Environmental Sustainability &
Energy Usage in Buildings-Part X & XA

energy usage

Glazing and lighting are two vital factors when it comes to energy usage.

In 2011, in an endeavour to make our buildings more sustainable, and to decrease energy usage in South Africa, a new part was added to SANS 10400, The application of the National Building Regulations. Part X deals with environmental sustainability, and Part XA deals with energy usage in buildings.

In many ways these new regulations have turned the building industry upside down, but not in a bad way. However for the average man-in-the-street it has become a puzzle of note. Every week we get people writing into this web site asking for advice and information about the “new energy laws” and how they affect their building and renovations.

On the down side, it seems that new regulations have opened up a can of worms that has less-than-knowledgable people (and some scamsters) flippantly quoting “the new green laws” in an effort to force people to spend more money than they need to on energy-efficient materials, appliances and the like. While there is no doubt that we need to “go green” and get our act together (pun intended) in terms of energy efficient building, it is also important to know the difference between what we should do, and what we must do to comply with the National Building Regulations and other national standards.


What the National Building Regulations and
Building Standards Act Says

While the Act was originally passed in 1977 (officially it’s Act 103 of 1977), a number of amendments have been added to it over time. In 2011, Rob Davies, the Minister of Trade and Industry added the sections that relate to environmental sustainability and to energy usage in buildings.

The motivation for this amendment is to reduce greenhouse gases caused by buildings and extensions to buildings. These relate to a number of specific occupancies that are defined in Part A of SANS 10400, namely:

  • A1 – Entertainment and public assembly Occupancy where persons gather to eat, drink, dance or participate in other recreation.
  • A2 – Theatrical and indoor sport Occupancy where persons gather for the viewing of theatrical, operatic, orchestral, choral, cinematographical or sport performances.
  • A3 – Places of instruction Occupancy where school children, students or other persons assemble for the purpose of tuition or learning.
  • A4 – Worship  Occupancy where persons assemble for the purpose of worshipping.
  • C1 – Exhibition hall Occupancy where goods are displayed primarily for viewing by the public.
  • C2 – Museum Occupancy comprising a museum, art gallery or library.
  • E1 – Place of detention Occupancy where people are detained for punitive or corrective reasons or because of their mental condition.
  • E2 – Hospital Occupancy where people are cared for or treated because of physical or mental disabilities and where they are generally bedridden.
  • E4 – Health care Occupancy which is a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons consisting of a single unit on its own site who, due to varying degrees of incapacity, are provided with personal care services or are undergoing medical treatment.
  • F1 – Large shop Occupancy where merchandise is displayed and offered for sale to the public and the floor area exceeds 250 m2.
  • F2 – Small shop Occupancy where merchandise is displayed and offered for sale to the public and the floor area does not exceed 250 m2.
  • F3 – Wholesalers’ store Occupancy where goods are displayed and stored and where only a limited selected group of persons is present at any one time.
  • G1 – Offices Occupancy comprising offices, banks, consulting rooms and other similar usage.
  • H1 – Hotel Occupancy where persons rent furnished rooms, not being dwelling units.
  • H2 – Dormitory Occupancy where groups of people are accommodated in one room.
  • H3 – Domestic residence Occupancy consisting of two or more dwelling units on a single site.
  • H4 – Dwelling house Occupancy consisting of a dwelling unit on its own site, including a garage and other domestic outbuildings, if any.
  • H5 – Hospitality Occupancy where unrelated persons rent furnished rooms on a transient basis within a dwelling house or domestic residence with sleeping accommodation for not more than 16 persons within a dwelling unit.

But they specifically EXCLUDE garage and storage areas contained within these specified occupancies, as well as a number of other buildings that are used for commercial, industrial and buildings used exclusively for a variety of storage uses.

The law (because this is part of the Act – not SANS 10400) states that these “occupancies” (types of buildings) must be:

  • capable of using energy efficiently while fulfilling user-needs in relation to various things including thermal comfort, lighting and hot water; OR
  • have a “building envelope and services” that facilitate the efficient use of energy that is appropriate to the function and use of the building as well as its geographical location and its internal environment.

So it is not a one solution fits all situation. For instance, what works for a house in Durban may not make the same structure energy efficient in Cape Town! In addition, the legislation excludes the “equipment and plant” required for conducting business – if the building is used for business.

Hot Water Heating Requirements

XA2 requires that at least a half – “50% (volume fraction) of the annual average hot water heating requirement shall be provided by means other than electrical resistance heating including but not limited to solar heating, heat pumps, heat recovery from other systems or processes and renewable combustible fuel”.

So you can use a conventional geyser IF you meet the 50% requirement. And if you are renovating, you certainly don’t have to toss all your existing water equipment and go solar – even though there is absolutely no doubt that it’s the way to go.

What is Required

The orientation, shading, services and building envelope must be designed according to SANS 10400 Part XA. Alternatively the rational design of the building must be done by a competent person who “demonstrates that the energy usage of such building is equivalent to or better than that which would have been achieved by compliance with the requirements of SANS XA, or has a theoretical energy usage performance, determined using certified thermal calculation software, less than or equal to that of a reference building in accordance with SANS 10400 Part XA”.

