The Cape Eleuthera Institute’s efforts to usher in an age of greater sustainability and a more livable future began at its founding. We are shaped by our environments, both the built and natural environments – and our designs, as architect and ecological thinker William McDonough points out, “are the first signal of human intention.” For instance, buildings create over 40% of all of the solid waste generated in the world each year and they consume more than 60% of all the world’s primary energy. And most of them are still not comfortable, beautiful, or long lasting. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying “first we build our buildings, then they build us” – if we build intelligence and beauty into our buildings, we are building an aesthetic and intellectual endowment that will yield well into the future.
At the Cape Eleuthera Institute, we intend to design spaces that reflect our values and help inspire creative thinking, while reducing the immediate and long-term impacts on the surrounding ecology. From onsite power and water harvesting, to locally derived building materials, native landscapes and innovative waste management strategies – we continually strive to improve our ability to live in more meaningful and less harmful ways.
A campus that functions as a classroom
We are committed to applying best available technologies, innovative designs and a systems approach to our buildings, energy supplies and material flow networks. Our goal is to create spaces that foster innovative research and educational opportunities and that the space itself becomes an educational tool. CEI’s campus is designed to function more like an ecosystem than a machine. Here our energy comes from the sun that falls on us every day, our water is provided from the sky and stored in the “roots” of our buildings, many of the materials in our walls come from the earth that surrounds and our wastes are processed and decomposed in ways that become food for other processes. The buildings and materials you see at CEI are part of our evolving mission to create and promote restorative development patterns – seeking to enhance rather than damage the environment that surrounds us.
Exemplifying intelligent, green design
In partnership with the Center for Sustainable Development across the bridge, CEI has become an example for intelligent, green design in island nations. Our 31.2 kilowatt building-integrated photovoltaic array is a component of the first grid connected renewable energy system in the history of The Bahamas, producing more than 50,000 kWh a year and feeding into one of the few grid tie-in systems in the country. The inauguration of this project marked the culmination of five years of effort by CEI to develop a working partnership with Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Ministry of Energy and Environment and the Office of the Prime Minister. We are proud to be able to showcase this national achievement and we are presently sharing data with these agencies as a pilot project for facilitating a more sustainable energy future. Our systems also include:
- CEI has over 100,000 gallons of underground water storage that is fed by the seasonal rainfall. In combination with our efficient appliances such as ultra low flush toilets and waterless urinals, we are able to supply all of our water needs with this source.
- Our structures have been built to last many decades with minimal maintenance cost and input. Maintenance and replacement are some of the most important variables to consider with green design – a green product is not worth much if you have to replace it every couple of years. The concrete and earth vaults are among the strongest forms found and also reject unwanted solar heat so we are comfortable inside without the need for costly and inefficient air conditioning.
- All of our beds, tables, desks, and trim has been either specified as Green Guard certified, or built from 100% local woods, such as Casuarina – which is an invasive species that has a negative impact on the environment.
- All of our hot water is heated exclusively by the sun.
CEI is committed to a sustainable future and we know that we must live in ways that reflect our values and those that we teach. Take a campus tour with us and see for yourself.