The JN Financial Centre on Belmont Road, offers a good example of some of the things that can be done to make an existing building more ecologically friendly, says the architect Janet Thompson.
Projects, such as the Net Zero Energy Building at The University of the West Indies, can achieve remarkable energy efficiency, but Jamaica also needs to focus on improving its stock of existing buildings, the design expert stated. She pointed out that many of the design features employed in the renovation of the Belmont Road structure, can be applied to other commercial and residential properties across the country.
“We designed with energy efficiency in mind, and strived to create the type of interior environment that would enhance staff well being and productivity,” Ms. Thompson said. “Specific features were therefore added to the building envelope and the services design, which improved its functionality.”
The acquisition of the Belmont Road property in New Kingston was announced by Earl Jarrett, then the general manager, of the Jamaica National Building Society, at the society’s annual general meeting in July of 2015. The structure was rapidly transformed to house several entities in what subsequently became The Jamaica National Group.
“The interior of the building was essentially a shell when we started working on the project,” Ms Thompson said. “The re-design therefore included a complete renovation and buildout of the entire interior, as well as significant changes to the exterior.”
Ms. Thompson provided architectural services for the project through her firm, Lighthouse Projects Ltd. The mechanical and electrical engineers were Hardie & Kosally, while Peter Jervis Associates were the structural engineers, with quantity surveying services provided by Neville Mills Associates.
“Introducing elements which provide passive cooling is vital in our hot climate,” she stated. “Vertical sunscreens were therefore installed over the most exposed windows, and horizontal sun shades were placed on the north and south roof terraces.”
Double pane window glass with solar control film was used in the external walls, along with sprayed polyurethane foam insulation that was applied to the internal surfaces of these walls. Styrofoam sheeting was also installed on the roof surfaces, and a reflective finish added.
The air conditioning system uses the variable refrigerant flow technology, allowing for individualised temperature control and major operational cost reduction, and ventilation is tied to carbon dioxide levels within the occupied space, she explained.
“We also incorporated a living green wall in the lobby on the first floor, which serves as a natural air filter, while balancing humidity and providing a strong visual appeal,” she said. “Rain water and air conditioning condensate are harvested and used on the grounds.”
Kerry Scott, Head of Real Estate & Properties, JN Properties Limited, pointed out that one of the most impressive features is the property’s management system, which incorporates the air conditioning and ventilation equipment, allowing remote monitoring of the building.
“That makes our job easy,” Mr Scott stated. “From our office here on Duke Street, we can determine what the conditions are at the New Kingston property and make the necessary adjustments, or deploy personnel to sort out any problem.”
“The building is one of the greenest in the JN Group, and we plan to gradually roll out the lessons we have learned there, across the network,” the property manager said.
Allan Lewis, managing director of JN Fund Managers, pointed out that, “The truth is that good design is invisible, so I find this building is a comfortable place for my team members and our clients. One of the added benefits I really appreciate is being able to hold a cocktail reception on either of our cool and comfortable terraces.”
JN Fund Managers, a member of the JN Group, is the main occupant of the 18,000 square foot building, which also houses the JN Bank Premier branch, and other administrative offices in the Group.