If you’re looking to change jobs, becoming a person competent to specify these requirements is one way to go! It is something that is not easy for someone who hasn’t got the relevant training to get their head around.

What 10400 XA Says

As with all national standards, 10400 XA has a number of definitions, some of which are in the glossary that is part of the Act.

A few of the important definitions that relate to this particular part of the standard are:

  • Building envelope Elements of a building that separate a habitable room from the exterior of a building or a garage or storage area 
  • Competent person Person who is qualified by virtue of his education, training, experience and contextual knowledge to make a determination regarding the performance of a building or part thereof in relation to a functional regulation or to undertake such duties as may be assigned to him in terms of the National Building Regulations
  • Fenestration Any glazed opening in a building envelope, including windows, doors and skylights
  • Fenestration area Area that includes glazing and framing elements that are fixed or movable, and opaque, translucent or transparent

Requirements of 10400 XA

The requirements of this new national standard cover:

  1. Hot water supply
  2. Energy usage and building envelope
  3. Design assumptions
  4. Building envelope requirements

The standard also defines the different climatic zones of South Africa.Climate-zones-XA1

To be a little more specific, the main centres for each zone are:

  • Zone 1 – Johannesburg and Bloemfontein
  • Zone 2 – Pretoria and Polokwane
  • Zone 3 – Makhado and Nelspruit
  • Zone 4 – Cape Town and Port Elizabeth
  • Zone 5 – Durban, Richards Bay and East London
  • Zone 6 – Kimberley and Upington

Building Envelope Requirements

This is probably the most vital part of the new regulation, and it addresses orientation, floors, external walls, fenestration, and roof assemblies – but not in a lot of detail.


If any type of underfloor heating system is used in a home, this must be insulated under the concrete slab with insulation that has a minimum R-value of at least 1,0. The R-value is the thermal resistance (square metre K/W) of a component. According to the Standard, it is “the inverse of the time rate of heat flow through a body from one of its bounding surfaces to the other surface for a unit temperature difference between the two surfaces, under steady state conditions, per unit area”.

Roof Assemblies

Any roof assembly must achieve a minimum R-value for the direction of heat flow. This is specified in several tables in the regulations.

 Minimum total R-values of roof assembliesenergy usage

Roofs with metal sheeting affixed to purlins, rafters or battens made of metal are required to have a thermal break that consists of a material with an R-value that is not less than 0,2, and which is installed between the sheeting and the support. In addition, roofing assemblies that utilize metal sheeting must achieve a minimum total R-value that meets the requirements shown in the table above. Insulation must also be installed with an R-value that meets the specified in the table below.

Metal sheeting roof assembliesenergy usage

Clay tiles used for roofing must achieve a minimum R-value as in the first table above. Insulation should be in accordance with the specifications shown below.

energy usage

The other standard that you need to know about is
SANS 204 (2011): Energy efficiency in buildings.
(click for preview from SABS Store)


Why National Building Regulations


  84 Responses to “Energy Usage & Sustainability (SANS 10400X & XA)”

Comments (81) Pingbacks (3)
  1. Good Day

    I am looking for the NBR in respect of thermal insulation applied to hot water piping. Is there anything stipulated in terms of thickness, heat loss and type of insulation that should be used….???

    • H Derek, The new building regulations SANS 10400XA does address thermal insulation but does not specify thicknesses etc. This would be controlled by the Agrément Board when they approve a company’s thermal product for market. One of the best in SA is Isotherm, I suggest you contact them as they will have specifics on hand for you. Click here: isotherm.co.za

  2. Can you use Window tint on existing glazing to comply with new regulations? If so, how would I be able to work out which tint to use?

      • There are window films which meet the same specs as tinted glass, why can they not be used in place of the tinted glass? The costs are far less and it is far easier to have installed. Please can you give me a reason why it cannot be used?

        • Jeff there is no reason why they cannot be used instead of tinted glass. However the glass itself must meet the specifications of SANS 10400, Part N: Glazing. This is specifically to ensure that the glass will be safe and will withstand human impact if this is a possibility.

  3. Subject:
    House Doors (External)
    I would like to know the regulations on how many doors there should be leading into the house, and whether glass sliding doors are fine?

    • Joe there is no regulation that specifies how many doors should lead into a house. Generally glass sliding doors are acceptable, provided the glass used meets the specifications.

    • Hi Joe,
      I think that this will come under the new SANS 10400 X & XA regulations and you can see more on this page here: “Energy usage in buildings” But it seems to be a regulation that is interpreted differently be each Local Council at the moment so I suggest that you contact them and ask their opinion.

  4. Subject:
    SANS 10400-XA (DSS3)

    The municipality is asking for the “Sans 10400” for approval of building plans.

    Do they want the full document (19 pages) ?

