Residential and commercial buildings in Cape Town account for approximately 24% of energy consumption and are responsible for the largest proportion of carbon emissions (approximately 42%). Research shows that buildings have the largest unrealized potential for cost-effective energy and emissions savings. In addition, enhanced energy efficiency in buildings results in reduced utility bills and improved indoor environmental quality which can significantly improve the health and quality of life for those living in the buildings.

The City understands this and has committed to ensuring that all new buildings city-wide are net zero carbon by 2030 and to pursuing the retrofit of all existing buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050.  In its own operations, the City commits to ensuring that all new facilities owned, occupied and developed by the municipality are net zero carbon in operation by 2030, and that to the extent possible the same is true for existing facilities. Achieving this will require a fundamental shift in thinking around how buildings are designed, constructed and operated. For more information on the City’s climate commitments, refer to the Cape Town Carbon Neutral by 2050 video.

A net zero carbon building is “a building that is highly energy-efficient, and the remaining energy use is from renewable energy, on-site but also off-site, so that there are zero net carbon emissions on an annual basis”.  This definition applies to a building IN OPERATION (i.e. lighting, HVAC, lifts etc. and all plug loads).

How to build net zero carbon buildings?

To reduce a building’s carbon emissions intensity to net zero, you need to: 

  • Reduce building energy demand for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting through passive heating, ventilation, cooling design and improved building envelope and daylighting performance techniques; 
  • Reduce total building energy demand and operational building use energy demand through the installation of high efficiency mechanical, lighting and power systems, and energy efficient appliances; and 
  • Supply remaining building energy needs from a renewable source of energy, on-site to the extent possible and then off-site where necessary. 

The below video provides useful information on how to design and construct net zero carbon buildings.  

Designing and constructing developments to be low or net zero carbon minimises the need for expensive retrofitting in the future and ultimately results in a low carbon, climate resilient city for all. The City has developed a variety of resources aimed at driving change to the way buildings are designed, constructed and operated. Some of these resources are highlighted below: 

  • Download the Resource Efficiency for Development  which is a one-stop reference guide for all developers, built environment professionals and property owners to assist in designing and building high performance, resource efficient buildings. It summarises and provides links to all the relevant policy, legal directives and guidelines that form part of the City’s overall sustainability framework related to the built environment. The booklet covers seven categories of resource related areas namely site selection, transport, water, energy, construction materials, natural environment and waste management. For each of these categories, the guidelines, policy and legal directives have colour-coded icons according to their legally-binding nature. The information is presented in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) format, in order to make it as user-friendly as possible. 
  • Download Getting to Zero  which serves as a guide to developing net zero carbon buildings in South Africa. The guide is a collaborative production, led by the ASHRAE South Africa Chapter with input from the C40 South Africa Buildings Programme, Sustainable Energy Africa, and the Green Building Council South Africa.

As an owner or manager of a home, you can take steps to reduce resource consumption in and save money in your household. This includes resources such as energy, water and waste. 

Understand how your home performs 

To understand how your home performs, particularly with regard to energy consumption (and associated carbon emissions) and water consumption, use the Smart Home Disclosure. The Smart Home Disclosure is a voluntary assessment tool developed by the City of Cape Town in partnership with the Western Cape Government and GreenCape. It aims to encourage investments in sustainable home improvements that lower energy and water needs and reduce carbon emissions while improving thermal comfort, safety and health for the occupants. It empowers prospective buyers to make informed decisions about their home with regards to the ongoing operational costs, liveability and comfort levels and the impact the home has on the environment.

Download the Smart Disclosure Form to learn more about the sustainability features of your home. 

Develop smart energy habits and save

By developing smart energy habits in your household, you can save on your electricity bill, help safeguard the environment and ensure energy security for the future. With rising energy costs and electricity shortages, it is important to ensure that your home is as energy-efficient as possible. 

What can you do?

  • Select energy-efficient lightbulbs like LEDs (light-emitting diodes). 
  • Choose energy efficient appliances. 
  • Make sure your geyser is set at an optimal temperature (between 55°C and 65°C) and install a geyser blanket to help reduce heat loss. 
  • Switch off lights and appliances when not in use.
  • Get smarter with your cooking. Consider using gas stoves, induction stoves and smart cookers (as known as a Hotbox or Wonderbag).

For more information on other energy saving practices, please refer to the following resources: 

  • Explore this website for more saving tips. The tips include no-cost, low-cost and invest-to-save initiatives that can make a real difference to your monthly electricity bill.
  • Download the Smart Living Audit to find out how you can undertake an audit of your home
  • Download the Smart Living Handbook  which is a practical guide to sustainable and resilient living. It provides practical steps that households can take to make their homes safer and save them money, while also reducing their environmental impact. 
Visit the Let’s ACT at Home Exhibition 

The Let’s ACT at Home exhibition at the Building Centre, Northgate Estate showcases what can be done to ensure residential and commercial building and renovation projects are resource efficient in design and operation. Visitors to the exhibition will gain information on clean energy options, energy efficiency measures as well as efficient design and operation of buildings. The exhibition highlights the importance of energy efficiency and promotes a collaborative drive between residents, industry and the City toward achieving net zero carbon.

