A mature couple wisely plans for their future—and Bermuda’s—with a new environmental and energy-efficiently designed home
On an island with limited land resources, an aging population and consistently rising energy and health-care costs, the demands for sustainable home design are increasing now more than ever. Meeting this demand is architectural technologist David Miller of Caribgreen Architecture who recently designed Élégance for his clients—a couple of retired empty-nesters who wanted to do the right thing for planet Earth while building a home that would meet their future needs and protect them from the inevitable increases in energy costs.
“Élégance is a very special modern green building and arguably one of the best environmental and energy-efficient designed residential buildings in Bermuda,” said Miller. Located in a quiet neighbourhood in Southampton, the 3,275-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home was built with equal consideration to ADA (American Disability Act) compliance and energy efficiencies. Considering his clients’ future needs, Miller designed the house as a single storey with level access to a large porch, large corridors, walk-in showers and doorways with a minimum of 36-inch width so all bathrooms and bedrooms are wheelchair accessible.
To maximise the energy efficiency of the house, Miller constructed all exterior walls with BuildBlock ICF (insulated concrete forms). This not only made the house extremely well insulated, but these walls come with a four-hour fire rating and can withstand winds in excess of 250 miles per hour. The value of using insulated concrete forms also lies in its low construction waste and use of recycled materials, along with saving on the overall length of construction time. Miller estimates a 15 percent reduction in construction costs using this system over traditional building methods. The system is also exceptional for eliminating the moisture and dampness issue that all Bermuda homes face. “The elimination of damp, mouldy walls inside has huge benefits both economically and health-wise,” added Miller.
Additionally, insulated ceilings and an insulated roofing system help to keep the house naturally warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. To further improve energy efficiency, the house was designed with solar panels, heat pumps instead of traditional water heaters, LED lighting, high-quality low E windows, energy-efficient appliances and solar tubes in the walk-in closet and pantry rooms to eliminate the need for lights in the daytime.
“Élégance is one of the first houses in Bermuda (maybe the first) to implement lithium ion batteries,” added Miller. “We will have two batteries which will charge during the day with solar power and the batteries will run many of the electrical requirements in the night hours. A separate emergency panel was installed for the appliances, heat pump, lighting, an air conditioner, ceiling fans, the internet and other items deemed necessary in case of power outages.”
As a result, the owners have reduced their total electricity consumption by approximately 50 percent from their previous residence despite the fact that this new home is bigger and the couple is now retired, thus using more electricity during daytime hours. “The owners’ electricity costs have been greatly reduced creating a savings of thousands of dollars a year as well as reducing their carbon footprint,” said Miller.
With 37 years’ experience practising architecture in Bermuda, Miller is also a certified engineering technician and is ADA compliant. He is passionate about creating homes that serve the ongoing needs of his clients and improving sustainable, long-term living for them by making them more self-sufficient in addition to saving them significant amounts of money over the years.
“Bermuda does not have enough retirement homes,” Miller stated. “It will reach crisis proportions, and one of the ways to combat this is to keep people in their own homes as long as possible by making their homes compliant and energy efficient.
“Also, I believe we are consuming too many of Earth’s resources, and it is getting worse,” he concluded. “Anything we can do to make the planet greener is a very good thing.”