    • Hi Menno,
      I am not sure what you mean or what it is that they want. The SANS 10400 are the set of Standards that all buildings and building processes have to adhere to. You do not have to submit these when you want to get your plans approved. It is your plans that have to comply with the SANS 10400. At the back of the SANS 10400 Part-A there are a few example forms that act as guidance for local authorities that have to be completed when plans are submitted. They should have the forms that are needed for your project. You certainly do not have to fill in forms that are not relevant to your job.

  5. Subject:
    Climatic Maps for Rv Values

    Dear Sir / Madam,
    Could you please assist in aforementioned climatic map for future construction project, want to go completely sustainable etc

  6. Hi there,
    We want to convert our patio into a sunroom. According to our architect we have to the fenestration calculations . These calcs amount to us only being able to install a q2.4×1.2 glass door and a 1×1 window. This defeats the purpose oof doing the sunroom. Please help ifon how we can do this without contravening any regulations.
    Thank you, Kervin Govender

    • Kervin if I were you I would get advise from other architects because there seems to be considerable misinterpretation of the new fenestration calculations. I will also see what I can find out, because this is a question that a lot of people are currently asking.

  7. Where can we get a copy of the tabels as refered to in the Sans Regs?

    • Abodezign, We have some tables on this site – otherwise you need to access the relevant South African National Standard (SANS) from the SABS. If you don’t want to buy the SANS, you can visit an SABS library and have a look at it there.

  8. In the R value tables for the different climatic zones you refer to a unit m2.K/W. What is that? Shouldn’t it be m2 / kW?

  9. Hi

    My plans for an extension to my residential dwelling have been submitted to the local authority for approval. My architect has now informed me that we require a SANS specialist to sign-off on the energy efficiency of the house at an additional cost of R12,000!!! Is it compulsory for a specialist to sign-off or are there specified regulations that the architect coulf follow to comply with the energy SANS?

    Thank you.

    • Nancy it is up to the competent person appointed for the job (by the owner) to determine whether additional competent persons are needed to sign off parts of a job. There is a form that the competent person fills in prior to submission of plans. This details when an additional competent person may be required, specifically:
      1. a civil or structural engineer for structural design; or a person who is experienced with dolomite land if applicable.
      2. a civil engineer or geotechnical expert for foundations.
      3. a civil engineer where floor slabs are supported on the ground.
      Further, before plans can be approved, “approved competent person appointments” must be made. This forms includes the possible need for a competent person in the field of built environment (e.g. an architect) to deal with the rational design and rational assessment of flat roofs and related gutters; a civil engineer to design and control stormwater disposal; a mechanical engineer for the design of ventilation systems (Part O); it also relates to sanitation and fire installations. BUT these experts are not always required by any means.
      If your architect is the appointed competent person and he/she is saying “a SANS specialist” is required to “sign off” energy efficiency compliance, it seems to me that this person simply does not have an understanding of the new regulations pertaining to energy efficiency. There are many workshops being held all over the country for architects – because they are all basically in the same boat. If your architect needed some sort of energy efficiency specialist, that person should be listed on the official form.
      Frankly I would say that if your architect did not inform you initially that he/she was not sufficiently knowledgable in terms of the new SANS (specifically SANS 10400 X & XA and SANS 204: Energy efficiency in buildings) and would need assistance that you would have to pay for, then it is up to the architect to cover this additional bill. It’s a bit like employing a contractor to build your home – and then he puts in an additional bill for the roof trusses or for steelwork that is noted on the plans).
      We can give you the name of an architect who specializes in energy efficiency if you wish. But our feeling is that it is the responsibility of your appointed competent person to sort out any issues.

  10. I have completed building a house with plans approved in Sep 2011,I am waiting for the certificate of occupation from the local authorities.
    I have added a balcony on the new development. Should the whole plan be re-drawn or should my architect draw up the added part only?
    What is the impact of the new energy regulations?

    • Richard your architect – presumably the competent person you appointed – should be able to answer both your questions. A rider plan should be perfectly adequate. And since the new energy regulations were published in August 2011, these should have been complied with. If they weren’t it was the local authority’s responsibility to call for amendments.

  11. My neighbours roof design was a boxed roof. He had opted for a more simpler roof ( tuscany ) Does he have to amend his roof plans?

    • Hi Richard,
      It depends if the roof design is changing, if it is, then an amendment/rider to the plan will be needed. The other important factor is the material used. If the boxed roof has metal sheeting as a covering and he is changing to a tuscany, which implies clay tiles, then yes amended/rider plans will have to be submitted. The difference in the structural design for metal sheets and clay tiles is completely different and must be shown on the plans. There is also some quite useful info in our book “Owner Building in SA” and you might like to get a copy 🙂

  12. My plan was approved in Sep 2011. I have completed the building and still awaiting for the Certificate of Occupancy. I have added a balcony in one of the rooms in the development.I have informed my architect about this structure. Do I have to submit a new plan or just submit the added structure only to the local municipality?

    • Hi Richard,
      You will only have to submit a amendment/rider plan to council with the addition. Your architect will know what is needed and should supply you with the correct documents.

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