School Fitout to Build

Can we have green schools?

The greening of schools offers a unique opportunity to address these issues
and is an extraordinarily cost-effective way to enhance student learning,
reduce health and operational costs and, ultimately, increase quality argues
the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

Pictures by: Gareth Griffiths Imaging

In the commercial property sector, green buildings have lower operating costs, are more efficient, futureproofed, provide a higher rate of return on investment and have been shown to promote wellness, healing
and productivity.

To Build magazine recently spoke to insulation retrofitting business, Eco-Cape, about some school projects they’ve been involved with.

According to insulation installer, Richard Ellis, the situation at the Durbanville Preparatory School was Brain Wilkinson typical of many public infrastructure buildings in South Africa. Originally built during times of cheap power  supply, scant attention was given to thermal/energy efficient building under tight construction budgets. ‘Solving the school’s problem of excessive and expensive electricity consumption of air conditioners lay in reducing reliance on active temperature control interventions during seasonal temperature extremes. It also meant preparing for possible load shedding, very much part of the South Africa’s future given the cutbacks on Eskom’s planned infrastructure upgrade spend this year as the grid nears capacity,’ Ellis explains.

Positive outcomes came from this forward planning. ‘Award-winning ceiling insulation, Eco-Insulation, was recently installed under the roof, covering an important area of the school’s ceiling,’ he adds. ‘Schools are increasingly seeing the benefits of going green through energy and water saving initiatives in the face of spiralling utility costs,’ notes Brian Wilkinson, CEO of the Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA). ‘However, there’s a lot more that can be done and schools must be educated about the benefits.’

The start of the New Year is a time that many schools face the stark reality of a lack of funding and infrastructure problems, often with a bigger number of learners to cater for.


‘This is an opportune time for school leaders and governing bodies to look more seriously at the benefits of green initiatives. While the main benefit may be cost savings, there are other positive outcomes, including promoting ‘going green’ to learners in their formative years. Like businesses in our primary market – the commercial property sector – financial management has become a key responsibility for school principals, staff, and governing bodies who, at times, have very few options at their disposal,’ Wilkinson adds.

Research and reports on the state of schools in the country reveal a lack of funding, poor infrastructure, inadequate equipment and often the dire state of school property, buildings and playgrounds.

Via a recent domestic residential energy saving project, the GBCSA demonstrated how an astronomical R18 000 saving in utility costs (the bulk of which was electricity) was achieved at an average family home in Pinelands, Cape Town, that undertook a green makeover.

‘Imagine that R18 000 in the life of a poorly resourced South African school,’ suggests Wilkinson.

Above: The Durbanville

Preparatory School: an energy efficiency retrofit

Left: A classroom at St Cyprians school for girls. Eco-Insulation was retrofitted there following a refurb of the school by Noero Wolff Architects and specified by Riverside Consulting, quantity surveryors.

‘Via our green network, we have found that there are green solutions that schools can implement to help them tackle their pressing budgetary needs. The benefits go beyond savings on utility costs at schools. Positive lessons the learners get to absorb through their exposure to green alternatives at school creates an all-round win-win situation. Green initiatives should be implemented at even more schools countrywide. In particular, public schools need to be empowered to be able to implement such initiatives, as many grapple with the dilemma of reducing their operating costs. ‘As part of our mandate to not only promote green building development and innovation, but also sustainable development, our team engages with the commercial property sector as well as public services. Many schools are already seeing the benefits of their green initiatives,’ Wilkinson points out.

In Wilkinson’s opinion, the GBCSA’s key motivator and initiative is the fight against global warming, climate change and the effects that each of these have on the planet. However, it does not begin and end with the commercial property sector. Schools and centres of learning should be encouraged and assisted to provide prime opportunities for their inhabitants to not only do well academically but also to benefit environmental sustainability.

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Insulation installers to be certfied

The industry association for insulation manufacturers and has announced a new trade registration
opportunity for installers, which should give clients considerable peace of mind.

The Thermal Insulation Products and Systems Association of South Africa  (TIPSASA) has announced the official registration of the trade qualification ‘Insulation Installer with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The qualification consists of two parts: building insulation installer and industrial insulation installer.

According to TIPSASA, this is the first time ever in South Africa that the insulation installer will be recognized as an official trade.

TIPSASA is in the process of registering with SAQA to become a professional body. One of the requirements for registration as a professional body with the SAQA, is to have qualification registered with that body. In addition evidence of consultation with the construction sector regarding an application for recognition is required by SAQA.

Feedback from the construction sector were all positive and in favour of the registration. To quote a few of the replies: ‘ We fully support the registration of TIPSASA as a professional body’, I believe this is an excellent and worthy cause towards improving the status of TIPSASA and its members’, and , ‘We declare our unqualified support for your cause’.

It is evident that TIPSASA have the support of the construction sector andb a high level of recognition for their contribution towards the industry.

Skills Development Providers (SDP’S) are in the process of registering for accreditation with the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO). Learner material has already been developed in collaboration with SDPs.

Official training courses will commence in February 2020.

This is an exciting development for TIPSASA, and the industry will undoubtedly benefit from these trade qualifications.


