Leading in LEED

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CBRE, at the forefront of “green”

William Holness is a civil engineer with LEED professional credentials who works at CBRE Panama.

William Holness is a civil engineer with LEED professional credentials who works at CBRE Panama.

An outstanding exhibitor at the CAPAC fair is CBRE, an international company that handles real estate needs for the residential, commercial and industrial markets, offering transaction and appraisal services, brokerage, real estate and sustainability advisory as well as property, facility and project management. As a founding member of the Panama Green Building Council (PGBC), they are both a pioneer and leading intermediary for those seeking LEED certification for their green building projects.

To better understand what green building means and how it is trending in Panama, The Visitor spoke with William Holness, a 25-year-old civil engineer with LEED professional credentials who works at CBRE, one of only a handful of people certified in the country.

According to Holness, LEED considers economic, social and environmental factors, what is referred to as the triple bottom line or “the three P’s: People, Planet and Profit.” He explains: “The green trend began here in 2007 with the U.S. Embassy in Clayton. Now the country has 12 projects of which CBRE has helped certify four, meaning we have handled 30% of the current market.”

He added: “While CBRE does not certify a project, we represent the link between the client and the certifying bodies, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and their Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) in Washington D.C.”

What LEED looks like 

The certification measures five areas:

• Sustainable sites. “This is a measure of where a building is located; for instance, it is better to take over an existing building rather than building a new one from scratch as this has less environmental impact.”

• Water use. “Think low-flush toilets or water-saving faucets.”

• Energy use. “Are you using efficient lighting controls and air conditioning systems?”

• Materials. “This measures what sorts of materials are being used and where they are coming from. Locally-sourced materials create far less of a carbon footprint.”

• Inter-environmental quality. “This refers to how the people feel when they are in a space and whether they have access to natural light or views. Studies show that when you are feeling good in a work environment you are more productive.”

In Panama the residential market has been slower to adopt these measures than has the commercial sector, despite the boom in construction of residential towers. “The reason is that buyers are not trained to ask for energy-efficient qualities from the sellers,” said Holness. “On the other hand, multinational companies that arrive here ask for LEED certified buildings up front. That is what has driven the market.”

The return on investment

According to Holness, LEED certification represents an additional cost of 2-3% above the budget for a project. That money is returned as savings in energy, a cost that will continue to increase. After the investment is paid back, the savings remain for the duration of the building’s lifespan.

“So LEED is good for the bottom line,” he said. “There are added benefits if you consider that your workforce is going to be more productive and take fewer sick days. The environmental benefits count towards corporate social responsibility programs and can be used as a marketing tool.”

CBRE is a long time participant of the CAPAC fair. Holness added: “We invite readers of The Visitor to visit our booth and learn about our project and property management portfolios as well as our LEED services. We speak English and Spanish so come say ‘Hi’ and we’ll be happy to help you.”

Suggestions for living energy efficiently:

Lighting: “Use LED’s or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) denominated T5 or T8. Incandescent lighting is out, with 90% of the energy used converted to heat, which can cause air-conditioning units to work harder to cool a space.”

HVAC equipment: “Consider switching to units with inverters and get away from window units, which are not efficient. I would recommend replacing them outright, but if you have them, at least check and change the filters regularly.”

Electrical appliances: “From refrigerators, washing machines, dryers and computers, look for Energy Star certification, an efficiency control emitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Toilets: “Look for low-flush toilets. 1.2 gallons per flush is enough. You don’t need 5 gallons per flush. There are also dual flush toilets, where the little button is for number one and the larger button is for number two.”

Faucets: “Consider low-water faucets that consume less than 2.2 gallons per minute and showerheads that consume less than 2.5 gallons per minute.”

Windows: “Consider double windows with an airspace between the glass, and get to know how efficient they are by looking for the ‘U values.’ Translucent windows let heat in, which can cause A/C units to work less efficiently.”

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