Energy efficiency part of futureproofing assets

12th June 2020 By: Tracy Hancock - Creamer Media Contributing Editor

Energy efficiency part of futureproofing assets

GRAHAME CRUICKSHANKS The rate of energy efficiency-related retrofits is high in commercial office, retail and industrial spaces

Local building owners are looking to futureproof their assets for the secondary market, and reduce operating costs across all sectors, including the commercial, office, retail, industrial and residential sectors.

This is according to independent nonprofit organisation Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) former market engagement managing executive Grahame Cruickshanks, who adds that some building owners, such as those in the private and public healthcare and educational sectors, have a specific interest in energy security and length of tenure, as they typically hold their assets for longer timelines than many property investors.

Subsequently, they are willing to make long-term investment decisions regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, he says.

“Initiatives related to energy efficiency and energy security are being implemented across all income sectors, but the residential sector is less well documented.”

In the public sector, GBCSA is engaging national, provincial and local government to implement energy efficiency capacity programmes for buildings, procurement planning and several flagship projects linked to new builds and existing projects.

Effective energy efficiency and energy management has become a priority across the built environment, highlights Cruickshanks.

This is driven by a reduction in operating costs associated with energy consumption and attractive return on investment (RoI), as well as environmental, social and governance- (ESG-) related investment. ESG compliance and reporting criteria, as well as carbon emissions reporting are becoming significant influencers in investor decision-making, he explains, adding that there are examples of investor decisions hinging on ESG criteria

However, the built environment is also motivated by energy efficiency legislation for new buildings SANS 10400 XA, which Cruickshanks says has promoted energy efficiency measures in buildings through compliance.

In addition, the rapid increase in cash-strapped State-owned power utility Eskom’s electricity tariffs have also prompted building owners to invest in the management of the associated risks.

“The most effective way of combating energy costs is by reducing the energy demand in buildings. This can be achieved through integrated design for new buildings to ensure that they are optimised to meet users’ needs and achieve high levels of energy efficiency simultaneously,” notes Cruickshanks.

Retrofits of existing buildings can introduce big gains in efficiency and can offer “excellent RoI” when strategically planned to include considerations such as end-of-life replacements, improvements to the building envelope – the physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building – and renewable-energy installations to supply baseload power needs, he says.

GBCSA’s EDGE online platform provides guidance on how to improve the energy and water efficiency of residential developments, while its Green Star technical manual provides guidance for commercial developments on a wide range of green building initiatives including effective systems for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) and lighting.

“When designed, installed and operated in an integrated manner, and where continuous optimisation through data monitoring is implemented, these systems can dramatically reduce operating costs of commercial developments beyond typical norms by 40% to 80%, with RoI timelines shorter than two years in some cases.”

Cruickshanks highlights that where systems are incorrectly designed, installed and operated, building owners are usually disappointed with the results. Therefore, GBCSA believes that securing good advisory services prior to initiating an energy efficiency project is key to success.

“Many of the accredited professionals trained by GBCSA are well positioned to provide these services.”


The rate of energy efficiency-related retrofits is high in commercial office, retail and industrial spaces to secure and retain tenants in a market that is typified by oversupply, says Cruickshanks.

He highlights that lighting retrofits, and HVAC upgrades are the most popular in securing optimal RoI in terms of operating costs and asset value.

In the public sector, large-scale roll-out plans under way are linked to decreasing total cost of ownership over long periods of tenure and carbon-emission reduction targets through lighting retrofits and HVAC upgrades.

Meanwhile, residential retrofits targeting energy efficiency improvements are motivated by household income pressures and consumer affordability issues, with water heating systems – solar thermal, heat pump or gas – and lighting retrofits employed.

Cruickshanks says smart meters provide owners with the information needed to extract maximum value from their buildings and can be linked to building management systems in some commercial buildings.

However, he also notes that building envelope upgrades should not be overlooked, as they offer a low-maintenance, fixed investment alternative to building services upgrades.

In addition to attractive RoI, improved life-cycle costing and emissions reductions, these energy efficiency measures increase the feasibility of renewable-energy installations, such as rooftop solar photovoltaic installations, says Cruickshanks.

By reducing a building’s energy demand, owners can invest in renewable-energy installations at financially viable rates, he highlights.