2012 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science™ Competition Winner

E3S Superior Achievement Award

2012 Superior Achievement Award Winner

Witsand iEEECO™ (integrated energy environment empowerment–cost optimization) Sustainable Human Settlement

Entrant: PEER Consultants, PC/PEER Africa (pty) Ltd.
Engineer in Charge: Lilia A. Abron, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE
Location: Atlantis, Cape Town, South Africa
Media Contact: Lilia A. Abron, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, 202.352.7812

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E3S Photos

E3S Photos

Witsand Shantytown pre iEEECO development: Limited access to potable water, showers, and toilets. Shower facilities and toilets not secure (note toilets in foreground). No grid electricity. Energy for lighting, space heating, water heating and cooking provided mostly by kerosene. No sustainable living.

E3S Photos

Shanty/informal shelter, built by owners, portable and still most common form of housing being built. Note scrap wood used for water heating and cooking. Carbon Dioxide levels in some shanties up to 10X higher than World Health Organization for indoor air quality recommended safe levels.

E3S Photos

PEER Africa Mothusi Guy explaining to Dr. Jigar Shah of the IFC the iEEECO sustainable town plan for Witsand. Plan calls for 2,600 passive-solar homes equipped with energy efficient, water conserving appliances and fixtures, modern community infrastructure, nonpolluting street lighting, stormwater BMPs and community gardens.

E3S Photos

DCP Testing. Project team facing the challenges of building foundations on sand. (Note: winter is setting in and informal shelter in background)

E3S Photos

iEEECO implementation in operation. Self-help, capacity-building, social and economic development. End-use beneficiaries contributing to their livelihoods, learning bankable skills, and getting paid a living wage. Local construction workers finishing the roofing of a multi-family home piloted in Phase 1.


Entrant Profile

The Witsand iEEECO™ Sustainable Human Settlement project in Cape Town, South Africa is submitted by PEER Africa (pty.) Ltd. and PEER Consultants, PC. PEER Africa is the implementing agent for the project. PEER Consultants, P.C. provided project liaison, support, staff, review, and bridge-financing assistance under a green loan it was operating for the International Finance Corporation.

PEER Africa (pty.) Ltd., founded in 1995 by Lilia Abron, Ph.D., PE, BCEE, and Douglas "Mothusi" Guy, is a design-build firm specializing in the planning, development and implementation of sustainable human settlements for low-income and indigent communities in developing countries. PEER Consultants, PC, founded in 1978 by Lilia Abron, Ph.D., PE, BCEE is a global, full-service, environmental and general civil engineering consulting firm founded in 1978 to solve its clients' environmental problems. The firm provides professional services for the maintenance, enhancement, restoration and sustainability of the human and physical environments.

Principal team members are:

  • Bluequartz Consulting Engineers, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Nadeson, Civil Engineers, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Kutlwanong Civic Integrated Housing Trust, Kimberly, South Africa
  • Witsand iEEECO™ Housing Beneficiary Support Organization, Cape Town, South Africa
  • EnerKey/University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Mr. Eddie Samuels, retired executive director of Housing, Blaauwberg Administration, now the City of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Mr. Duke Gumede, Project Manager, City of Cape Town, South Africa

Project Description

The Witsand Sustainable Human Settlement is one of the few low-cost, South African housing projects to achieve a main objective of the 1994 South African Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). President Mandela stated, "A primary aim of the housing strategy must be to build not just houses, but viable and sustainable communities." The RDP addresses immense socioeconomic problems brought about by Apartheid, and covers a wide range of issues including jobs, housing, water and sanitation, education, electricity and affordable health care.

The South African Government committed to assisting one million, low-income indigent households setting aside up to 5% of GDP for one-time housing. Many of these people live in informal shelters in large, city-size shantytowns. Living conditions are deplorable with little or no basic services, use of high greenhouse gas emitting, air quality degrading and unsafe open flame fuels - coal, wood and kerosene - to meet household energy needs, and temperatures colder inside than out during winter and hotter inside than out during summer.

