Coming soon: Energy Performance Certificates for Buildings


Mid-2016 is the target date for the release of South Africa’s regulation for the energy performance certificates for buildings, which will move the country forward in line with international best practice in energy conservation and monitoring.

The regulation, once promulgated, will require all government owned and leased premises to disclose a building’s energy consumption through an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). There will not be a required minimum rating as the intention is for the facility managers of the buildings to use the rating information and consumption data to manage building performance.

The applicable standard for EPCs, SANS 1544, was published in January 2015 and was fine-tuned by a working group including the Department of Energy (DoE), the Department of Public Works (DPW), Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) and the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

The CIDB’s Dr Rodney Milford, says: “The idea is that the EPCs will have to be displayed on State-owned buildings, with the intention that the regulation be extended to cover the commercial sector by around 2020.”

Internationally, EPCs are used to focus energy efficiency and provide a straightforward way to benchmark a building’s energy performance against industry benchmarks or national standards. It also establishes a register of information on buildings’ energy performance, which government can use to support policy development; and informs retrofitting programmes by building owners and operators.

“For building owners, obtaining an EPC is not intended to be onerous; a floor plan of the building and the total annual energy used must be provided to an assessor who will ascertain the building’s energy consumption. Provisional estimates suggest the cost of obtaining a certificate will be around R10 000 to R20 000, but the certificate will be valid for five years.

The assessment body will submit the information to the national Building Energy Performance Register, which will be established by the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). There is no cost in submitting to SANEDI, but this will be mandated through regulation. A certificate will be issued, which must be displayed for public view, and building improvements and alterations will necessitate the issuing of a new certificate with updated energy information,” Milford says.

The EPC initiative began as far back as 2002 with the European Directive 2002/91/EC for buildings in Europe and around the world. Monitoring such international trends, and in line with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Efficiency Strategy, the Department of Public Works submitted a request to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) in August 2012 for SABS to develop a national standard for energy performance certificates for buildings. The South African initiative picked up pace in September 2013 when the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) sponsored a study trip to Germany to obtain first-hand information on the use of EPCs. The outcomes of this visit had a fundamental influence on SANS 1544 and its roll out.

“Once the regulation has been published, an EPC must be displayed on all government administrative buildings that have been completed in or after 2000 and have a floor area greater than 1000m2” explains Milford. A system of accreditation is under development, which will confirm the credentials of the EPC service appraisers.

“This process will involve the private sector as service providers and accreditation will only be given to those organisations that are accredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS). A potential bottleneck is that there are insufficient trained energy assessors at present and moves are afoot by the DPW to kick-start the process by supporting the training of 20 assessors.”

Lisa Reynolds, sustainable development director at Saint-Gobain, was involved in the drafting of energy efficiency standards for buildings and was the facilitator of the working group that drafted SANS 1544. “Understanding your building’s energy performance is the first step in the energy efficiency journey. The later drive to retrofit the building into a more energy efficient one is the ultimate goal. As with all things, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Other benefits to the implementation of this standard include job creation of assessors and downstream retrofit opportunities, and greater information as information from the building EPC register will inform SANS 10400-XA.

No need to reinvent the wheel

Participating in the German study tour was GBCSA chief technical officer Manfred Braune. “Fortunately it wasn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel as the working group could modify the EU standards for the South African context.” He says the standard chosen for the South African context was the measured operational building performance EPC standard, i.e. buildings in operation using metered data, not modelled or calculated energy.

The development of the GBCSA’s own Energy Water Performance (EWP) tool required the collection of energy and water consumption data from 350 buildings, which was then statistically analysed and translated into a simple benchmarking tool for office buildings. Its approach is similar to other international best practice benchmarking tools for operational energy. The GBCSA publically shared the data, report and formulas used in this tool to inform some of the thinking in the development of the EPC standard. Braune says this data could help the DoE to grow its database of energy consumption figures.

“The EWP tool already being actively used in the market will certainly prepare the commercial property sector for the notion of Energy Performance Certificates. Where government sets the floor for everyone (through regulation), the GBCSA sets the ceiling through more ambitious voluntary targets, causing the industry to be pushed further in terms of energy efficiency and green buildings,” says Braune.

Reynolds believes if a building has an EWP rating, it will have all the information needed to comply with SANS 1544 and generally will be at a good level of energy performance. “Before we buy a car, we ask what the fuel consumption is. Why wouldn’t we want to know the energy consumption of buildings before we occupy them?”

The system of EPC’s complements initiatives such as the GBCSA’s EWP but in the case of the EPC it will be a mandatory requirement for government, as well as the private sector in the medium- to longer-term, says Milford.

“In many overseas countries the system EPC applies to residential buildings, so owners must have a valid EPC when selling or making substantial building alterations. That may in time come to South Africa too but in the meantime the spin-offs of better design, improved construction methods and materials that the legislation will bring to the commercial sector will filter down to the residential market and that is a good thing. This initiative will have far-reaching effects on everyone concerned with our environment – planners, architects, consultants, contractors and suppliers, and will contribute to a better standard of life for all our citizens,” Milford concludes.


By Robin Hayes

See earthworks Issue 31, April-May 2016 for the full feature.