First purpose-designed science centre in Cofimvaba

Project Status: 

The CSIR is overseeing the design and construction of South Africa’s first purpose-designed science centre in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape. The science facility will not only demonstrate technology, but also incorporate the latest sustainable technologies throughout the design process. The building will achieve beyond net-zero energy and water through the selection and combination of technologies to maximise building performance.

The 1 369 m2 facility will assist and encourage learners from 26 high schools in the district to study science and technology. Through the design and development of the centre, the CSIR is able to contribute to science learning by demonstrating how green buildings are designed, contracted, constructed and optimally occupied.

The facility contains classrooms, laboratories for chemistry, physics and computing, and has a multi-purpose lecture theatre that doubles as a planetarium. This is in support of the Square Kilometre Array SKA global next-generation radio telescope project involving institutions from over 20 countries – a project strongly supported by the DST.

CSIR researchers hope that the methods used in the planning – including design, procurement, construction, commissioning and operation  – could be shared and potentially replicated in South Africa.

The facility is designed to be net-zero energy. This means that it will produce more energy on site annually than it consumes – one of only a handful of buildings in South Africa to achieve this.

The science centre will produce the energy it needs through solar panels on the rooftop and small-scale wind turbines.  This will make it a grid asset, as energy generated on site will be fed back into the grid when the building has a surplus. 

The centre's energy demand is estimated at 110 000 kWh per annum.  This will require an 80 kW solar-electric system mounted on the saw tooth roof of the centre, and a 30-45 kWh battery storage system to reduce the building's peak energy demand.  Small-scale wind turbines can supplement the solar energy production.

It is also designed to be net-zero water, harvesting more water annually than it uses, while its aggressive passive-design measures are intended to enable the elimination of mechanical heating and cooling.


The Department of Science and Technology

Key Concept

Zero energy building
A zero energy building is an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.