In a climate prone to severe weather and destructive hurricanes, a local contractor and businessman said it is time The Bahamas embraces the durability and energy efficiency of Bermuda roofs.
Guilden Gilbert, who is the president of Innovative Building Systems (Bahamas), said he believes Bermuda roofs should be added to the Bahamas Building Code, which is currently under review to be updated for the adoption of more effective technologies for renewable energy, energy conservation and efficiency.
“The weakest point of any house is the roof. One of the things I always said about construction in this market is we build structures in the market very securely, the walls and columns that are poured and the belt courses that are poured, and then we put a roof on that doesn’t match the performance of the walls,” Guilden said in an interview with Guardian Business.
The first Bermuda roof, which was made of limestone, was installed in the British territory just east of the cost of North Carolina in 1640.
That’s about the same time as the Eleutheran Adventurers left Bermuda for Eleuthera, nearly 400 years ago, and Gilbert noted that the roof is still in existence and is being used today.
Nowadays, due to a lack of land on the densely populated island nation to quarry limestone, the roofs are instead made using expanded polystyrene – better known as Styrofoam.
“Essentially, we don’t use plywood. We have a structural cement board that we are the distributors for. Once we put it down and seal the joints, that roof is watertight. The Styrofoam then gets adhered to that cement board so there’s no penetration, and we have proprietary coating that we use to complete the roof,” Gilbert said.
“It’s the proprietary coating that we have, a cement type coating that goes down as a base coat before we paint, that provides the rigidity and the hardness of the roof. Because we put the cement board down, seal the joints and adhere the expanded polystyrene to the cement board the roof becomes monolithic.
“We’ve done a number of roofs in Turks and Caicos, we went through Hurricane Irma (in 2017), we went through over 200 miles per hour winds down there with no problems.”
Gilbert, who moved from Bermuda more than 20 years ago to marry a Bahamian, is also an insurance broker and admitted that Bermuda roofs are at the higher end of roof construction costs at anywhere from $15 to $17 per square foot.
“We are probably one of the more expensive roofing types, but when you look at the insurance industry Bermuda roofs are one of the superior roofs, so there are premium discounts associated,” he said.
“We are probably comparable to the standing seam metal roof, but I see the metal roof as more of a commercial look, whereas I see the Bermuda roof as aesthetically pleasing. Maybe I’m biased. A lot of people remark to me that when they fly into Bermuda they only see white roofs, because it’s the only roofs that we use in Bermuda.”
But what is spent on the cost to construct the roof is made up in the energy savings that come as a result of a cooler home that requires less air conditioning use.
“One, the roof is made of Styrofoam. Styrofoam does not absorb heat. Also, the roof is white, white doesn’t absorb heat. You’re always reflecting heat from the roof. Asphalt shingle is an oil-based product so it absorbs heat and brings that heat through the substrate,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert has been building Bermuda roofs in The Bahamas for more than ten years now.
The first project was a 21,000-square-foot roof in Exuma.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News