UWI Breaks Ground for Region’s First Net Zero Energy Building

Net Zero Energy Building Site

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is to shortly commence the construction of the Caribbean’s first Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB).

Ground was broken yesterday (May 10) for the approximately J$61.48 million (US$500,000) project, which will be situated along Gibraltar Way on the Mona campus. It is intended to serve as a prototype for the construction of similar structures in the region.

The project is being implemented by UWI’s Institute for Sustainable Development, with technical assistance from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funding from the Global Environment Facility.

An NZEB produces enough renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements, thereby reducing the use of non-renewable energy in the building sector.

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 Energy, Science and Technology, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, in an address at the groundbreaking ceremony, said the adaptation and implementation of NZEBs will go a far way in reducing the country’s carbon footprint, ensuring future utility cost savings, and increasing worker productivity and comfort.

“Our Government recognises the importance of renewable energy within a portfolio of low-carbon and cost-competitive energy technologies, capable of responding to the challenges of energy security and climate change,” he said.

The 2,300-square foot NZEB will include a centre for research on renewable energy, as well as conference facilities. 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.

It is expected that this facility, to be completed by December, will influence the implementation of regulatory tools, as well as transform building policies and practices.

Minister Wheatley said the innovation is in keeping with Government’s strategy to revolutionise the country’s energy supply, power generation, transmission, distribution and consumption habits.

He encouraged more institutions to implement similar projects and conduct research to ensure energy sustainability.

Senior Programme Manager for the Energy, Climate and Technology Branch of UNEP, Kenya, Geordie Colville, said the building is designed to maximise the use of natural sunlight for energy, while reducing the need for air conditioning and artificial lighting.

The structure will reduce energy consumption by 40 percent compared to a non-zero net energy building. Excess power generated will be sold to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) under a net billing arrangement.

The building is also to be utilised as an emergency shelter, as it will be designed to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, and harvest storm, drainage and waste water. It is expected to save up to 30 percent in water consumption under everyday conditions.