PEER Consultants saw that incorporating emerging sustainable community concepts, especially energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, in the implementation of the South African mass-housing program would provide a remarkable opportunity to build sustainable human settlements on a large commercial scale. These measures could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have positive impacts on the health, safety, productivity and income of poor households. PEER staff approached the US Government with these ideas, and was invited to participate on the Gore-Mbeki Binational Commission (BNC), 1994 - 2000. This provided an opportunity for PEER to pilot sustainable housing as a means to alleviate poverty and improve the health and welfare of low-income, and indigent South African populations. Formed in 1995 to focus on the integration of viable communities and sustainability concepts, PEER Africa developed the iEEECO™ (integrated energy, environment, empowerment, cost-optimized) methodology - a set of procedures that produce viable sustainable communities out of the rubble of shanty towns that primarily depend on the informal economy. Planning and design incorporates all elements of sustainability including environmental awareness and stewardship, energy efficiency, and appropriate and affordable municipal infrastructure. Passive solar homes are designed using ERGY-10™- a software tool that identifies cost-effective, energy saving measures in small (⟨ 10,000 ft2) commercial and residential building designs. Home performance is documented using data collection devices and analyzed using evaluation, monitoring and verification (EM&V) protocols established by NREL, NEEP and USEPA.

The iEEECO™ methodology requires active participation of project beneficiaries in the fulllifecycle of the program, including planning, construction, and management. This unique methodology uses a bottom-up, self-help approach that results in a sense of ownership and responsibility among the community members, but does present complex social and political challenges, including extensive conflict management linked to local political and cultural dynamics. Addressing these cultural challenges that are part and parcel of the legacy of Apartheid can be the difference between the project advancing or stalling.

Witsand was a 20 year-old, shantytown of over 2,000 shacks. Conditions were deplorable. Potable water was accessible only from distant hydrants and toilet facilities built by the Apartheid government were inadequate, few in number and not secure. With no access to electricity, space heating, water heating, bathing, and cooking were provided through the use of open flames with paraffin (kerosene) the fuel of choice. Shortly after RDP implementation, community and local government relations deteriorated. Housing officials approached PEER Africa and its South African teaming partner, Kimberley Civic Integrated Housing Trust, to reopen the development dialogue. Using the iEEECO™ methodology, the team successfully reestablished communications between Witsand and local government.

In 2002 the Cape Town City Council approved the Witsand iEEECO™ sustainable human settlement pilot project. In 2004 the PEER Africa team was appointed implementing agent for transformation of Witsand into a sustainable community. PEER Africa was appointed in 2011 to complete the full project by 2020.

The program includes housing over 2,600 families in single-family, multi-family, and mixed-use, passive-solar homes with energy efficient and water conserving appliances and fixtures. Municipal infrastructure, storm water best management practices, greening and community gardens are included.

Project funding runs in 3-year cycles. Phase 1- The Pilot: 452 homes and a modern all-purpose artificial turf sports field were completed in june 2010. Phase 2 -The Project: commenced in March 2010, and consists of building another 500 homes (300 built and occupied), expansion of the existing EM&V aspects of the project, and piloting different house designs and self-sustaining power generation technologies. The public transport area has been upgraded including energy efficient, non-light polluting systems. Construction of the remaining 200 homes is underway and will be completed by 2014. Another tender will be issued in 2012 for the remainder of the project.

Solar thermal water heating units are standard on Phase 2 construction and affordable, safe cookstoves, low-energy appliances, solar energy products (flashlights, cell phone charging units), and water and power conserving fixtures are made available to the new homeowners. Most of these PEER Africa tested products are local inventor and supplier entrepreneurial ventures.

Several locally manufactured wind turbine/ solar panel hybrid power systems are being piloted on homes with the intent of establishing self-sustaining mini -grid systems and expanding community based ownership models. Roof mounted weather stations have been added to the EM&V protocols to determine their efficacy.

