Energy saving from building green
The Green Building Council is adamant that significant energy savings can be made by incorporating low-tech renewable energy methods in the national building code, starting with Windhoek which has its own building regulations.
The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI) has shown that Namibia closely mirrors global trends of energy use in buildings, with estimations of 45% of electricity usage from commercial/industrial consumers and 28% from domestic consumers.
Speaking to the Economist from the Green Building Convention held this week at the Habitat Research and Development Centre in Windhoek, Chief Mechanical Engineer at the Ministry of Works and Transport, Frederick Muketi, said that the City of Windhoek as a participant in the convention will hear inputs on how the City’s new mass housing projects could be used as a template for an updated national building code.
The City of Windhoek does not however currently evaluate building plans in relation to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy considerations. Such as the use of building materials, positioning of buildings, glazing and other requirements.
Although the City of Windhoek has its own regulations as well as independent expertise, it will be compelled to follow the national codes. The City of Windhoek is currently strict with regard to compliance of its building regulations and standards.
A yearly survey on energy efficiency in buildings, by the Namibian Energy Efficiency Programme in Buildings (NEEP), pointed out that many are aware of the need for energy efficiency initiatives, but a lack of specific knowledge about how to best implement measures and technologies in their buildings still exist. Also, it was found that there is a lack of information on home owners about how best to make informed decisions on new buildings methods and materials. This makes the decision to go green much unclear and unidentifiable.
Other local authorities have also developed their own building regulations and standards, especially the City of Windhoek. Which as an autonomous entity employees building inspectors who receive and assess building plans for compliance with their set standards.
Muketi views the current standards rigid even if infused with green building technologies.“The state building code suggests that construction products are usable to enable servicing and maintenance, that is if used according to the relevant building regulations and only function during normal conditions.” He also mentioned that, this requires complete participation from all stakeholders to find innovative solutions and possible businesses opportunities in making certified materials and help from the Namibia Standards Institute.
As it stands the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act promotes uniformity relating to the erection of buildings and prescribes building standards which follow the South African code of practice for buildings. Currently every person intending to erect any building within the municipal area applies in writing for the approval of the City Council.
This ensures that buildings are properly designed and positioned for the purposes of ensuring health, safety, welfare and convenience of the end users. Although the building regulations and standards are fairly comprehensive, renewable and energy, efficient considerations are not a prominent feature or a requirement for compliance. In order to overcome these energy challenges, the government is investigating options to increase energy security and to encourage the efficient use of energy. Options range from increasing the share of renewable energy in the mix of generation, to developing demand site management and incentives encouraging energy efficiency. In order to amplify its mandate over the greening concept of buildings, the Namibia Energy Efficiency Programme (NEEP) in the first quarter of 2012 set into motion efforts to establish the Green Building Council of Namibia (GBCNA) as a step towards promoting and facilitating green building practices in the country.