UWI Net Zero Energy Building Project will save Jamaica millions — stakeholders

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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Engineers, climate scientists and government representatives are agreed that the country and the region could save millions in electricity bills if the elements of a pioneering project by The University of the West Indies (UWI) to construct a prototype of the Caribbean’s first Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) is adopted by the planning and construction industries.

The building design maximises the use of natural sunlight for lighting, minimises the sun’s heat effects, uses air currents for cooling, and uses energy-efficient technologies to reduce the need for air conditioning and artificial lighting. The 214-sq-metre (2,300 sq ft) building is expected to be completed by December 2016, and is expected to transform building policies and practices, influence the implementation of regulatory tools that will mainstream the lessons, and transform opportunities for promoting energy efficiency.

At the ground-breaking ceremony last Tuesday, Geordie Colville, senior programme manager, Energy, Climate & Technology Branch at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) head office in Kenya, said the NZEB would "show what’s possible, challenge professionals to use materials and technologies available in Jamaica/the region, and change the way we build in Jamaica and the Caribbean".

In his remarks, Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development Anthony Clayton said: "If we could make every building like this, we could eventually start closing down some of our power stations. We could dramatically reduce our national imports of oil and our national outflow of cash. By reducing everyone’s light bill, we could leave everyone better off with more disposable income to be invested. And we could help to save the world."

The project is being implemented by UWI’s Institute for Sustainable Development, with funding from the Global Environment Facility and technical assistance from UNEP. It will construct a building which will demonstrate emerging and best practices in the built environment, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and environmental design. It encompasses resilience to changing climatic conditions, including hurricanes, storms, floods, drought and earthquake. It will incorporate designs and technologies that complement the location, climate, and use of the building, and will include conference facilities as well as a research centre.

Emeritus professor of chemistry, Department of Chemistry, UWI, Tara Dasgupta, said that based on baseline data, the building will save approximately 50,000 kWh of energy, which translates to a reduction of emissions of 34.5 metric tons of CO2.

Noting that this is quite significant for a single 3,500-sqft house, he said: "It is simple math to calculate the extent of reduction of greenhouse gas in Jamaica by constructing all new houses as NZEB".

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley, meanwhile, said Government intends to implement a Green Energy policy to encourage the most efficient type of electricity generation alongside alternative energy sources, and to enforce energy-efficiency standards and codes for appliances and buildings with the goal of reducing energy consumption of new buildings by 50 per cent by 2020. He said, too, that the policy will ensure that all new buildings use net zero energy by 2050.

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