The Building Centre is a permanent exhibition centre, which is open daily to the public and hosts more than 200 exhibits which showcases information, materials and technologies for home-owners, designers, architects and other industry professionals for residential and commercial buildings and renovation projects.

Visit My Clean Green Home: Cape Town’s First Net Zero Carbon Exhibit Home

You can visit My Green Home exhibit at the Experiential Garden at Green Point Park to explore net zero carbon living first-hand and learn more about sustainable living. 

In partnership with the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) the My Clean Green Home design competition of 2020-21 challenged built environment students and professionals to design a net zero carbon home that demonstrates sustainable living in action. The aim is to teach the public about design principles, technologies and behaviours needed to meet the net zero carbon targets and to demonstrate that net zero carbon houses are feasible, accessible and can be achieved by everyone. 

The winning design, from Team Mahali, is an innovative, modular ‘house in a box’ covered by an overarching tree-like structure made from upcycled and locally available materials. The design for the net zero carbon home incorporates solar power generation, energy efficient appliances, passive cooling, rainwater harvesting and an edible food garden.  

Take a Virtual Tour of My Clean Green Home

The My Clean Green Home Virtual Experience allows you to explore net zero carbon living from the comfort of your home.  Throughout the virtual home you will find interactive smart living tips to consider for your own home.  Use the energy calculator to find out how energy efficient your household is and access great resources to help you on the journey to becoming net zero carbon. 

Illustration of an eco-home

This illustration provides a useful guide to what can be done to make your home more sustainable from an energy, water and waste perspective. 

Many of the same actions you take at home are applicable in the office.  

What can you do save electricity in the workplace? 
  • Turn off non-essential lighting and use natural daylight as much as possible. 
  • Install energy-efficient or energy-saving light bulbs. 
  • Consider installing motion sensors in areas not used frequently. 
  • Make all staff aware of what can (and should) be switched off when not needed.
  • Switch equipment off rather than using standby mode. 
  • Save 10% of your air conditioner’s electricity bill by turning the thermostat down 1 degree in winter and 1 degree up in summer and only use the air-conditioner when necessary. 
  • Use centralised printers instead of a printer for each desk.
  • Ensure computers, electrical equipment or appliances are energy efficient. 
  • When using a kettle only boil the amount you need, but if there is excess hot water from the kettle then store it in a vacuum flask for later use.
  • If you still have an urn, replace it with a hydro-boiler, which is much better insulated and provides boiling water throughout the day. Remember to switch off the hydro-boiler at night and over weekends

For more detailed information on how to make your office more resource efficient, download the Smart Office Handbook for practical step-by-step guide to making your office and workplace more sustainable and eco-friendly. The toolkit below includes the handbook and additional resources that you can download.

Display your energy performance certificate 

What is an energy performance certificate? 

An energy performance certificate shows the energy efficiency rating of a building based on its operational use, size and energy zone. It indicates the amount of energy used in a building in kilowatt hour per square meter per year (kWh/m2/annum). The building’s energy use intensity is then measured against a nationally regulated benchmark allowing building owners to know how much energy their building uses and to compare this performance against other buildings of a similar type. This is shown on an A–G rating. 

Why display an EPC? 

In December 2020, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy gazetted Regulations for the Mandatory Display and Submission of Energy Performance Certificates for Buildings. The regulations require buildings of a certain size and occupancy class to publically display an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) at the building entrance. 

Which buildings require an EPC? 

An EPC is required for government owned, occupied or operated buildings more than1000m², and private buildings more than 2000m² in Occupancy Classes A1 (Entertainment & public assembly), A2 (Theatrical & indoor sport), A3 (Places of instruction) and G1 (Offices). The buildings must have been operational for a minimum of 2 years, with no major renovations in that time.

What is the City of Cape Town doing with respect to its buildings? 

To comply with the regulations, the City embarked on an EPC Compliance Initiative and identified approximately 100 buildings that need EPCs. Through the EPC compliance initiative, the City of Cape Town has established an energy baseline for its buildings and has identified energy efficiency measures that can improve building energy performance; leading to cost savings and a reduction of harmful carbon emissions associated with a building’s operation. The EPC compliance initiative is seen as a valuable step towards achieving the Net Zero Carbon Municipal Buildings Target by 2030 and the broader city-wide ambition to be Carbon Neutral by 2050. Despite inevitable challenges, the City of Cape Town has made great strides in complying with the regulations and is the first municipality in South Africa to have EPCs issued for a number of its buildings

What does an energy performance certificate look like? 

The below image is an example of an Energy Performance Certificate