In a rather intimate poolside event on Wednesday evening, Dive Saint Lucia announced its 2-year-old facility had recently been awarded a Platinum LEED certification by the United States Green Building Council—the foremost authority in the evaluation of resource efficiency in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings around the world.
Based on a numerical scoring system, LEED projects are evaluated across six criteria: site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. The platinum distinction earned by DSL is the highest possible rating awarded by USGBC, adding the locally-based scuba diving company to an elite list of less than 1,300 platinum LEED-certified projects scattered across the globe.
The award ceremony represented years of planning and execution, 36 months after this newspaper first disclosed Dive Saint Lucia co-director Marcel Buechler’s ambitions to pursue the sustainability accreditation. Overall, the event cast a positive light on a company whose humble successes have been, for the most part, overshadowed by looming concerns over the ever-changing opening date of its cozy neighbour, the Harbor Club Hotel. Constructed on a chronically under-utilized waterfront lot adjacent to the dive centre, the hotel is billing itself to potential guests as “a 4-star resort that delivers 5-star quality”.
Despite its fluid opening date – during Wednesday’s event, the hotel’s general manager Camilla Sukumaran announced a soft opening on September 22, 2017 – the 115-room luxurious, maritime-inspired hotel’s value proposition to the largely untapped underwater tourism market appears to be compelling and fittingly sustainable.
Attending the ceremony was education minister Dr. Gale Rigobert, who is also responsible for gender relations, and sustainable development. She congratulated Dive Saint Lucia before formally presenting Buechler with the LEED certification. Framing the occasion’s significance, the minister revealed that there have been several developers over the years with ambitions similar to DSL’s, that never materialized. Rigobert called on other members of the private sector to take DSL’s lead in leveraging green technology to enable smarter, more sustainable business practices.
Saint Lucia, like most Caribbean countries, is plagued by high electricity costs, a consequence of our debilitating dependence on imported diesel fuels. The average cost of electricity per kilowatt hour in Saint Lucia peaked in 2014 at a whopping $0.38/kilowatt hour (kWh), and today stands at $0.31/kWh (per LUCELEC’s official rates noted at time of writing)—double the cost of electricity in the United States.
According to a recent report entitled “Developing The Saint Lucia Energy Roadmap,” published by the government, the long-term goal of Saint Lucia, through its cooperation with LUCELEC, is “to create an economically optimum system consisting of a portfolio of solar, wind, energy storage, energy efficiency, and existing diesel generation”. The current energy investments in the pipeline and future ones are “aimed at reducing Saint Lucia’s diesel fuel expenditures by 42 percent and carbon emissions by 40 percent by the year 2025”.
Due to the state of Saint Lucia’s electrical grid, which the government describes as “complex”, combined with an outdated incentive regime targeting sustainable technology investment, it will be some time before consumers and business owners notice any savings on their electricity bills. The good news is that while most of Saint Lucia remains behind the 8-ball, innovators like Dive Saint Lucia continue to blaze ahead!