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Catching rain in Bermuda, conscious and beautiful

With global warming becoming an accepted fact, the impression is given that the major issue related to climate change is rising temperatures, and yet in reality the main effects of global warming will be played out worldwide through water. It is increasingly important to include rainwater harvesting and managements in our urban designs and planning as well as how we appreciate water culturally. The case of Bermuda shows that collective responsibility and smart design will go a long way.

Bermudians are some of the most water-conscious people in the Western world, and this consciousness is built into their homes and hearts. The blindingly white, limestone Bermuda Roof—an architectural rain-catch concept with roots dating back to the 17th century—is singularly responsible for making human life possible in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The roof of each home is mandated, by law, to catch and redirect rain into underground cisterns that serve as islanders’ primary source of freshwater. While initially conceived as a means of survival, the elegant roofs have become an aesthetic landmark. For most of the houses, the stone that is unearthed to make room for the foundation and mandatory water tank becomes the slabs that form the actual roof. The sloping slabs then catch, slow, and redirect rain through several pipes that meet in the underground tank. The roofs have side-benefits; the limestone is naturally cooling, relieving most families of the need for central air conditioning.

In Bermuda rain is exalted, and water waste is condemned. Bermudian kids are always taught about conservation and the Bermuda Roofs from a young age. From taking short showers, to turning off the water while brushing your teeth—and, in rough times—flushing toilets as little as possible, the interplay between water and survival is ingrained from a young age.

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The limestone roofs are designed to slow, direct, and capture rain water in underground cisterns. JOHN GAFFEN 2/ALAMY

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