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South Africa

  • 52,982,000
  • 1,221,037 km2
Flag of South Africa

Buildings - Key Information on South Africa

South Africa is one of the most urbanised countries in Africa and is experiencing an urbanisation rate of around 1.59 % (2010-2015 est.). With a yearly population growth of around 1.6 % (2015) the popu-lation in South Africa increased in total around 36% between 1990 and 2010. It is estimated that this will reach 71% by 2030. As of 2015, at least 64.8% (2015) of the 55 million (2015) population reside in the 27 largest municipalities. These municipalities are characterised by a low-density settlement pat-tern. The largest urban areas include Johannesburg with 9.399 million inhabitants, Cape Town with 3.66 million, Durban 2.901 million, Pretoria 2.059 million and Port Elizabeth 1.179 million among others. 

As of 2010, the built up area of South Africa was estimated to be around 1,164 million m2 (2010), with around 75% being residential. From 2000 to 2012 the number of residential buildings in South Africa had increased by 42% from 10.3 million to 14.6 million. As of 2015, the residential sector was esti-mated to consist of ca. 16 million homes.. This is expected to grow to between 19-20 million by 2030. Of these 1 in 4 households, or around 3.3 million households, live in informal dwellings (2009). There is a general short of affordable housing in South Africa. In addressing this the South Africa govern-ment, between 1994 and 2009, provided subsidies for 2.8 million low income households. It contin-ues to address this and has aimed to construct 1.5 million houses, for lower- and middle-income groups by 2019, as part of the Human Settlements Vision 2030. The average size of a South Africa household declined from 3.9 in 2001 to 3.6 in 2007.

Over a twenty year period from 1994 onwards the construction industry was responsible for a 2.3% contribution to the GDP. Up until 2009 the building construction industry had a yearly growth of roundabout 10%, however, the South Africa building industry has been in a slump since 2009. This has only slowly recovered with a growth of around 3.6% in 2014.

Private Sector: Number of m2 erected.

Buildings Completed 2012 2013 2014 2015
Affordable housing < 80m² 902955 808514 764268 791987
Dwelling houses > 80m² 2805442 2859082 2776600 3158391
Flats & townhouses 1104767 1218234 1166426 1174581
Other residential 45645 88659 88528 73155
Additions & alterations: residential 1466959 1722368 1120747 1160198
Non-residential: Offices 462586 795560 609266 604604
Non-residential: Shopping 499159 565853 572864 545840
Non-residential: Industrial 1128375 955483 1124811 994020
Non-residential: Other 200640 229563 213235 183576
Additions & alterations: Other bldgs. 549710 665363 496990 431189
Total 9166238 9908679 8933735 9117541
(Source: Statistics South Africa)

Energy Consumption in the building Sector

In 2012 (the most recent year for which aggregate data is available) the total final energy consumption for South Africa lay at 2108 PJ.

Sector Final Energy Consumption
Industry 35%
Transport 29%
Agriculture 2%
Commerce and Public Services 7%
Residential 25%
Non-specified (other) 2%

Of this the final energy consumption of the buildings sector lay at around 798 PJ ( 2010). This was an increase of 50% over 1990

Residential buildings 617 PJ
Non-residential buildings 181 PJ
Total 798 PJ

Due to the mild climate, the need for heating and cooling in South Africa is relatively low with cooling demand and heating demand for example being responsible for less than 5% and 7% respectively of the total energy consumption in the building sector. However, the residential sector consumes about 17.5% of the total electricity generated, with their demand at peak periods amounting to over 30%. This has also been steadily increasing with a 45% increase in the years from 1990 to 2010. 

In 2010 renewables accounted for 60% of the energy consumption in the residential building sector. This is in part due to the fact that 18% of the buildings are without electricity and rely on biomass for energy. Biomass fuels are used for the cooking and hot water by 60% of households in the lowest income households, which make up 7% of the total number of households. It is estimated that energy efficiency here could reduce energy consumption by 40-60% or around 10 PJ. It was estimated that the energy savings in the building sector through the solar hot water program saved around 600 GWh of electricity, or about 630 kt CO2 between the years of 2010-2014. Lighting and services are re-sponsible for 60% of the energy consumed in the service sector and 20% in the residential sector. Passive thermal design could bring at least a 5% improvement in the energy consumption. 

