November 14, 2012 | David Leipziger

National programs for benchmarking buildings’ energy use can be found in the U.S., Europe, China, and Australia. But new players on the international stage, with growing economies and influence, are joining the ranks. Energy performance benchmarking is on the rise in Brazil and South Africa, too.

South America

As the largest country and economy in Latin America, Brazil is emerging as a leader in energy efficiency in the building sector. The country’s massive, quasi-governmental utility company, Elecrobras, created an energy benchmarking tool a decade ago.

Procel Edifica was established in 2003 to promote responsible energy use, using energy modeling to compare the efficiency of commercial and residential buildings. A labeling program for public buildings (Procel EPP) has recently been added to the repertoire.

The program rates energy performance through a simulation of that performance (an asset rating). It evaluates the envelope, lighting, and HVAC system of a new or existing building, and rates it on a 5-point scale from A to E. This practice is currently voluntary, but nationally available in Brazil.

A National Energy Efficiency Plan has projected that efficiency labeling of buildings with Procel Edifica will be mandatory in 10-20 years. Still, Brazil’s booming real estate sector is able to take advantage of a sophisticated rating system right now.


South Africa is a continental trend setter, and sustainability is no exception. The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has created a comprehensive sustainability standard for myriad building types, and the real estate community has responded by tackling cutting-edge initiatives like green leasing. The GBSCA also recently launched an Energy and Water Benchmarking Tool to assess relative efficiency in commercial buildings.

The benchmarking tool is a pilot which applies a 10-point rating (normalized for climate zone and occupancy) based on a year’s worth of electricity and water consumption. Buildings are measured in rentable area, to emphasize the importance of revenue-generating space to owners. Performance is compared to a baseline generated by a nationwide survey of 350 buildings. This is a small number, but a good start for a pilot-phase program.

What’s Next?

As the construction sector continues to expand in Brazil and South Africa, energy efficiency rating can only matter more. As megacities like Johannesburg and Sao Paulo become saturated with large buildings, market leaders will look to the improved market value and decreased energy costs of efficient buildings. And those working on cost-constrained projects in developing countries care even more about utility costs since they represent a larger proportion of expenses (about 5% and 25% of the cost of office space in Brazil and South Africa, respectively).

Program Area(s):

International , Policy

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David Leipziger

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