by Tariené Gaum


This study investigates the energy-efficient building regulatory practices of 57 pertinent Global South (GS) countries and their current response to climate-change mitigation strategies in the built environment (BE). This thesis proposes developing a systemic decision-making tool to advise GS countries on efficient guidelines in the form of an interactive online platform (IOP). Various aspects of climate change, methods, mitigation and adaptation have been studied extensively in developed countries or the Global North (GN). In comparison, the current knowledge levels regarding energy efficiency, its associated codes and regulations in developing GS countries are limited. At the same time, most GS countries are more vulnerable than GN countries to the impact of climate change and the resultant effects caused by global warming.


In 2015, members of the United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated climate-change targets as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs include affordable and clean energy (SDG 7); developing sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11); ensuring sustainable infrastructure (SDG 9); and taking overall climate action (SDG 13). The original intention of the SDGs was to achieve a more sustainable future by addressing poverty levels, protecting the planet and safeguarding peace and prosperity for everyone. With less than seven years left to achieve the identified SDGs, it is improbable that GS countries will meet the agreed intergovernmental climate-change targets and achieve the SDGs.


The BE features directly in SDGs 9 and 11, and indirectly in SDGs 6, 7 and 13, which require a complete redevelopment of the building sector. A limited number of GS countries have sufficient Building Energy Efficiency Codes (BEECs) addressing the adverse effects of climate change. This knowledge gap requires urgent attention. Researchers and decision-makers must develop environmental knowledge and literacy to achieve long-term sustainable stratagems.


Focusing on the BE, this study reviews energy-efficiency’s history, concepts and role, from its original inception to existing practices and available frameworks. The study defines the GS, highlighting the significance, contribution and critical need for resource efficiency in its BE. Using the projected 2050 urban population figures, CO₂ emissions and distinctive climatic regions as a selection basis, the study identified the largest GS role players and evaluated the extent and efficacy of their current BEECs. The mixed-method research methodology includes a combination of literature review and desk research. Data originate from various government departments, official regulatory bodies and industry professionals. The data were standardised, evaluated and interpreted to develop the proposed new decision-making tool.


The results of the first research stage indicated that 49% of the selected GS countries are not implementing any form of BEECs or related policies. The study progressed to a critical review and analysis of country-specific BE policies to address the identified need for building energy-efficiency regulations in the GS. Variable-oriented comparisons of the energy-efficiency levels in present-day BE regulatory policies of GS countries provided the primary research data. The data were compared with specific sustainability criteria to develop a prototype decision-making tool. The information was translated into an innovative IOP, called the Sustainable Level Indicator Model, Matrix and Maps (SLIM³). The purpose of using an online platform for SLIM³ is to facilitate and enhance information accessibility. Decision-makers could use SLIM³ to establish guidelines and provide a way forward to facilitate more extensive implementation of BEECS and strategies within the GS.


The uniqueness of this study is threefold. Firstly, the study collated all the available BEECs’ data for the GS. Secondly, the research is presented comparatively to facilitate knowledge sharing. Thirdly, the contribution of SLIM³ as a digital information system addresses the limited research and information shortfall on BEECs, specifically in the GS.


This study is one of the first and most extensive research projects consolidating and comparing the BEECs of 57 GS countries. The SLIM³ tool aims to guide GS countries without the necessary codes towards BE resilience while moving closer to the SDGs and 2050 climate-change targets.


Key Terms: Building Energy Efficiency Codes (BEECs), Built Environment (BE), climate change, decision-making model, Global South (GS), Sustainable Level Indicator Model, Matrix and Maps (SLIM³).





Chapter 1 introduces the impact of climate change on the GS. The possibility of using BEECs to mitigate the effects of climate change in the GS while making the BE more resilient for future impact is formulated. Also, the Chapter contains a brief review of the problems associated with energy consumption, CO₂ emissions and global warming in the BE. 

The problem and its setting, along with the main problem statement, sub-problems (posed as questions) and corresponding hypotheses, are defined and formulated for testing. Selected terms and their respective definitions are mentioned to provide context and insight. The study’s assumptions are listed along with the delimitations, objectives and importance of the study. The research methodology, context and paradigm are stated to establish the researcher’s normative position. The research design serves as an illustrative roadmap of the study and provides the diagrammatic basis to discuss the triangulated research approach. 


