On 15 October 2020, the Living Future Collaborative South Africa held its first online Net Zero event entitled ‘NET POSITIVE ENERGY’, which aimed to inspire industry professionals with case studies of super energy-efficient building designs supplemented by renewable energy, with the goal of adding value for building owners and end users.

Three expert presenters unpacked the practicalities of moving beyond Net Zero Energy in terms of the technical, behavioural, policy and regulatory issues and opportunities that Net Positive Energy approaches provide. They were Haley Gardner, Manager: Buildings + Energy at the International Living Future Institute; Francois Retief, Owner at Sow & Reap Consulting; and Chilufya Lombe, Director at Solid Green Consulting.

In her presentation, Gardner explained the measures that should be put in place to achieve Net Zero – through both operational carbon and embodied carbon.

We envision a world of carbon-positive buildings with carbon-positive products that actively reverse the effects of climate change and help local economies thrive.

Strategies for reducing Operational Carbon are reducing site energy consumption and eliminating new combustion (in new buildings); and offsetting with installed or procured renewable energy. Strategies put forward for reducing Embodied Carbon are reducing carbon in primary materials; disclosing reduction strategies and the total embodied carbon of materials; and offsetting sequestering materials or carbon offsets.

Case studies discussed were the Catalyst Project in Spokane, an institutional and laboratory pilot project; 6 Pancras Square in London, a commercial office fit-out; and 303 Battery Street in Seattle, a multifamily residential and retail development.

‘Sustainability Leapfrogging: Net Zero Energy Buildings’, presented by Chilufya Lombe, looked at the Energy Efficiency Gap – that is, the difference between what a building uses and what it is able to generate. Lombe emphasised that attaining Net Zero Carbon involves a process driven approach – setting targets; investigating climate; reducing loads; selecting appropriate technology; optimising building operation; and, finally, considering alternative power and synergies.

Chilu discussed two precedents: 78 Corlett Drive, developed by Legaro Properties, which has received to date Green Star Design and As-Built Office v1.1 certifications, as well as Net Zero Pilot Design and As-Built certifications; and the Rugby Road residential development in Oranjezicht, Cape Town.

‘Getting to Zero’, presented by Francois Retief, identified the following factors for success in targeting Net Positive:

  • Efficiency First – Aiming for a Target
  • Thermal Comfort is Critical
  • Building Simulations (energy modelling, artificial lighting quality, daylighting & glare, solar performance, thermal comfort)
  • Passive Strategies
  • Active Strategies
  • Renewable Energy

Retief then discussed how people and relationships are critical to success in driving sector-leading initiatives, which are underpinned by developing the right culture and mindset; collaborating and iterating; actively pursuing a target; hiring the right team; prioritising commissioning; and educating the building/precinct occupants.

Next event

Join the Living Future Collaborative South Africa for a webinar on how to design our built environment for Net Positive Water!

Date: 19 November

Register here:

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