What constitutes being environmentally friendly, or “green” as we commonly say today, is open to a lot of interpretation. Even within the design-and-build industry, if you ask 10 people you may get 10 different answers. So how is the average person supposed to know if his or her home or office is actually “green”?
The good news is there is a global standard for “green” homes and buildings that answers that question for us; it’s called LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
It is by far the most widely accepted green-building standard in the world today. If your home or building is designed to meet LEED specifications, you have achieved the internationally recognised standard of being truly green and high performance. Within the LEED programme there are four levels of certification based on a credit or points system: Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59 points), Gold (60-79 points) and Platinum (80+ points).
The Cayman Islands actually has more LEED registered homes and buildings than any other country or territory in the Caribbean region and its popularity is growing as homeowners and commercial building developers become more familiar with the significant benefits LEED provides.
As compared to standard “code built” projects, LEED homes and buildings are demonstrably superior in energy efficiency, they are healthier (air and water quality, etc.), they are stronger and more durable, they are more cost-effective (less maintenance and operating costs) and they have less environmental impact (eco-friendly materials, waste mitigation, etc.).
LEED is based on a third-party verification process, and as such the LEED provider works with your design-and-build team to ensure the building meets LEED standards. Tests are carried out throughout the process to ensure compliance. The result is a higher quality home or building that will perform exactly the way it was intended to.
This third-party verification and quality assurance also secures added value for LEED buildings as a result. It has been shown that LEED homes sell faster and for more money than traditional homes. In addition, LEED commercial buildings are less costly to operate and the tenants are more productive through the use of natural light, ventilation and other LEED-design criteria.
With the high energy costs in the Caribbean, LEED can pay for itself in a few short years and provide a lifetime of savings.
James Whittaker is the founder of the GreenTech group of companies that provide renewable energy systems and design of eco-friendly LEED-certified homes in the Cayman Islands.