Building Energy Efficiency Goals

In the past the focus in South Africa has been more on green buildings, on a voluntary basis, however the South African Government has a strong interest in energy efficiency in the building sector and has been implementing measures to improve this.

The South African government has set a priority in improving the building codes in terms of energy efficiency and according to the Energy Department of the Republic of South Africa this should be emphasized in the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP). In 2008, the South African government set a goal of a reduction of green house gases by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025. In 2015 the South African National Energy Efficiency Strategy set a target of sectorial intensity reduction in the commercial and public sector of 15% and in the residential of 15%. This was implemented under the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan which was developed in 2012. The target for the residential sector is an energy consumption reduction by 20% by 2030. This is achieved through a reduction in energy consumption by 38% for new buildings built after 2015 and a 15% improvement for buildings built before 2015. The government also aims to reduce energy consumption in public buildings by 50% by 2030. A concerted programme of eco-refurbishment, of buildings built before 2015, resulted in an energy consumption reduction of 35%. For commercial buildings the proposed target lies at a 37% reduction of the specific energy consumption. This is achieved through a reduction in energy consumption by 54% for new buildings built after 2015 and 20% for refurbishment of buildings built before 2015. 

South Africa has thus achieved significant progress in improving building energy efficiency, much of which can be attributed to carefully planned development strategies, and strong and consistent sup-port from the government.


PWC, (2016). SA Construction 4th edition. Available at: https://www.pwc.co.za/en/publications/sa-construction.html
CIA, (2016). CIA Factbook. Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html
IEA, (2016). BEEP: Building Energy Efficiency Policies. Available at: https://www.iea.org/beep/
NHBC Foundation (2016). Zero Carbon Compendium. Available at: http://www.lowcarbonhomesworldwide.com/case-studies/countries/south-africa.html
STATS SA, Statistics South Africa, (2016). Available at: http://www.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=1854&PPN=Report-50-02-01&SCH=6691
REEEP Policy Database (contributed by SERN for REEEP), (2016). REEGLE Avaiable at: http://www.reegle.info/policy-and-regulatory-overviews/ZA
Energy Department, Republic of South Africa, (2016). Government Gazette, 23 December 2016
IEA, (2013). Transition to Sustainable Buildings, Strategies and Opportunities to 2050, Paris, France

Strategic approach

The Strategic Approach is a worldwide valid recommendation for energy consumption levels. A Strategic Approach to integrated building design is the key to achieving high-energy savings at low or no extra cost in residential buildings. bigEE recommends using this Strategic Approach for energy efficiency in buildings.

Strategic Approach for the climate zones of South Africa
Strategic Approach for the climate zones of South Africa

The following table lists the energy consumption ranges as set by bigEE to achieve LEB, ULEB and nZEB/PLEB.

(Note: For climate zone definitions for South Africa please read the Climate text under Overview. The values for strategic approach have been calculated based on the assumptions of a heating setpoint of 20 °C and cooling setpoint of 26 °C and that the mechanical heating and cooling systems will operate continuously to meet the set points in the space. However, in practice this might not be the case always because user behav-iour, adaptive comfort conditions and other socio-economic conditions influence the system operation. The values have been calculated for harsh climates and it is intended that buildings in milder climates should strive to achieve lower energy consumption than the prescribed values.)

Cold Temperate (e.g Johannesburg) Hot and Humid (e.g. Cape Town) Hot and Arid (e.g. Kimberley)
kWh/m2TFAyr kWh/m2TFAyr kWh/m2TFAyr kWh/m2TFAyr
LEB 40 – 80 40 – 80 100 – 150 50 – 100
ULEB 20 – 40 20 – 40 50 – 100 25 – 50
nZEB 0 – 20 0 - 20 0 – 50 0 – 25
PEB ++ ++ ++ ++

For detailed information on the Strategic Approach please see the Strategic Approach text of the Interactive Buildings Guide more ...