Existing insulation contractors

As a result of the registration of the Insulation Installer qualification, TIPSASA would like to extend an invitation to existing contractors to become ‘Accredited Insulation Contractors’. Contractors would have to be assessed through the RPL process. The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process through which formal, non-formal and informal learning are measured, mediated for recognition across different contexts and certified against the requirements for credit, access, inclusion or advancement in the formal education and training system or workplace.


The establishment of Accredited Insulation Contractors will address the usage of sub-standard products that do not comply with SABS standards and incorrect installations, i.e. failure to comply with manufacturer’s installation specification, which are two of the main reasons for failure of thermal insulation performance and compliance with the Energy Efficiency Regulations Promulgated in 2011.

To Build contacted a national insulation manufacturer and installer based in Cape Town for comment. Richard Ellis, general manager and holder of the Cape Town installer franchise for Eco Insulation, had the following to say in support of the TIPSASA move:

‘l congratulate TIPSASA in achieving  the registration of the Insulation Installer qualification. We in the industry are deeply encouraged, as too often the quality of insulation installs is found to be sub-standard; in particular in the area of new multi-residential housing developments where the insulation has been  not been fitted by a recognized insulation contractor but rather by a ceiling contractor. The insulation installations are sp poorly done as to render the whole solution ineffective. Commonly there is little attention to the risks of recessed lighting fixtures where no proper protectors are fitted to prevent the insulation coming into contact with the lighting units which can pose a serious fire hazard’.

We asked Ellis how far the problem extends. He confirmed that installers in his group get frequent callouts to sites where the existing insulation installations of generic products have been inexpertly laid in contravention of the requirements of the building codes.

‘Often this inexpert practice goes two ways: the non-functioning of insulation product completely, requiring a complete overlay of our product to bring the thermal performance of the roof envelop up to national standard SANS 10400-XA requirements.’

The second and more serious consequences of an inexpert installation of ceiling insulation, according to Ellis, is when the contractor fails to make allowance for the heat emitted by in-ceiling downlighters, especially of the halogen quartz variety.

‘Your installed product must be well clear of downlights, allowing them to vent heat currently. Another error is where there is a roofing timber member close by, which greatly increases the fire hazard is heat is not ducted away from the light,’ he finishes.

Energy Saving Tips

In addition to insulating your home, here are a few additional tips to assist you to reduce your enviromental footprint and save energy.

Please close the door

Keeping internal doors closed in winter ensures you are heating smaller areas making heaters more effective.

Seal the gaps

Check around your windows and doors for any gaps. Insulating strips for your windows and doors are inexpensive and can be fitted in minutes helping you to retain heat in winter.

Shield your Home from the sun

Reduce the use of air conditioning by closing curtains and blinds on the sunny side of your home.

Landscape for Shade

Shade sunny windows and walls naturally by planting deciduous trees. Retractable awnings are also very effective at keeping your home cooler in summer.

Switch to LEDs

LED light bulbs use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. Switch out the most widely used bulbs in your home. Then, replace the rest as they burn out.

Install Dimmer Switches

When you fit dimmer switches, you use only as much light as you need.

Line Dry Your Laundry

Use a clothesline in your backyard and let Mother Nature dry your laundry instead of running an energy sapping tumble dryer.

Upgrade to Energy Star appliances

Are your appliances older than ten years, when you do consider replacement then look to do this with Energy Star models, these use considerably less energy.

Install low-flow shower heads

Less water flowing through your shower head means less water to heat and less water used!

Keep your fridge and freezer Full

Keeping your fridge & freezer full means they don't have to work as hard and therefore they use less energy. Empty space in your fridge or freezer wastes not only space but energy too.

Install ceiling fans

Keep the air circulating in your home, and your air- conditioner won't have to work as hard.

Schedule annual air-conditioner maintenance

Have your air-conditioners checked and cleaned annually to keep them running efficiently and you will also enjoy cleaner air!

Only wash full loads

Lots of electricity is consumed by your washing machine and dishwasher, washing with full loads will help to minimize the power drain.

Lower the temperature on your geyser

Around 12% of a home's electricity is used to heat water. You can lower this percentage by setting your geyser thermostat lower (for optimal geyser efficiency you should set your thermostat to 50°C in summer and 60°C in winter).
Also fit a geyser blanket and reduce heat loss. Remember to lag two meters of the outlet pipe for even greater efficiency.

Switch off your oven

Turn off the oven 10-15 minutes before cooking time runs out. Your food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity.

Don't put uncovered foods & drinks in the refrigerator

Condensation makes the fridge work harder and costs you more money.

Allow foods to cool before putting them in the refrigerator

Placing hot foods in your fridge will increase the interior temperature, and cause your refrigerator to work harder.

Cook with the lids on

Foods cook faster with the lid on the pot, because the heat can't escape and you then waste less energy when cooking.


Use Your Microwave Instead of the Oven

A microwave uses less electricity then a conventional electric stove and releases less heat into your home.


Slay the vampires

Vampire power or phantom load is working behind the scenes to consume energy even when your appliances are turned off.  This “Standby Power” refers to the energy drawn down by an appliance when it’s not in use. By turning off appliances at the wall, you will reduce your electricity consumption.

Shower Power

Shower rather than bathing. Also take shorter showers, this does more than just save water – it saves energy, too.

Cut the lights

Switch lights off when you’re not in the room to save up to 15% on your energy bill.

Tea for two

Making a cup of tea? Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need.