- The possibility of a national rollout of cool-reflective coatings in South Africa has been boosted with the opening of a laboratory that can do the necessary product testing.
An energy-passive, low-cost and low-maintenance cooling technology for buildings sounds like science fiction. Fortunately, it is not. In very simple terms, it entails painting the outside of buildings, especially roofs, with coatings that disrupt solar radiation. This keeps buildings cool inside so that the people living and working in them need less – or even no – air conditioning to be comfortable.
Such coatings, or paints, already exist and conservative estimates are that the market for them can grow at 7% per year. This growth, however, is hindered by two factors, according to Denise Lundall, project officer at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). The first is that the lack of mandatory regulation in the passive-energy cooling space destroys consumer confidence in the technology’s efficacy. The second relates to the prohibitively high cost of testing local products abroad, which has caused entrepreneurs, especially SMMEs, to have largely lost interest in participating in the manufacturing side of this high-potential market.
“An understanding of these opportunities and challenges is at the heart of the interest that SANEDI takes in the cool reflective-coating industry,” says Lundall. It also guides the organisation’s collaboration with the Thermal Insulation Products and Systems Association of South Africa (TIPSASA). The two organisations have been working together for several years to establish a third-party, independent laboratory that would serve South Africa, the SADAC region and the African continent at a cost far more affordable than the charges associated with an international testing process.
The dream is now finally coming to fruition, following the SANEDI Energy Efficiency Programme contributing R1 240 000 to establish the SANEDI Cool Surfaces Product Testing Division within the TIPSASA passive-energy insulation lab. The new product-testing laboratory is a few short months away from being fully operational, pending the delivery of the last piece of equipment that will enable the three essential tests a coating must pass to be certified as a cool-reflective product. All cool-reflective coatings used in SANEDI projects have to exceed the minimum SANS requirements of 65% efficacy. “Our standard is 75% or more, because the better the quality at the start, the better the performance over the lifetime of the roof,” says Lundall.
SANEDI also facilitated the upskilling of senior laboratory technician Arno van der Walt by sponsoring his training on the American Standard Testing Method (ASTM) at the Lawrence Berkley Laboratory in the USA. Lundall explains that South Africa has adopted the ASTM for cool-reflective product performance testing and published a local South African National Standard (SANS) equivalent.
Plans to expand the laboratory to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for product testing for the built environment are also at an advanced stage.
Author: Bryan Groenendaal