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Net zero energy building opens at UWI

Friday, October 27, 2017

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JAMAICA and the Caribbean's first net zero energy building was officially opened on Wednesday on The University of the West Indies' (UWI) Mona Campus.

The 2,300-square-foot structure, situated along Gibraltar Way, is designed as a model to encourage construction of sustainable and energy-efficient buildings throughout the region.

As a prototype, it will demonstrate emerging and best practices in the built environment as it relates to energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental design.

The building will house the Centre for Advanced Research in Renewable Energy (CARRE), the first such centre in the Caribbean, promoting research in photovoltaic (solar), wind and biomass energy.

A net zero building is one where the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.

The long-term benefits are lower environmental impact and operating and maintenance costs, better resiliency to power outages and natural disasters, and improved energy security.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley said now that the prototype building is complete and ready for use, Jamaica is looking forward to the results, in order to make the case for more energy-efficient building designs and greater use of renewable resources.

“I welcome this initiative and congratulate all those who have been involved with the project. We want, now, to see more of this happening in both the public and private sectors,” he said.

He noted that the adaptation and implementation of net zero energy buildings will go a far way in reducing the country's carbon footprint by ensuring future utility cost savings and improved daylighting with less glare.

“The net zero energy building becomes more significant to us when we take account of the fact that buildings account for over a third of the world's energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions,” Dr Wheatley pointed out.

It is estimated that more than half of the electricity produced is consumed by buildings, with 10 to 20 per cent of total life-cycle use going into the manufacture and assembly of building material, construction, maintenance, refurbishing and demolition.

Eighty to 90 per cent of energy consumed over the life of the building is for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation.

“In tropical and subtropical regions, the main demands are generated by air conditioning, lighting, water heating and appliances. It is, therefore, important for us to focus a lot more on making our buildings more efficient, so that they are easier and cheaper to heat, cool, light and ventilate,” Dr Wheatley said.

Principal Investigator, Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Promoting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building in Jamaica (LGGE) Project, Professor Tara Dasgupta, said that the building will save approximately 50,000 kilowatts of energy, which translates to a reduction in carbon dioxide emission of 34.5 metric tonnes per year.

He informed that as soon as the building is active, an energy audit will be undertaken.

He said that energy consumption and production will be monitored for one year and the results submitted to an international accreditation body for zero energy building certification.

The net zero energy building project was implemented by the UWI Institute of Sustainable Development with funding from the Global Environment Facility and technical assistance from the United Nations Environment Programme.

— JIS

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