The following table lists select cities of South Africa and their corresponding climatic zones according to the Strategic Approach of bigEE

City HDD18°C CDD10°C Humidity (warmest month) % bigEE Climate
Aliwal North 1392,4 2160,9 58 Temperate
Beaufort West 993,2 2753 62 Hot and Humid
Bethlehem 1620,6 1733,9 68 Temperate
Bloemfontein 1437,8 2251,6 54 Temperate
Botshabelo 775,7 2738,9 63 Hot and Humid
Cape St Francis 568,7 2613,4 83 Hot and Humid
Cape Town 959,1 2257,4 73 Hot and Humid
Deaar 1181,8 2634,4 49 Temperate
Durban 150,8 3837,2 81 Hot and Humid
East London 461,4 2966,6 66 Hot and Humid
Estcourt 903,8 2524,3 81 Hot and Humid
Ibhayi 1120,7 2472,8 74 Temperate
Johannesburg 1154,9 2084 74 Temperate
Kimberley 934,8 3039,3 47 Hot and Dry
Mbombela/Nelspruit 539 3328 71 Hot and Humid
Middelburg 1443 2122,3 63 Temperate
Mossel Bay 510,8 2756,3 59 Hot and Humid
Ntuzuma 667,4 2933,8 90 Hot and Humid
Pietermaritzburg 660,5 3064,3 84 Hot and Humid
Polokwane/Pietersberg 733 2795,9 69 Hot and Humid
Port Elizabeth 601,7 2702,2 79 Hot and Humid
Pretoria, 712 2890 64 Hot and Humid
Richards Bay 162 4494 75 Hot and Humid
Springbok 962,4 2869,7 35 Hot and Dry
Upington 674,2 3805 33 Hot and Dry


This systematic tool will allow you to browse a list of strategies and recommendations, for building energy efficient buildings, in the four major world climates and types of building that might be of interest to you. Please choose a Climate Zone, State, Mode and Building Type to see our Recommendations on achieving LEB. ULEB and nZEB/PEB buildings.

Explore worldwide recommendations in the bigEE Buildings Guide

Good Practice Examples

Due to the "lucky" climate of South Africa as well as the historical focus on green buildings the identification of Good Practice Buildings to date has proved difficult. There are thus no good practice examples available at the moment. Instead bigEE has presented Good Practice Technologies that should be used to achieve energy efficient buildings in South Africa. For world-wide Good Practice Buildings please follow the link below. 

There are no good practice examples available at the moment.

Good Practice Technology


This section reports on the energy efficiency strategies in buildings focusing on the Best Available Technologies (BAT) in South Africa and world-wide. 


In order to comprehensively cover energy efficiency technologies in buildings, the following specific studies have been carried out:

  1. Lighting
  2. HVAC
  3. Water heating (solar, heat pump, etc.)
  4. Building insulation
  5. Plug devices (building functionality oriented devices) upgrade
  6. Building retrofit & maintenance
  7. Applications on alternative energy resource in buildings
  8. Measurement & verification building energy performance

All above-mentioned EE approaches contribute to more energy efficient performance in different buildings. The reports on energy efficiency strategies in buildings focus on the Best Available Technologies (BAT) both in South Africa and the world. This information will be essential in bridging the information gap on energy efficiency in buildings in South Africa. The specific reports on the BATs have been provided by SANEDI in cooperation with the Centre of the New Energy System University of Pretoria using the technology, equipment, operation and performance ("POET") framework. The systems are classified, where possible, in groups of world’s best practices, international and national standards. References and standards are cited for further information.


