Architect Mandilee Newton has a green agenda. Newton, 31, recently added to her credentials the title of Leed Green Associate. According to the United States Green Building Council, which administers Leed, she's the only architect working in T&T with those credentials. Leed is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a certification for buildings that meet certain standards in "energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts." A Leed professional is versed in the certification criteria.
Newton is originally from Kingston, Jamaica, and came to T&T in 2003 via Barbados, where she had been employed with Architects Cubed, Inc, which she described as "a small firm of women partners, a very modern, very neat practice." Newton's green input will show in the head office of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), designed by acla:works, the architecture firm at which she is now an associate. The headquarters' bio-climatic section design features green walls, a green roof, a wind scoop for a turbine, solar energy panels, and an underground cistern for recycling rainwater. It is built around a central atrium that uses natural air dynamics to cool the building while adding greenery to enhance user wellbeing.
"We need buildings to survive, therefore the buildings ought to be integrated with nature holistically," Newton said in an interview at Algico Plaza office of acla:works on St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain. The principal on the EMA headquarters was Peter Chandler. His partners at the firm are Brian Lewis, Gary Turton and Junior Thompson. The firm specialises in modern buildings, Newton said. "We're kind of custodians of modern architecture in Trinidad."
The Twin Towers and Republic Bank, Trincity, number among their designs. For the EMA building, acla:works "did use Leed as a guide," she said, but since the system is American and relies on US codes, it is not an entirely perfect fit. Some local adjustments have to be made to accommodate both the local climate and building code.
Some things work, though. Take green roofs, for instance. These are roofs waterproofed and planted–just like a garden, except on a rooftop. "Even though it's beautiful, it is also a good insulator; it helps keep your building cool, and is good for longevity of the roof. A planter keeps the temperature more consistent than if it were exposed to direct sun or direct cooling from nighttime temperatures," Newton explained. "If it's done properly, it will work well and be much easier from a maintenance point of view."
On the EMA building, the external walls are designed to be covered in a plant called sedum. "It's another way of introducing landscaping into dense urban areas. We use it in this application as a statement on (the client's) greenness."
Newton explained, "This was the only building where the client initiated the sustainable goals. Usually we initiate it; but the client has to pay for it to be built (so they have the final say). Actually it's not more expensive (to use sustainable features). Maintenance is easier and you pay less for lights and water. And it leads to a sense of wellbeing for the users." Sustainability in building is more than merely a feel-good option for clients. "Buildings and roads–civil works–consume about 50 per cent of the world's resources, so you have to be responsible," Newton said. Without naming any projects or buildings, she decried the exclusion of local input in recent megaprojects. "When you talk about sustainable, it has to do with a social context.
'Sustainable' is based on a triangle of society, economics, and the environment. What we're trying to do is promote sustainability goals for Trinidad and the Caribbean, and if we continue to be excluded from being able to contribute meaningfully, our country will be in a sad state. "For example, if the buildings that are being built are not taking into consideration our local climate context, we will end up with buildings that are difficult to maintain and difficult to pay for; it's going to be expensive to maintain."
Leed is an internationally recognised green building certification system. It provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. Developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), Leed provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. (From: USGBC.org)
Green building facts
�2 In comparison to the average commercial building:
Green buildings consume 26 per cent less energy
Green buildings have 13 per cent lower maintenance costs
Green buildings have 27 per cent higher occupant satisfaction
Green buildings have 33 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions
�2 An experiment identifies a link between improved lighting design and a 27 per cent reduction in the incidence of headaches, which accounts for 0.7 per cent of overall employee health insurance cost at approximately US$35 per employee annually.
�2 Sales in stores with skylights were up to 40 per cent higher compared to similar stores without skylights.
�2 Students with the most daylighting in their classrooms progressed 20 per cent faster on math tests and 26 per cent faster on reading tests in one year than those with less daylighting.
�2 Improvements in indoor environments are estimated to save US$17-US$48 billion in total health gains and US$20-US$160 billion in worker performance.
�2 estimated value of US green construction starts (in US$):
2000: $792 million
2001: $3.24 billion
2002: $3.81 billion
2003: $5.76 billion
2004: $4.51 billion
2010 (projected): $60 billion (Ten per cent construction starts)
(From: US Green Building Council's Green Building Facts)