The iEEECO™ methodology has been demonstrated and proven by a multidisciplined team of South African stakeholders and end-users. Performance-based outcomes - low Carbon footprint homes, solar-thermal water heating solutions for non-electrified homes, jobs creation - have received commendations from the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change, Global Environmental Facility, and United Nations Environmental Programme.

The project received the Eskom ETA Residential Energy Award in 2009 and in 2011 was designated a "Flagship Project" by the South African Government and showcased at COP17 in Durban.

The Witsand Sustainable Human Settlement is a living demonstration project for improving the wellbeing of low-income and indigent people by applying appropriate technologies and modern ideas about places for people to live and work.


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E3S Photos

Witsand Management Team explaining the sustainable human settlement to Eddie Samuels, who invited PEER Africa to Witsand in 2001, Dr. Jigar Shah of International Finance Corporation and Dr. Abron of PEER Africa and PEER Consultants, iEEECO implementing agent.

E3S Photos

Phase 1 Showcase. Joy of a home and community that provides decent, safe, sanitary and secure living conditions and a place to live, work, and play. Proud first time homeowner enjoying the view from his well-maintained lawn. Note the passive-solar design features - large windows facing north and a 600 mm overhang to shade windows in summers. Greening is evident throughout the community.

E3S Photos

"Gap House" for residents who are working, do not qualify for full subsidy, and can get partial bank financing. Phase 2 continues the building of 500 new homes and design of "gap" homes. First of many iEEECO models that also have enhanced "green" fixtures and improvements. EM&V measurements increased and more sophisticated than in Phase 1.

E3S Photos

Piloting of solar-thermal water heating on duplex. Heated water is provided to both units. The project team piloting 200-liter solar water heaters for single and multi-family homes. EM&V of water temperatures and quantities performed on a daily basis by residents, who are members of the management team.

E3S Photos

Gap Home and duplex with Phase 2 improvements - solar-thermal water heating, and power generation using a wind-PV hybrid system. Neither home is on the electrical grid.

E3S Photos

iEEECO Witsand Sustainable Human Settlement Unfolds: Street View - Phase 1 Pilots on Left, Phase 2 Continuation on Right.

E3S Photos

EM&V Measurement and Analysis Tools.

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Small roof-mounted, PV panels used to power cell phones in homes with and without grid electricity. Yvonne Welem, founding member of WEHBSO, demonstrating cellphone charging unit in her home. The cellphone uptake in South Africa is about 80% and the expansion of the electrical grid has not kept up with the uptake in electronics.

E3S Photos

Indoor air quality is a major problem in the informal housing sector. PEER seeks a wide variety of aaffordable, energy efficient, and safe cook stoves for use in the shanties & iEEECO homes. A panel of residents tests the appliances before they are sold in the marketplace.

E3S Photos

Electric Hub modified by one of iEEECO's inventors that uses 40% of electricity normally required for operation. This hub is being tested in one of the homes in Witsand. The power in the home is provided by the wind/PV hybrid system. Power produced and used is collected hourly over data loggers, and power used when cooking is also measured manually. The inventor's power usage clams have been proven. The inventor of this technology received an innovation award during COP17.

E3S Photos

Witsand, 2011 - A Sustainable Human Settlement - A Living Demonstration of the Implementation of the iEEECO Methodology. (Playground equipment is reclaimed, repaired, repainted and being used.)

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Ms. Yvonne Welem, Witsand Leader, delivering the Eskom eta award for excellence in residential energy efficiency won by the iEEECO Witsand Sustainable Human Settlement Project in 2009.

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The iEEECO Witsand Sustainable Human Settlement was selected by the South Africa Government Department of Energy as a Flagship and was showcased at COP 17, the 2011 Climate Summit held in Durban.

E3S Photos

While PEER Africa and the project team have made huge strides in transforming Witsand to a sustainable human settlement, there is still much to do and many more complexities to deal with that are social, political, and environmental. This is the first fully operational sustainable human settlement in South Africa built by the people for themselves.


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