In this report, the BATs of the building lighting systems are introduced under a technology, equipment, operation, and performance (POET) framework. In order to identify the lighting BAT, the world’s best available practices, international and national standards are reviewed and compared. The relative information of involved lighting systems is composed by incorporating best available practice, national, and international EE standards and specifications that ensure both safe and efficient operation of the lighting systems. References and standards are cited for further information. The feasibility of using energy efficiency technologies such as lighting retrofitting or optimal component design such as luminaries design shall be to be evaluated based on the investment cost incurred to achieve energy saving and resulting cost saving. An easy and quick decision making indicator is the payback period. A maximum payback period should be fixed for each energy efficiency technology or optimal component design. The energy efficiency technology or optimal component design will therefore be used if the payback period does not exceed the maximum allowable payback period.


Please refer to the PDF document for more information on lighting technologies in South Africa

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HVAC systems

This EE document of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system are provided in terms of the technology, equipment, operation, and performance (POET) framework. The EE document is classified when possible in groups of South Africa applications and International applications. The feasibility of using energy efficiency technologies such as demand controlled ventilation shall be to be evaluated based on the investment cost incurred to achieve energy saving and resulting cost saving. An easy and quick decision making indicator is the payback period. A maximum payback period should be fixed for each energy efficiency technology or optimal component design. The energy efficiency technology or optimal component design will therefore be used if its payback period does not exceed the maximum payback period. 

The high level novel technology of HVAC system is given in this section. Most of mentioned technologies are not stand alone technologies. They need the corporation of other component in the building such as sensor system. South Africa application shall be used subject to financial feasibility and technical suitability of HVAC system in South Africa. Furthermore, the technologies which already applied in South Africa does not widely used in South Africa. Therefore, South Africa application and International application shall be used and treated as saving potential of HVAC system in South Africa.


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Water heating

Using the POET framework, the water heating system technology represents various methods used to convert energy and produce hot water in buildings characterized by their novelty and optimality. The technologies available for heating water include; electric storage water heaters, gas storage water heaters, electric and gas instantaneous water heaters, solar water heaters and heat pump water heaters. These technologies can be used as stand-alone systems or hybrid systems between two or more of the technologies to enhance efficiency.


Please refer to the PDF document for more information on water heating technologies in South Africa

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Building insulation

Insulation is one of the most important factors for improving the energy efficiency of buildings and save energy in South Africa. Buildings which are insulated stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter and temperatures throughout the building are more uniform. The energy consumption of an insulated building is about 51% less than one that isn’t. Building insulation technology mainly includes blanket and batt insulation, loose fill insulation, rigid board insulation and spray foam insulation.

Building Insulation Characteristics
The characteristics of building insulation are mainly reflected in the following aspects: stable chemical capability, environmentally safety, fire retardation, moisture and insects resistance, durability, sound absorption, natural, sustainable and recycle and so on.

Building Insulation operation
As the lifespan of building insulation is long, there is almost no operation for it.

Building Insulation performance
The effectiveness of building insulation is measured by their specific thermal resistance values (R-values). The R-value is the resistance of building insulation to conductive heat flow and it depends on the type of insulation, its thickness and density. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness, which means a good insulation material will have a high R-value.


Please refer to the PDF document for more information on building insulation in South Africa

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Plug devices

The POET framework of the display group reveals energy efficiency potentials in office buildings. The new display models with LCD panels, LED backlighting technologies can reduce the power consumption than the old models.

Laptops consume less electricity than the desktop computers. In office buildings, they can replace the desktop computers. The new models with energy star labels are more energy efficient and widely deployed in the modern office buildings. Different energy rating system in South Africa, United States and European Union are introduced and briefly compared.


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Building retrofit & maintenance

The retrofitting planning is a complicated decision making process, involving the auditing of existing building, the organization of different categories of energy efficiency technologies and equipment, the multi-objective optimization with a couple of different performance indices, and the post-implementation evaluation. There are many valuable retrofitting practices in South Africa, involving professional Energy Service Companies and Measurement & Verification companies.

The maintenance is considered as another important category towards building energy efficiency and sustainability. In the energy efficiency context, maintenance not only improves the reliability of the equipment, bust also restores the energy efficiency against the deteriorations that are inevitable during operation.

