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Nov 11, 2011

Amended building legislation drives energy efficiency

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The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, of 1977, has been amended to introduce legislation that calls for more energy efficient construction technologies and building methods, and requires building projects to meet certain sustainability criteria.

The amendment, dubbed SANS 10400-XA, took effect on November 9 this year, and stipulates that at least 50% of the yearly average hot water heating requirement of a building must be provided by means other than electricity. Alternative energy sources are referenced as solar heating, heat pumps, heat recovery from other systems and renewable combustible fuel.

In addition, the Act will require greater insulation of building envelopes to improve energy efficiency and ultimately reduce overall electricity consumption.

Construction technology company Imison CEO Stephen de Blanche welcomes the new legislation, and says that, after some negotiation, most construction stakeholders accept the new building requirements.

“Owing to the fact that the legislation has been under discussion for more than five years, most construction companies have accepted the inevitability of the changes. I believe that the biggest reason for the delay in implementing the amendment is the resistance and consequent negotiations that had to take place,” says De Blanche.

He states that the resistance was not against the insulation legislation itself, but rather the cost implications of increased construction spend, and the consequent downward pressure on demand.

Further, De Blanche says there appears to be a change in the attitude of stakeholders in the industry, with a rapid increase in the awareness of the need to move towards energy efficient construction.

“Many architectural companies now provide specialised services in this regard and some firms will work only on energy efficient projects. We are seeing an increase in the number of clients who request energy efficient solutions, and developers that are demanding energy efficient solutions as mandatory,” he explains.

While other construction companies are expecting rising costs as a result of the new regulations, De Blanche says Imison has always significantly exceeded the requirements of the legislation, and will not have to alter its business model in any way.

The company provides South African-developed technology for energy efficiency in building construction by providing an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar construction techniques.

The technology consists of a walling system with embedded energy technology that promotes energy conservation, offering a thermal transfer resistance much higher than that of a double clay brick wall that surpasses the new national standard. De Blanche says this means that Imison’s walls are up to six times more resistant to energy loss than traditional walls.

In addition, he states that an entire structure built using this technology can be as much as 67% more energy efficient than the standard alternative.

“The Neopor panel within our walls creates a cooler box effect, where the energy required to regulate the temperature inside the structure is far less than in a conventional building. The hot and cold water piping is fitted inside the Neopor panel, so that once hot water has filled the pipes, the water remains hot for longer periods of time, thus reducing water wastage,” he says.

Further, De Blanche states the company is also better prepared for the legislation amendment, as it will not have to alter its costing based on the new standards. He says Imison’s price advantage has been marginal compared with conventional construction, and the technology was, thus, sold based on its quality, lead times and the fact that the Imison structure appears identical to conventional buildings.

In addition, he says that, with the introduction of the new legislation, conventional building costs will rise to achieve compliance, while Imison’s costs will remain unchanged, which will enable the company to add a price benefit to its value proposition.

Last year, Imison was the overall winner at the Absa Bank International Innovative Housing and Sustainable Energy Efficiency competition, held in Wellington, in the Western Cape, in which 11 countries participated.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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