building earned a Silver Rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED-Silver certification was awarded based on the building’s sustainable features, including minimising the use of resources and energy needed for operation. 

 

Government first in LEED 

The government building is the first in Cayman to earn a LEED-Silver Rating.

Project manager Jim Scott said, “The building compares very well to an office in the US and has applied best practice design principles. It has concentrated on minimising energy and water intake and waste output, while maximising recycling and environmental quality. It uses about 45 per cent less energy than typical existing and old US offices, and about 20 per cent less energy than typical new US offices.” 

While many buildings in Cayman incorporate LEED standards and aim for resource conservation, only a few have actually achieved LEED certification. Until last year, outside of the US and its protectorates, only commercial buildings (including the government building) were eligible for LEED certification. In 2011, LEED International established a pilot programme for certification of residential structures in Cayman, China and Saudi Arabia  

A Caymanian residence, called Sailfish Estate in Sunrise Landing, was the first building in the world to be LEED-certified under the international pilot programme. Owners moved in to the home in fall 2011. 

Light House Point, an oceanfront condominium complex at North West Point in West Bay, was the first development in Cayman to be built to full LEED standards. 

“It is important that Government leads by example and it is our responsibility to design our headquarters as a high performance, energy-efficient building that requires less water, and energy as well as reduces the operational cost substantially from prior levels,” Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said. 

Scott said the building has the lowest electricity bill per square foot of any commercial office in Cayman. 

 

Green certification 

LEED certification can only be awarded after a building undergoes an evaluation by an independent third party. For the government building, the LEED process began when the building was constructed in 2008. The government’s contract with McAlpine stipulated the building had to achieve LEED certification. 

Alan Jones, chief officer in the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture, said the government is keen to reduce its carbon footprint.

“By recognising innovative construction methods, sustainable use of resources and a design that prioritises the needs of the wider environment and society, we have demonstrated that we are environmentally aware as we contribute to the development of an eco-friendly Cayman Islands,” he stated. 

The building received basic LEED certification during the construction phase, and has now received the LEED-Silver certification upon completion. 

To achieve the higher LEED-Gold or LEED-Platinum certification, all construction materials needed to have been purchased from within 500 miles of the project – which in this case was not possible, and is a difficulty for all builders seeking LEED certification for their Cayman projects. 

The LEED checklist awards points to projects based on a variety of factors related to sustainability, so to work around obstacles specific to Cayman’s relative geographic isolation (such as the need for materials to be imported from great distances), special emphasis was placed on keeping the government building’s ongoing energy and water consumption as low as possible. 

Environmental initiatives in the government building include an aluminium can recycling programme established by Facility Management and the Department of Environmental Health. Additionally, only ‘green’ housekeeping products are used at the building. 

 

LEED credits 

Developed by the US Green Building Council in 2000, “LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality”, according to the Council’s website. 

Projects are awarded credits toward LEED certification according to how they rate in the following categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, location and linkages, awareness and education, innovation in design and regional priority. 

The sustainable sites category discourages development on previously undeveloped land; seeks to minimise a building’s impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices; controls stormwater runoff; and promotes reduction of erosion, light pollution, heat island effect and construction-related pollution. 

The goal of the water efficiency category is to encourage smarter use of water, inside and out. Water reduction is typically achieved through more efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside and water-conscious landscaping outside. 

The energy and atmosphere category encourages a wide variety of energy-wise strategies: commissioning; energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, systems and lighting; the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, generated on-site or off-site; and other innovative measures. 

The materials and resources category encourages the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. It promotes waste reduction as well as reuse and recycling. 

The indoor environmental quality category promotes strategies that improve indoor air as well as those that provide access to natural daylight and views and improve acoustics. 

The locations and linkages category encourages building on previously developed or infill sites, away from environmentally sensitive areas, and near existing transportation infrastructure. 

The awareness and education category encourages builders to provide tenants and building managers with the education and tools they need to understand what makes their facility green and how to make the most of those features. 

The innovation in design category provides bonus points for projects that use innovative technologies and strategies to improve a building’s performance well beyond what is required by other LEED credits, or to account for green building considerations that are not specifically addressed elsewhere in LEED. This category also rewards projects for including a LEED Accredited Professional on the team to ensure a holistic, integrated approach to the design and construction process. 

Additionally, regional priorities have been identified for specific areas. A project that earns a regional priority credit will earn one bonus point in addition to any points awarded for that credit. In Cayman, regional priorities include optimising energy performance, water efficient landscaping and water use reduction. 

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