There are various green building rating systems in the world. In South Africa, a local green building standard, namely “Green Star SA Rating System” is developed and widely used. The green building rating system provides valuable criteria towards energy efficient and environmental friendly buildings. These criteria facilitates the implementation of building retrofitting.


Please refer to the PDF document for more information on building retrofit and maintenance in South Africa

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Alternative energy resources

Photovoltaic systems
Photovoltaic systems refer to solar PV panel systems designed to supply electricity to users by means of converting energy carried in solar radiation into electricity. It includes three main components, namely solar panels to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity, batteries to store power generated by the panels, and power electronics to control and regulate power flow within the system and to the load. This system can be used either in islanded mode to supply local customers or in grid connected mode to feed electricity to the grid and supply remote loads. PV systems range from small, rooftop-mounted or building-integrated systems with capacities from a few to several tens of kilowatts, to large utility-scale power stations of hundreds of megawatts.

Solar thermal systems
Solar thermal systems are the ones that convert solar energy into thermal energy. This energy is used to heat water or other fluids, and can be used to supply heating/cooling demand of its customers. Solar thermal systems differ from photovoltaic (PV) systems, which generate electricity rather than heat.

Heat pumps
A heat pump is a device that provides heat energy from a source of heat to a destination called a "heat sink". Heat pumps are designed to move thermal energy opposite to the direction of spontaneous heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. Heat pumps can be used to heat, cool, and, if so equipped, supply homes and buildings with hot water, using the constant temperature of the earth or air as exchange medium for heat.

Wind turbines
Wind turbine systems use a rotating turbine to collect kinetic energy carried by winds to generate electricity. The working principles are similar to that of traditional steam turbine systems except the fact that renewable energy sources, the wind, is use as the source for electricity generation. Wind turbine systems are used in a similar manner as PV systems. It can be used to supply local load in islanded applications and can be connected to the grid to supply remote loads. The size of wind turbine systems ranges from small residential applications to large scale wind farms operated by utilities.

Biomass systems
Biomass systems use biological masses to produce heat or electricity. Agricultural, forest, urban and industrial residues and waste can all be used by biomass system to produce heat and/or electricity with less effect on the environment compared to traditional power generating systems. Biomass system can be used at a small scale to produce heat and/or electricity for a single user, a group of users or at large scale to supply energy to end users. Biomass boilers that burn organic matter to produce heat and/or electricity are used today to produce electricity by biomass power stations.


Please refer to the PDF document for more information on alternative resources in South Africa

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Measurement & verification

In this section, the concept of M&V is introduced followed by a brief review of the national and international M&V standards and protocols, which are widely applied to guide the international M&V practice.

M&V Technology
In this section, the M&V technologies are introduced in terms of the M&V measurement, sampling and modelling techniques, respectively. Four measurement options namely retrofit isolation, whole facility, and calibrated simulations are introduced, which can be flexibly applied in various energy conservation projects with different characteristics. A number of the most popular sampling approaches in the M&V practice such as the simple random sampling, stratified random sampling, systematic sampling, cluster sampling, and multi-stage sampling are reviewed, followed by a brief discussion on the sample size determination. In addition, baseline modelling techniques that include stochastic models, regressions models, and calibrated simulation models are also introduced.

M&V Equipment
The major M&V equipment refers to the measurement instruments that are applied for the M&V practice. Two major concerns of the M&V equipment are the measurement instrument specifications and calibration.

M&V Operation: Best practice in South Africa
The M&V activities are operated under different types of business models in South Africa. The major business models are the Eskom M&V business models, the 12L Tax Incentive business models, and some other business models arise from various organizations. In addition, individual M&V projects are conducted in terms of different building energy efficiency technologies, such as energy efficient lighting, water heating and air-conditioning.

M&V Performance
The major M&V performance indicators are its accuracy, completeness, conservativeness, consistency, relevance, and transparency.


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