BBC Highlight Bermuda’s Roof Water System

December 23, 2016

“The solution to the world’s water scarcity problem could lie in the tiny, remote island of Bermuda,” the BBC said, adding that we rely on rain water and “that limited availability has created a nation of pioneering inventors who produced the Bermudian Roof.”

The story said “The North Atlantic island of Bermuda has no fresh-water springs, rivers or lakes. So how did humans ever settle there? The secret is in the design of their houses, and particularly the white stepped roof which is still in use 400 years after it was first introduced.

A British visitor to Bermuda will feel instantly at home, even if the weather is far warmer and sunnier than anything imaginable on the British Isles. Many of the island’s 60,000 residents live in limestone cottages painted in pastel colours of a design familiar from British towns or villages.

The BBC story includes a photo of one of the island’s oldest homes – Carter House in St David’s:

Carter House Bermuda, October 19 2014-9

“But white roofs? With steps? Where did they come from? It turns out they are designed this way to harvest rain. The steps slow down heavy rainfall helping the gutters to collect the water and store it in a tank under the house.

“Thanks partly to an annual rainfall that far exceeds that of England and Wales, and is spread fairly evenly throughout the year, the tanks are regularly topped up. Each home is self-sufficient. There is no mains water – and no water rates.

“This system was forced on the early settlers, because of the lack of easily available fresh water – there are no permanent streams and the lakes are brackish. Later it became enforced in house-building regulations – for each square foot of roof space, all houses must have eight gallons of tank space.”

You can read the BBC story here and you can listen to their 23-minute audio feature on Bermuda here.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Our Ancestors knew what they were doing.

    • Father Ted says:

      You mean the first British settlers.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Very true , but not what you’re trying to imply , as usual .
      The people that settled Bermuda (we were not ‘colonized’ ) were of a total different mindset and skill level that those that ended up on the islands to our south and even the new American colonies to our west .
      We ended up with hurricane proof homes and advanced plumbing centuries before they did . And many of them still are building out of wood and can’t catch the free rain water off of their roofs.

      Another example would be our advanced ship building industry and the invention of the ‘Bermuda rig’ , also surpassing anything that was going on to our south and west at the time .

  2. Windwhisperer says:

    You’re right, although their navigation wasn’t it all have could have been.

  3. sage says:

    Even the thatch hut next to Carter House held up as good or better than houses built to modern codes.

  4. technology says:

    This system was forced on the early settlers, because of the lack of easily available fresh water.

  5. Good luck says:

    We do have mains water and well water in a number of areas. Also reverse osmosis equipment. Come on BBC get your facts together.

    • Pastor Syl says:

      The mains water is of fairly new implementation and is only available in the City of Hamilton, and in Prospect, so far as I know. My guess is it became necessary in the City because of the office buildings, which, since they are not Bermudian in architecture, are not designed to capture rain water. Watlington Water, which provides that mains water, doesn’t taste good and I don’t think many Bermudians would willingly choose to use it as drinking water.

  6. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    A prudent man of business would say .A fool and his money are soon parted.
    You can not change the past, its over with.

    However, you can sure do something about our future.
    Conservation is the key in all things, including saving your hard earned money.

    We may not run out of water any time soon, you have much more to loose, this coming new year.

  7. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    Bermuda water catchment system possibly pre-dates the construction of buildings.

    eg : Note THE REEFS elevated water catchment north of the bus stop,that system precedes the standard Bermuda coral slate roof for catching water, the top soil was scraped clear revealing a water proof coral membrane.

    eg : There is another a rain water catchment system located just below and east of the Gibbs Hill lighthouse keepers dwelling.

    Utilizing gravity,water was most likely stored in a lined ditch prior to the construction of a water tank again located in the same ditch, back then every thing was done by hand.

    Many water tanks were constructed with round tops partially above ground using the principal of key stone construction , others had the less practical wood /slate lean-to roof.

    The principal of gravity was used to deliver the water to the dwelling and stables using a stone gutters , many people only used buckets.

    Bermuda’s traditional unique architecture ,primarily of English origins similar to that found in Devon and Cornwall has found its place along with Paladian and Oriental, reflecting some similar resemblances.

    The “Dark Side” . Today we see many dwelling which unfortunately have drifted away from that which was conceived by our forefathers, back then ,every thing had a proven justifiable reason for its existence.

    “Let no man be common”