By Kevin Rodriguez
The Net Zero Energy Building concept is relatively new, but it is a simple and effective solution to both reduce spending on energy as well as reduce the negative impact of global warming.
Countries such as Switzerland have taken bold steps, passing legislation to help reduce their energy spending – their “2,000 Watt Society” plan will have far reaching and positive implications on their economic growth.
Similarly, Jamaica must firmly stand on the abundance of sun light and wind available. (read more atwww.globalconstructionreview.com).
What is a Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB)?
A NZEB is a residential or commercial building that produces as much or more energy than it consumes on an annual basis. This type of structure has a lower electrical energy demand than standard buildings and also generates more electrical energy than is needed for itself and shares the excess to the local electrical utility grid.
Residential and Commercial structures account for some 70% of the electrical energy consumed by buildings in the United States according to the USA’s Energy Information Association in their 2005 report.
Unlike our counterparts in the United States, Jamaican homes should be less energy intensive not having whole house air conditioned. But, with the growing trend of residential air conditioning, at least, in the master bedroom, if we objectively assess Jamaican architectural structures as well as mechanical and electrical technologies employed, we quickly see that our residential and commercial structures are not energy efficient.
If, as a nation we are to grow economically, collectively we must reduce our energy demand and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. In the near future our building code must reflect a significant shift to a new path to encourage greater us of renewable energy sources, such as solar and window power.
Jamaica’s fuel import bill accounts for one third of all merchandise imports to the island.
The NZEB is a structure built from the ground up to demand less electrical energy and help occupants lower their consumption from a smart sustainable design. The architects and design engineers consider efficient use of electricity and water then implement renewable technologies, such as solar panels to generate electricity, solar water heaters, reuse of waste-water for irrigation, rain and storm water to reduce or eliminate the use of potable water for irrigation, flushing toilets and urinals and bathing.
There are many examples of the net zero energy buildings around the world including in tropical regions, such as Florida, and Singapore, but there are no certified NZEBs in Caribbean.
At the University of the West Indies, a team of Professors have embarked on a mission to help Jamaica make the shift to sustainable residential and commercial construction via a project to promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in buildings in Jamaica.
A prototype building has been designed and will be constructed on the Mona campus in Kingston, Jamaica.
In addition the National Housing Trust, a publicly funded agency in the Government of Jamaica responsible for provided economical housing solutions is to benefit from an energy retrofit project to lower there energy consumption by as much as 30%. These two projects will be studied and used to drive sustainable designs in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Tips to Reduce Your Energy Footprint
Here are few things to consider to help reduce your energy footprint:
- Low energy lighting equipment.
- Improve the thermal resistance or reflectance of your windows, walls and roof.
- Consider spending more to purchase high efficiency air conditioning equipment. In some case the energy saved over conventional equipment will cover the cost of the purchase within 5 years.
- Educate your family/employees in techniques to save energy around the home/office.
We can do our part for our planet and our island.
Our sun and water are natural resources that require good management. Global Warming is real. Spend less on energy. Don’t waste it. Treat it with respect.