As the sun has set on another Women’s Month in South Africa, the achievements of young and passionate women are celebrated across historically male-dominated sectors such as energy – reminding everyone that what is good for the gander can be good for the goose.

Project in Limpopo under female leadership

In recognition of the enormous opportunities and potential for gender advancement in energy efficiency, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) is celebrating the women leading us into a “cooler” future.

Hilda Muthivhi (25) is leading the way to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the SANEDI Cool Roofs Project, which is underway at two of four military bases in Limpopo.

Hilda Muthivhi

Muthivhi believes the impact of cool roof paint technology, and the accompanying special skills needed, will have a lasting impact over and above the benefits of energy savings associated with this innovative paint. Muthivhi’s work for military bases in Limpopo involves noting and documenting how different roof materials respond to the paint, and the methods needed to prepare the surfaces for coating. This has lasting consequences for the integrity of the paint.

Presenting a strong business case

Muthivhi is directly contributing to the body of knowledge SANEDI will use to present a strong business case for the widespread adoption of cool roof paints, which will ultimately improve the overall energy efficiency and result in electricity and cost savings.

“Where I grew up, we had children in school who got sick during the summer because it became very hot. This paint will keep our buildings cooler when it gets too hot in Limpopo,” Muthivhi says.

Her rise to a supervisory and assessor role at the pilot project represented fast progress since she joined the team in February 2022. Muthivhi believes taking the initiative to do her own research on cool roof paints and paying close attention to how surfaces needed to be prepared were key to her earning respect and authority from her peers, and she is training her colleagues to apply the same knowledge.

All about the paint

The paint delivers higher solar reflectance and higher thermal emittance than standard designed building envelope coats. A cool coating immediately reduces temperatures on the surface by up to 20°C, which is keeping the frequent heat expansion and cooling contraction to a minimum – allowing the roof to last longer. The structural integrity of the roof is strengthened while temperatures can be reduced by up to 10°C indoors, as the paint reflects and scatters heat away from the roof, reducing the absorption and penetration of solar radiation into the building.

For every square metre painted, Dr Karen Surridge, acting general manager at SANEDI, and her team can quantify electrical and cost savings per square metre per annum. “The military base is an ideal pilot to test whether we can create a cool bubble effect, which is essentially what happens when surfaces are cooled on a cluster of closely knit buildings, creating a net cooling effect in the entire vicinity. Critically, this is reversing the heat island effect associated with urban heating,” she explained.

The potential of cool roof paint technology

Muthivhi is aware of the market potential that cool roof paint technology will have in sunny and hot South Africa, where temperatures can reach scorching levels in the summer.

“Cool roof paint acts as a fire retardant, so it staves off the fire – giving people inside a burning building time to escape – but it also preserves the roof from the elements and can seal asbestos effectively where it has not been removed,” Dr Surridge says. Cool roof paint technology represents a major leap in making cooling accessible in places where people would otherwise not have access to conventional air-conditioning. SANEDI will keep promoting and celebrating women’s excellence in the advancement of energy efficiency and sustainability, by advancing the development of skills and opportunities these technologies represent for South Africa’s energy security.

For more information, contact SANEDI:
Tel: +27 11 038 4302

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