Growing up in the beautiful twin isle of Trinidad and Tobago was truly a blessing. The country has an abundance of natural resources: sun, sea, sand, trees and thriving ecosystems, but we continue to lack one thing—a shared vision for positive change.

After a career of 10 years in engineering, construction and project management, I felt a deep desire for a change both in my work environment and career. After working in the oil and gas sector for approximately eight years (the “bread and butter” of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy), it became noticeably evident that something was missing, and this discovery began when my team and I were asked to move to another office that was closer to our customer.

The first thing I noticed about the office was the inside temperature; it was always cold and employees would wear thick sweaters and gloves. The indoor air quality was so poor that several people suffered from coughing fits, especially after a routine carpet cleanup. I also noticed that many of us would arrive and leave the office quite late therefore not experiencing much daylight during the week unless we took the daily “lunch walk” outside. I usually avoided the walks because the air was polluted with dust and smoke from vehicles on the nearby busy roadway. Several employees would often get sick. Employee health was not at its best, and we wanted to do something about it. After almost a year of complaints, the company finally fixed the HVAC system.

After handing over a project to one of our customers, I dedicated my increased free time to researching green building. After continuous research, in October of 2015, I discovered the International Living Future Institute. It was then that everything changed for me. A YouTube presentation from founder Jason McLennan truly captured my heart, and I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of [ILFI]. I was elated to know that there are people actively pursuing their passion in the green building industry, and using a deep connection with nature to produce tangible results in society; a practice that at the time, I didn’t think would be possible in Trinidad & Tobago.

Photo: Courtesy of James Savage

From then on, I became very impatient that the local media was not highlighting the very real effects of climate change. Conversely, the media was more focused on the next oil reserve and “growing the economy,” which was a phrase that I heard quite often. It was in November of 2015 that the price of hydrocarbons dropped significantly to an all-time low. This wasn’t good for the economy and our people, as our country was still completely reliant on the oil and gas industry.

In January 2016, I moved back to the head office in Trinidad and Tobago. The air was clean, I was able to see the trees on the northern range mountain from my desk, the temperature was just right and it felt like home. At the same time, I wanted to share Living Buildings with my country and help to transform the way we design and build spaces. I decided to write to the Minister of Finance to request tax breaks on all green building items–solar panels, composting toilets, eco-friendly paints and other technologies that were not available locally.

Shortly after, I signed up to become a member of ILFI and soon thereafter, the Trinidad and Tobago Collaborative was born. At this time, I reached out to the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs (MEA) and the Energy Chamber (an external non-governmental group which supports the MEA) to inquire more about their plans to add renewable energy, knowing that there was a goal of achieving 10% RE by 2021 (the result of the UN Climate Change Conference in December, 2015.) The Energy Chamber recently contacted me in May, and expressed their interest in knowing more about Living Buildings. I also reached out to the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architecture (TTIA) and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), two organizations I saw as key agents in this silent revolution.

After attending the LF16 unConference, I returned home inspired by the wonderful people I met and am now on a full-fledged mission to help transform Trinidad and Tobago’s building industry.

Plans for the T&T Collaborative:

  • Develop a Core Group – At the moment, the T&T Collaborative consists of a Construction Contractor with a passion for the environment, an Electrical Engineer who became inspired by Living Buildings to work on simple technology for building energy efficient homes, and myself. I hope to have member(s) of TTGBC and TTIA involved very soon.
  • Outreach and Advocacy –
    1. Continue to work with the Energy Chamber by providing guidance to assist with the development of a Roadmap for 10% RE by 2021 (which includes a Green Building Code and other policy amendments), and propose a RoadMap to Zero Emissions for our country.
    2. Conduct Presentations to government ministries and other Organizations/Institutes starting with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), upon completion of the Ambassador Presenters Training Program.
    3. Network with other Caribbean Islands pursuing Renewable Energy starting with the Cayman Islands.
    4. Reach out to local mortgage financers to discuss funding of Living Building projects.
  • Start construction of our first Living Building model project in Trinidad by 2017.

Each day, the process of bringing smarter technologies to Trinidad and Tobago evolves. Even though our country is behind in the green building movement and even though we face several challenges like other developing islands/countries, I have no doubt in my mind that we can transform this island into an Island of the Future. Thank you ILFI for all your support thus far, and I feel truly blessed to be part of this family as we work toward building a Living Future together.

The Ocean and me

Photo: Courtesy of Lydia Singh

Written By

Lydia Singh

Lydia Singh is the leader of the newly emerging Trinidad and Tobago Collaborative ( as well as an Ambassador, Presenter and Volunteer.