The Caribbean commitment: Antigua and Barbuda’s first LEED project

USGBC’s director for the Latin American region shares a story about firsts.

Feature image: The LEED Gold SPPARE Interpretation Centre, Antigua and Barbuda. Photo copyright CJC+Associates Inc. and Hashtag Ltd.

When USGBC talks about the vanguard of sustainability, we speak with reverence and respect for the pioneers in sustainable design, construction and operations. It is easy to forget, though, just how difficult it really is to be the very first LEED professional in your country and to certify that very first project. The story of Colin John Jenkins and Antigua and Barbuda’s very first LEED certification is an inspiring reminder of the commitment, courage and tenacity required to achieve LEED.

Getting started is the hardest part

In 2015, Jenkins, an architect in Antigua and Barbuda, attended the Caribbean Urban Forum, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), with the goal of bringing sustainable construction practices to the eastern Caribbean. Through IDB, Jenkins connected with me at USGBC, and we discussed various options and paths to supporting sustainable construction.

Ultimately, my advice was utilitarian: Get your LEED Green Associate credential, and then see if you’re able to convince building owners to pursue LEED. Although it would be wonderful if USGBC could fly someone to the Caribbean to help Jenkins make the case for LEED, he had to be the one to take the first step.

Left: Colin John Jenkins. Photo credit: Hashtag Ltd. Right: A site meeting with the construction team and nominated subcontractors. Photo credit: CJC+Associates Inc.

In 2016, Jenkins wrote back. He had not only earned his LEED Green Associate, but also his LEED AP BD+C credential, and he was in the final stages of bidding to have a new government-owned environmental discovery center certified LEED. Just days later, the bid was awarded to him, and he registered the SPPARE Interpretation Centre (Sustainable Pathways for Protected Areas and Renewable Energy) on behalf of the Department of Environment with the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.

Building a visitor center that teaches

The discovery center is set in the middle of Mount Obama National Park, also known as Boggy Peak, in St. Mary’s Parish. Jenkins strove to design a building that would showcase the natural beauty of the surrounding park and serve as an example of innovation and excellence for the Caribbean. By 2017, the LEED design phase review was successfully completed, and Jenkins and the team were looking forward to the construction phase of the project.

In May 2021, the project achieved LEED Gold certification. “The SPPARE interpretation Centre is a unique building project in the sense that apart from attaining LEED Gold (a first for the country), it is entirely net zero,” says Jenkins.

Progress on the center as of August 2020. Photo credit: Colin John Jenkins.

Located in the last forested area in the country and created to promote biodiversity and environmental awareness, says Jenkins, the center is “powered by 100% renewable energy, captures all the potable water used for daily functions using large rainwater catchments and boasts lush panoramic views, coupled with utilizing very little air conditioning because of the large fenestration present.”

“Simply put, it is one of the most innovative government buildings in the Caribbean,” Jenkins states.

The discovery center’s grand opening has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but once visitors can come and hike Mount Obama and visit the center, Jenkins hopes, many will come to learn from its practical, measurable sustainability strategies.

“As the building architect on this groundbreaking project, Antigua and Barbuda’s first green building recognized by International standards, I am extremely elated with this monumental result…not only for my country, but for all involved [in making] this project a reality,” says Jenkins.

Celebrating the “firsts” in LEED

Two things have always stood out to me about this project. First, Jenkins showed an unwavering commitment to LEED in his journey from seeking information to certification in six years—in a market where LEED was essentially still unknown, without the support of a national green building council or even a network of Caribbean sustainability professionals.

Second, it is striking that the first LEED project for Antigua is a government-owned project. Most of the LEED projects in the Caribbean are single family homes, which tend to fall on two opposite ends of the building spectrum: Single family homes built as part of a major multinational disaster recovery and reconstruction effort, or as luxury homes and vacation properties. (There are a handful of office and retail projects developed by private investors, too.)

Left: Rendering of the finished visitors center. Image courtesy of the Department of Environment, A&B.Right: SPPARE interior. Photo credit: The Raws and Perkins&Will.

A local government that was willing to take the risk and make the commitment to pursue LEED makes the SPPARE interpretation Centre even more extraordinary. The discovery center benefits from both the local leadership and the intensive education and advocacy efforts of Jenkins and the project team.

As we approach the 30-year anniversary of LEED and celebrate hundreds of thousands of certified projects around the world, I hope that we will remember the tremendous power of the first LEED AP and the first project in each country.

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  1. Salute and congratulations Colin John Jenkins, associates and the government agencies on the manifestation of your idea and commitment to produce a sustainable product, LEED/SPPARE Interpretation Centre building at “Mt.A&B”/Mount Obama National Park aka Boggy Peak.
    For emphasis, here are his words: “As the building architect on this groundbreaking project, Antigua and Barbuda’ s first green building recognized by international standard, I am extremely elated with this monumental result not only for my country, but for all involved (in making) this project a reality.”
    I wish you’ re not only competitive but successful in scaling this project in A&B, OECS, CARICOM, Latin America and the rest of the world.
    Also, this sustainable project is instructive for our students in A&B, from pre-k to university to experience and learn STEM and business subjects. The hope Is that our education system in all our public schools will be STEM and business-based priority. Knowingly or not, every sector of our economy Is based on science and business.
    “God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.”

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