The Cool Surfaces Project, managed by the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), seeks to cool buildings using energy-passive technology, especially in areas where electricity supply is limited or absent.

The 12L Tax Incentive, according to the Income Tax Act, 1962 (Act No. 58 of 1962) allows for a tax deduction of 95c/kwh saved on energy consumption. This is applicable to all energy carriers, not just electricity, with the exception of renewable energy sources and in the case of cool surfaces, would only apply to larger commercial and industrial-size projects.

The Cool Surfaces Project
Borne out of a collaborative agreement between the American and South African Departments of Energy, the Cool Surfaces Project is a non-electric response to South Africa’s need for cost-effective, low-maintenance and passive-energy cooling technology for buildings.

“Cool Surfaces refers to all materials and technologies used in the construction of the building envelope to improve thermal comfort: Surfaces that reflect much of the solar energy and release much of the stored heat energy,” explains Denise Lundall, project manager of SANEDI’s Energy Efficiency Cool Surfaces Project.

“This refers to white roofs, light-coloured pavements and specialised cool coatings. Whitening 100m² of roofing cancels the warming effect of ten tons of CO₂ emissions (or 0, 6 tons per year) for the life of the roof.”

Since the project kicked off in 2013, seven ventures to improve buildings’ energy efficiency and thermal comfort for residents have been completed.

“For example, the !Kheis Scale-up Project in Sternham, Northern Cape, coated 27 500 m² of roofing to improve thermal comfort for occupants and piloted the potential for Cool Surfaces to mitigate the impact of climate change in South Africa. However, this just scratches the cool surface of the potential yet to be achieved,” says Lundall.

Potential for cool surfaces
“A sizeable amount of housing stock among the low-income households in South Africa is built from materials that are not necessarily energy efficient,” she points out. “Those range from informal dwellings built out of corrugated iron sheeting, traditional dwellings, township dwellings (matchbox or RDP houses), and regular brick and mortar structures. In all of these, there is no universal application of solar passive design principles.

“Most suffer from poor design, leading to uncomfortable and sometimes extreme indoor temperatures night and day, during winter and summer. For most of the dwellings, there is still no access to electricity and, where it is available, electric heating or cooling is not an economic option.

Since the Cool Surfaces Project kicked off in 2013, seven ventures to improve buildings’ energy efficiency and thermal comfort for residents have been completed.

“Therefore, there has been a focus on low-income housing but not to the exclusion of other markets. Cool coatings or membranes are effective on most buildings – from storage warehouses to corporate office buildings, with sophisticated HVAC systems.”

Pending projects are a Department of Defence building in Limpopo and an informal settlement in the City of Tshwane, Gauteng.

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Benefits of cool surfaces
• Cooler surface temperatures help the roof and the equipment on it to last much longer.
• Cool roofs allow less heat into the building, making homes, warehouses and other buildings without air-conditioners (AC) much cooler.
• Cooling effects vary from city to city, but studies indicate a consistent pattern of cooling potential from between 2 to 4°C.
• Globally it cancels 500 medium-sized coal power plants’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions – more than compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) deployment. It is an excellent offset measure.
• Cool surfaces can cut AC energy use by up to 20% on the top floor of air-conditioned buildings, often avoiding cooling loads at peak times.
• Cooler intake air means the AC works less, and energy efficiency contributes to downsizing AC units.
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