The Bermuda Department of Planning is in the process of issuing a new Bermuda Residential Building Code for 2013. This acknowledges the importance of energy efficiency in our housing saying that: "Energy efficient buildings are more comfortable and cost-effective to operate, assuring energy, economic and environmental benefits. The overall reduction in energy expenditures also correlates to a mitigated dependency on foreign oil, impacting national security". This is helpful and the chapter on Energy Efficiency is comprehensive and informative. However, the document there is an important caveat: "It is extremely essential to note that the Energy Efficiency chapter is not mandatory" (their emphasis) (ibid p3).

Their justification for not making the Energy Efficiency chapter mandatory is that it would require that "many sectors of the community and construction industry ... to agree with the 'green movement' and the concept of 'energy efficient' in its entirety; ... then embrace the various and evolving technologies". These concerns may apply to new technology unfamiliar to the construction industry in Bermuda which requires a significant upfront investment, such as renewable energy installations, or passive solar houses, but it would be irresponsible not to improve the basic insulation and energy performance of Bermuda's houses with technology that has been used for decades here on the island. It is also contrary to common sense to allow construction today that we know will have to be retrofitted in a few years to meet a higher standard.

If we look at the way electricity is used in our homes:

Domestic_energy_piechartDomestic Electricity Usage.
Source: The Bermuda Government Energy White Paper 2011, Appendix 2

46% of residential energy use goes to HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) and hot water heating, so basic insulation can make a big difference to energy use in Bermuda houses. Because of this we strongly recommended incorporating into the 2013 residential planning code as mandatory:

solar thermal panelsSolar thermal panels use sunlight to heat water efficiently and economically. They do not store electricity.
  • Insulation for roofs, ceiling spaces and lower emissivity windows. This is standard practice in most Western countries and comfortably compatible with Bermuda architecture.
  • Solar hot water systems (solar thermal) to be installed on all new installation. This is technology that is at least 40 years old, it adds minimal cost to a new installation, it is widely available in Bermuda now, and it is ideally suited to our climate.

We also recommended:

  • Insulating circulating hot water pipes
  • Sizing panelboards to allow space for future installations of solar PV panels, and installing conduit to the roof access to facilitate the insulation.
  • Including energy conservation measures (e.g. variable speed pumps) for pools.

What do you think?

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The Building Code will go out for public consultation shortly - we encourage all of you to support increased energy conservation measures.

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