It is important for companies in South Africa to get to grips with the new energy efficiency building regulations  made in terms of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 103 of 1977 which since 9th November 2011 have been in force, says Henrietta Tweedy of  The Environmental Law Consultancy team which has been dealing with requests for clarification on the steps necessary to be in line with the new regulations.

“Failure to advise developers, architects, builders and other competent persons comprehensively on these matters,” said Tweedy, “could be very expensive and frustrating to those involved because plans will not be approved if they do not conform with the requirements set within the Regulations.

New energy efficiency building regulations SA

As the law now stands, said Tweedy, all new buildings, excluding garages and storage areas, have to be designed so that they:

  • can use energy efficiently while still fulfilling their needs for vertical transport (if any) thermal comfort, lighting and hot water; or
  • have a building envelope and services which facilitate the efficient use of energy in relation to the buildings functionality, internal environment and geographical location.

“At first glance,” said Tweedy,” the new energy efficiency building regulations appear to be straightforward, but when one tackles the details it becomes clear that the requirements as stated above will only be satisfied once the buildings and construction has complied with the SANS (South African National Standard) 10400 XA; or that the building has been designed by a “competent person”, the design of which demonstrates that the energy usage of the building is equivalent to or better than that which would have been achieved if compliance with SANS 10400 XA was met;  or the building has a theoretical energy usage, calculated on “certified thermal software” that is less than or equal to that of the SANS 10400 XA “reference” building.

Asked to explain the new rulings in simple terms, Tweedy said that some of the basic requirements are that:

  • at least 50% of the annual average hot water heating requirement must be provided by means other than electrical resistance heating (e.g. solar heating, heat pumps, heat recovery processes, renewable combustible fuel, wind or other natural power sources;
  • the living areas in houses must now, wherever possible, face north while kitchens and bathrooms face south;
  • roofs and ground floors must be far more efficiently insulated with prescribed materials; and
  • windows and glazing are limited to specified ratios vis-à-vis floor areas and the region in which it is sited.  Furthermore, shading and/or protection of glazed areas from direct sunlight will have to be upgraded.

Tweedy said that, in her view, the new energy efficiency building regulations are “100% right” because SA (and the world) are running out of traditional energy sources and global warming, as a result of greenhouse gases, has reached a crisis state and Eskom electricity costs continue to escalate.

“The building industry has no alternative but to move towards incorporating sustainable methods and designs,” said Tweedy.  “It has been estimated that worldwide buildings consume 40 to 50% of the globe’s energy in the construction and operation.  What is needed now is a change of mindsets.  It is worth noting that the energy efficient regulations implemented in Germany in 1980 have proved so effective that many homes now actually produce enough energy, sustainably, so as to be able to sell it back into the grid.

“South Africa, with such abundant sunlight and in certain areas, wind, is well placed to take a leap in energy conservation.”