A case study into a recent retrofit of 30 low-cost houses in Cato Manor, in KwaZulu-Natal, shows that material energy and water savings can be made through the use of green-building techniques, such as solar geysers, ceiling insulation and rainwater harvesting.
The study followed on from a R1.2-million project undertaken by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) and funded by the British High Commission in the run-up to the recent seventeenth Conference of the Parties climate negotiations, held in Durban.
The installation of solar water heaters proved to be the most popular of the interventions made, as it provided convenient warm water to residents that previously used stoves, kettles and burners to heat their water.
Other solutions deployed included efficient compact fluorescent lighting, ceiling insulation and a rainwater harvesting system that had to be specially designed for houses that had been built without gutters.
High Commissioner Dame Nicola Brewer says the project has offered a practical demonstration of the range of socioeconomic spinoffs that can flow from such green retrofits, including improving health from the reduced burning of paraffin, coal and wood.
Speaking at the launch of the case study, Brewer, therefore, welcomed the fact that the Australian High Commission had agreed to fund the second phase of the pilot project, which will be rolled out to 26 adjacent homes in what is becoming a ‘green hub’ within the Durban township.
GBCSA advocacy and special projects executive Sarah Rushmere says the council plans to used the ‘Cato Manor Green Street’ development as a permanent demonstration of the advantages associated with green-building solutions.
Rushmere hopes the project will also begin to influence human settlement policy at a national, provincial and municipal level, as well as spur further green-street-type retrofits.
Extrapolating from the results achieved in Cato Manor, the case study calculates that, if similar retrofits were implemented across the country’s existing stock of three-million low-cost houses, power and water savings of R3-billion a year could be achieved for homeowners.
In addition, some 3.65-million person days of work could be created, 3.45-million tons of carbon dioxide could be avoided and 3 400 GWh a year of power savings could be achieved (the equivalent of one-third of Durban’s yearly consumption).
GBCSA executive chairperson Bruce Kerswill says the project has also been aligned to efforts that the South Africa council is leading on behalf of the 90-member-country World Green Building Council to design a new socioeconomic rating tool for the property sector.
The tool will seek to move beyond the existing rating schemes, which focus mainly on environmental elements, and recognise buildings for creating employment, transferring skills and improving health through the process of construction.
Hitherto, the GBCSA has focused on the commercial property milieu, where rating tools have been introduced for setting benchmarks for new green buildings, as well as retrofits.
“But the missing link was how to address the huge challenges of South Africa and Africa, and all developing countries, in dealing with poverty and unemployment, a lack of skills and education, health challenges and housing,” Kerswill explains, noting that existing tools are inadequate in these areas.
The Cato Manor project is part of evolving and pioneering efforts to begin introducing “developmental issues” into green-building rating systems.