After we started Guam’s affordable housing program and delivered successful projects there, the Island of Saipan reached out to us for help establishing their program. While the islands are only 190 miles apart, we realized in surveying the Saipan market and needs, that energy costs were a material factor affecting housing affordability. So we helped Saipan get their program going, and in 2013, we set out to build the most energy efficient multifamily project in the Pacific Islands–specifically, on the island of Saipan.
MINIMIZING ENERGY CONSUMPTION
We designed our project with a primary focus on energy efficiency. We designed the roofs to provide a southern exposure for a solar array that would cover 90% of the roof area and feed into a battery bank to store power after hours. The units we designed and built included solar hot water heaters, “Low E” glass, 100% LED lighting, and we eschewed the typical concrete construction structure for a steel framed, cement board exterior wall that met the onerous wind codes, but allowed us to also use state-of-the art spray foam insulation between the exterior and interior walls to maximize the units’ R value.
We had to purchase and import the spray foam machine and materials from the mainland, and we were able to sell the machine locally at the end of the project. We also installed more efficient mini split AC units in every unit which operate at much higher SEER rating than traditional units.
Since then, we believe that every project should take steps to minimize energy consumption, and many of these technologies now also make financial sense to incorporate. We look at every potential energy saving or green technology we can incorporate in our projects, and we have a preferred partner we use for solar and battery installations in our pipeline projects. In Saipan, we had to start and complete the project in 13 months. Despite 3 named storms, including a category 5 storm that destroyed our workforce barracks, we delivered the project on time and on budget, with over 300 workers on site at the peak of construction. The units are centrally located and very energy efficient, operating at a high occupancy rate.