| March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

Independent School wins in more ways than one.

By Susan Donald

Our national power provider, Eskom, and the Department of Energy recently hosted the 22nd annual eta Awards.

The aim of the eta Awards is to reward the proven application of sound energyefficiency principles in the commercial, industrial, residential, agricultural and education sectors. Given the significant emphasis placed on energy efficiency by our government, the Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, is the official patron of the eta Awards.

Award special, but life-long learning more important

At the event held late last year, Greenwood Independent Education (GIS), one of ISASA’s newest member schools, located in the beautiful Ladywood Estate in Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape, was awarded the eta award in the Young Designers category for its research into urban planning and design.

The GIS team won the award for innovative research into housing planning and design. While the award acknowledged the hard work put in by the young scientists, they also won something even more important: an understanding of the relationship between climate, building design and energy usage. Their aim was to see what they could do, through research and recommendations, to influence local municipality officials to design and build more cost-effective RDP houses1, for maximum energy efficiency.

A lack of proper insulation

The project also taught the young scientists about the value of thorough research. Remembers Jessica Cockcroft: “We first looked at how shelters in every region need to be designed to deal with the particular climate of that region. In our region in the southern Cape, the weather is fairly mild and one can live without using heaters or air coolers at all if the house is built with energy efficiency in mind.

“We then asked one of our parents to help us make a little model house from scraps of building material. We made the house so that we could take off the roof and move it so that it could have an overhang on the north side. We were also able to put insulation in the roof, under the floor and around the walls. We then tested our dwelling with a thermometer in various conditions to show how much of a difference insulation, orientation, roof overhang and ventilation can make in our climate.”

Team member Aviwe Bam takes up the tale. “When the model house was placed in the sun and then moved to the shade, the temperature inside stayed warm for longer if the roof was insulated. In a period of just 15 minutes, the uninsulated house lost all its inside warmth, while the insulated house after 30 minutes had lost only a few degrees.

“On sunny days, if the roof on our model house was not insulated, the temperature inside rose very quickly as opposed to when we insulated the roof. This told us a lot about house construction in climates with long, hot summers. We also learned about orientation. If houses are built facing north, there will be more warmth inside the house in the day. In the winter, the sun is low enough to shine in the windows even if we have an overhang, and the difference in the temperature if the sun shines in and if it doesn’t can be a lot.

“If the sun shines on the floor, the warmth can be held in by the floor if it is thick enough. But if the sun cannot get in, then the house remains cold inside. If the roof has an overhang, then it stops the strong summer sun from shining in the same windows, so it does not get so hot.”

On-site visits led to recommendations to municipality

GIS’s intrepid team then visited local communities dominated by RDP houses, armed with their new knowledge. “We found that most of them were built with no insulation and without roof overhangs. They are oriented for convenience rather than for energy efficiency.

“This means that the inhabitants have to use more energy in the winter to warm their houses. Housing authorities told us there are approximately 5 000 RDP homes in the Plettenberg Bay area, and a study of the 2001 census revealed that 62% of people in Plettenberg Bay use electricity to heat their homes. If we apply that percentage to the 5 000 RDP homes, then that is 3 150 homes. If each home could reduce their use of a heater by only one hour a day, then that is 3 150 hours a day. Heaters use from 800 w to 1 500 w an hour. This means an average total of over 3 600 Kw could be saved a day,” calculates Cockcroft.

The team decided to send their findings to the local municipality housing department, urging it to take energy into consideration when it builds RDP houses. Reports Isabella Bröhm: “We asked them to pay attention to insulation, overhang and orientation, as these three small things could save a lot of electricity if every house was built with energy efficiency in mind. We also pointed out that the frequent house fires in the area caused by paraffin heaters in cold houses would stop through better building practice. “We heard that the last mayor of our town requested a lot more money be spent on the RDP houses to make them more attractive, with tile roofs. If he had known about building for energy efficiency, we think the money might have been spent more effectively.”

Local municipality to take recommendations into account

The innovative young GIS team was invited to visit the new mayor to present their research findings. “He was amazed that such important changes could be made so simply, and said our research and recommendations would change the way new RDP houses will be built in our area,” reports Thamsanqa Donald.

“We feel we have made a huge impact on our local environment and on the future lives of residents in Plettenberg Bay.”


1. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in postapartheid
South Africa identified economic, social, legal, political, moral,
cultural and environmental problems that the country faced. To move
towards the alleviation of these sizable difficulties, it was established that a
completely new macro- and socio-economic framework was required.
Between 1994 and the start of 2001, over 1.1 million cheap houses, known
as RDP houses, were built, accommodating 5 million of the estimated
12.5 million South Africans without proper housing.(Source: Development_

Category: Autumn 2012, Featured Articles

About the Author ()

News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *