Never before has the need for energy efficient buildings been more relevant than in South Africa today.

We are currently experiencing an energy crisis due to the increased demand for power as a result of strong economic growth over the past five years. Unfortunately, due to poor strategic planning on the part of government, the infrastructure has not kept pace with the demand.

On a positive note, progress is being made with regards to ensuring that buildings of the future are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. September 2007 saw the Green Building Council of South Africa hold its inaugural meeting and seek to align itself with best practices as adopted by the nine founding members who formed the world green building council in 1998. Presently, however, it is largely a private sector initiative and is not backed by government legislation.

The advantages of green buildings speak for themselves. A good building design can have lower energy requirements of between 50% and 70% and can also have health and productivity benefits for their occupants.

The council seeks to institute rating systems for buildings to assess how green a building is and to ultimately rate architects and developers in terms of their commitment to this process.

However, the private sector cannot operate in isolation. The government is also required to commit to the process. In early 2007 the Director General of the Department of Minerals and Energy, Sandile Nogxina promised that a draft law would be tabled in Parliament later in the year. To date, no draft bill has been tabled and no document has been made available to the public for comment.

In November 2007, Minister Mosibudi Mangena delivered the opening address at the Green Building Conference and Exhibition held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

The speech contained much praise for the work that has already been done and acknowledged the need to implement programmes to ensure that energy efficient buildings become a reality in the future, but did not specify the government's commitment to policy instigation.

In conclusion, South Africa recognises the need for energy efficient buildings and building practices; however, the private sector will need to champion the cause until government implements policy. In a period where there is a struggle for political power and elections in 2009 it is probably not going to be a reality in the short term.

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