Green is the new black, at least when it comes to construction. In a world concerned about sustainability and environmental protection, the buildings where we spend most of our waking and sleeping hours have become a major area of focus. Retrofitting existing buildings, though expensive, can result in more efficient energy and water use but the real savings are to be had from ground-up construction. Enter Savannah East, RGM’s new eco-friendly office space located on the eastern side of the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
RGM CEO Gerard Darcy calls Trinidad & Tobago’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified building his crowning achievement but it was hard earned. Being the first building specifically designed around efficiency and built with minimal environmental impact presented challenges the real estate giant had never faced before. Local engineers had no hands-on familiarity with sustainable construction and sourcing energy efficient fittings on the local market proved difficult. RGM partnered with WSP USA, a firm with considerable experience in minimizing environmental impact during construction and ensuring sustainability after construction. Four years later and the visually striking $180 million, 78,000 square foot Savannah East is open for business.
The handsome exterior and massive “living wall” of plants gives away the sustainability goals of the building as much as the “First LEED certified building in Trinidad & Tobago” sign emblazoned on its side. The technology running in the background and the savings numbers are truly impressive.
A building of this size would normally use 700,000 gallons of water but not Savannah East. The only mains water used in the building is for the sinks and washing hands, all other water for flushing, irrigation, and even building washing comes from collected rainwater and the 1,200 gallons of air-conditioning condensate collected each day. The result is an 80% savings in water consumption, a useful benefit in a country that often experiences water shortages during the annual dry season.
An array of rooftop solar panels feeds into the building’s electrical system, providing power to the LED bulbs that light the building. Despite its location in the tropics, T&T has been slow to capitalize on abundant sunlight, which makes Savannah East something of a poster child for the technology. Speaking of technology, it’s also a smart building. Functions of the building such as the elevators and lights can be controlled remotely by the building’s managers.
Given that most multi-nationals insist that the buildings they occupy must meet stringent environmental requirements, the investment is a smart one for RGM. They have now placed themselves in a space where there’s no competition and that’s always good for business. In this case, it’s also good for the planet.