GBCSA urges building owners to know and show their energy performance

By next December, some non-residential buildings will be required by law to display an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which demonstrates the efficiency or inefficiency of a building. This is done by measuring the building’s energy-use intensity and giving it a colour-coded score from A-G, like the energy rating you would find on appliances.

In the same way that drivers check the fuel consumption of a car before renting or buying it, knowing the energy performance of a building empowers potential buyers or tenants to make a more informed decision.

It is hoped that this will be a great boost for energy efficiency in South Africa, since the first step toward lowering energy consumption is knowing energy consumption. The new regulation requires that energy data is collected over the period of a year, to get an adequate measure of the building’s energy use. Thus, building owners will see how their buildings compare against the SANS 10400-XA benchmark energy usage intensity value.

Once information on a building’s energy performance is publicly displayed, it will be much harder to justify operating an inefficient building. Buyers and tenants do not desire to move into a building that will be more expensive to run and will be a drain on the planet’s resources.

EPCs in South Africa

To obtain an EPC, a building owner will need to gather some of the building information – the electricity consumption data for a year, the net floor area, information on the areas excluded, vacancy rates – and contract a South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited inspection body (IB) to audit the information. The IB submits the energy performance value to the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), which inputs it into the National Building Energy Performance Register.  A unique number for the EPC is generated and sent to the SANAS accredited IB, who then issues the EPC to the client for display.

The National Building Energy Performance Register will assist with future benchmarking of building energy consumption and track progress toward achievement of the targets set out in future EPC regulations.

Before joining the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), CEO Lisa Reynolds played an important role in the development of SANS 1544, the South African National Standard, which governs EPCs. “The old adage “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is the basis for the EPC Regulations. The energy usage of the South African existing building stock is unknown. How do we improve on an unknown? By measuring it – and ultimately improving on it,” says Reynolds. 

The Stellenbosch University Admin B building is the first in South Africa to achieve an EPC. The building received an A-rating for electrical consumption of 48kWh per square metre per year. The University has been collecting data for several years and the data verification was completed by Bluedust Engineering Solutions. This information was handed to Mess Energy Management and Validation Service, which is accredited by SANEDI to issue EPCs.

The challenge is now on to see which building in South Africa will be the next to get its Energy Performance Certificate.

The GBCSA is providing training workshops on EPCs in two parts/sessions. The first one is for building owners, facilities managers and consultants interested in understanding more about the EPC process and the second session must also be attended for those wishing to become SANAS accredited inspection bodies. Click here for more information.

Towards Net Zero

Understanding the energy performance of a building is a vital first step on the journey to a net-zero carbon building, which is the ultimate goal for the GBCSA. From knowing the energy usage intensity of a building; leading to the energy efficiency retrofitting of that building and ultimately the retrofitting into a net-zero carbon building.

The GBCSA strongly advocates for net-zero carbon buildings. These are very highly energy-efficient buildings, with the remainder of the power required for the operation of the building provided by renewable energy sources.

The motivation for net-zero carbon buildings is driven by South Africa’s National (National Development Plan goals) and local climate change commitments, which include the C40 Global Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration. Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town and eThekwini are C40 cities and signatories to the 2018 declaration, alongside 24 other global cities. These cities have committed to developing regulations and/or planning policy to ensure new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings reach net-zero carbon status by 2050.

READ MORE: SOUTH AFRICA’S NEWLY IMPLEMENTED EPC REGULATIONS [PAGE 38 +IMPACT 11]
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Issuing of SA’s first Energy Performance Certificate – an energy efficiency milestone achievement

SANEDI believes that the issuing of the first-ever EPC for a building in South Africa recently is a landmark achievement that will encourage energy efficiency across the board. According to the International Energy Agency buildings account for approximately 30% of global energy consumption and 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. These figures could easily grow in Africa – and particularly in South Africa – due to increasing urbanisation. 

On 18 February 2021, the Admin B building at Stellenbosch University, which houses the vice chancellor and executive team, received the first-ever EPC for a building in South Africa, in recognition of its commitment to energy efficiency. Bluedust Engineering Solutions, Stellenbosch University’s energy management consultants, were instrumental in achieving their EPC. The EPC was issued by Energy Management and Verification Services (EMVS) who is the first inspection body accredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), to assess and issue an EPC rating for eligible South African buildings.

Background to EPCs

In December last year, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) passed into law a set of “Regulations for the Mandatory Display and Submission of Energy Performance Certificates for Buildings”.

EPCs are recorded by the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) which is an agency of the DMRE. SANEDI is specifically tasked with hosting and maintaining a national Building Energy Performance Register, to keep track of progress towards the achievement of the goals and targets set out in the EPC Regulations.

EPCs rate buildings’ energy performance from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient and G the worst, with D being the mid-point, when benchmarking against the average figures quoted in the national South African Building Standard SANS 10400-XA.

For the purposes of the EPC, a building’s energy performance is measured in terms of kilowatt hours per square metre per annum (kWh/m2/pa) of net floor area in accordance with the National EPC Standard, (SANS 1544).

Barry Bredenkamp, SANEDI’s General Manager for Energy Efficiency & Corporate Communications, explains, “Buildings must try and achieve at least a D-rating which is on par with the national benchmark. Their EPC must be displayed at the building entrance, no matter what their rating, in order to be compliant with the regulations.” 

Bredenkamp continues, “The regulations apply to non-residential buildings (specific occupancy classes) with a net floor area of at least 2,000m2 in the private sector, and 1,000m2 for buildings owned, operated or occupied by an organ of state.”

Property owners and government entities have until 7 December 2022 to ensure that their buildings adhere to the regulations. Penalties for non-compliance have not yet been stipulated, and currently stand at the discretion of the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Mr Gwede Mantashe. JP Spangenberg from EMVS says, “South Africans should not see this as a punitive expense, but as the responsible thing to do in our commitment to address climate change and sustainability matters. EPCs are, in essence, a tool that gives clients a snapshot view of their building energy performance, empowering them to make informed decisions relating to energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy integration.”

Bredenkamp says, “Stellenbosch University’s being awarded an A-rated EPC so soon after the regulations were gazetted, really is a phenomenal achievement and they should be applauded for this major step forward.” Nadeem Gafieldien, Stellenbosch University’s Director of Property Services, passionately supports all efforts towards sustainability, “Stellenbosch University is committed to the UN SDG’s and a sustainable future.  While this EPC demonstrates this commitment, we are also in the process of certifying many of our buildings, using the Green Building Council’s neighbourhood tool in our efforts towards a Net Zero Carbon future.”

Bluedust Engineering Solutions’ Dr Frank Duvenhage, says, “This highlights Stellenbosch University’s continued efforts over the past few years to be more energy efficient and to respond with earnest to the repeated calls by government to use energy sparingly and to reach their goal of a net-zero carbon future. Hopefully, this achievement will encourage other building owners to follow suit!”

Bredenkamp concludes, “The national drive towards energy efficiency will unlock the wider value chain, as building owners look to implement more efficient systems. Economic activity will be stimulated, as building owners work towards achieving compliance in areas such as HVAC, lighting, building retrofit, energy monitoring and more energy-efficient appliances and equipment, to optimize and reduce energy usage. This will involve engineering firms and other Energy Service Companies (ESCos), who will typically be contracted to do these energy efficiency upgrades, thereby creating much-needed job opportunities in the energy sector.”

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