Chapter 1 concludes with the specific expertise of the researcher to comment on the research topic. The study follows a structured research design to draw conclusions at the end of each chapter and to introduce the subsequent chapter.




The desk review initially explores the topic of climate change, providing a comprehensive overview of international efforts, negotiations and requirements towards climate targets and the Paris Agreement. The review briefly examines the correlation between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the likelihood of achieving climate change targets. 

Chapter 2 proceeds with a concise analysis of the BE and related goals. This is followed by defining “building regulations” and “energy efficiency” and their role in promoting sustainable BE practices. A brief history of building energy-efficiency regulations and the different types of BEECs are discussed. The study further explores the importance of climate change in the GS and identifies the study population based on the newly created “Brandt Line” (135 GS countries). This chapter investigates sustainable building practices in developed and developing countries, focusing on the absence of BEECs in the GS. 


To conclude Chapter 2, a chord diagram with interactive elements to support the researcher in conveying the findings, the complexity of climate change challenges and the subsequent relationship to the GS.


Figure X:Interactive chord diagram of climate-change challenges faced by GS countries (Author, 2023).


The purpose of Chapter 3 is to investigate the availability of building regulations and related energy-efficiency policies of GS countries. The chapter sets out the selection criteria to establish the target population based on the significant climate change factors contributing to the vulnerability of GS countries: The Projected 2050 urban population, CO2 emission levels and Climate characteristics according to the Köppen-Geiger climate map.



The pilot study focuses on the implementation, extent and status of BEECs in the identified 57 GS countries. At the same time, the findings highlight the lack of legislative frameworks and the increasing vulnerability of the GS. The study population is further narrowed down to a sample of 18 GS countries, identifying only those implementing mandatory BEECs for their entire building sector. 


The results from Chapter 3 are presented in a geographical format (on an IOP) and serve as a foundation for the main study (Part 1 and Part 2) and are presented in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, respectively.



The first section of the pilot study, Phase 2.1, commences with an analysis of themes surrounding pertinent GS climate-change challenges. These themes respond to the major climate-change challenges identified in Chapter 2: socio-economic, BE and climate.

The largest contributors or role players of each criterion are identified to determine their level of representation. The criterion and relationship between the GS countries are summarised in a comprehensive overview, identifying the target population. The interactive chord diagram illustrates the correlations between the GS countries and the selection criteria with the corresponding information on each criterion.


Figure X: Chord diagram representing the connections of the three selection criteria in the 135 GS countries (Author, 2023).


The three selection criteria evaluated the study population (135 GS countries), establishing the target population. As discussed earlier, the target population significantly contributes towards climate while being vulnerable to its effects. Phase 2.2 of the pilot study begins by determining the status, extent and implementation of BEECs of the identified 57 GS countries.


A detailed review of the BEECs used in each country was conducted to determine the extent of code coverage. The review identified the number of GS countries with BEECs, ultimately establishing the current status of the GS. Finally, an interactive online map is presented to summarise key findings and give an overview of the GS’s efforts towards climate-change mitigation in its BE.



Figure X: Geographic overview of BEECs’ status in 57 GS countries (Author, 2023)




Chapter 4 presents the first part of the main study and commences with Phase 3 of the research design. Its emphasis is on the structure, formulation and implementation of mandatory BEECs in the 18 GS countries (sample population). 

Chapter 4 introduces a novel Hierarchy of Building Elements Framework (HoBEF) that outlines the GS approaches and BEEC formulation. Additionally, it explores two GN frameworks: the Sheridan, Visscher, and Meijer and the Nordic Five-Level Model, comparing them with the HoBEF. The GS and GN frameworks are then amalgamated to inform the development of the new Sustainable Level Indicator (SLI) Model. 

The progress towards addressing the main problem and related sub-problems is provided. This chapter introduces the newly developed SLI Model as a fundamental component to establish the pertinent energy-efficiency criteria of BEECs in Chapter 5 and ultimately guide the formulation of future BEECs in the GS. Chapter 4 serves as the basis for Chapter 5, where a qualitative energy efficiency SLI Matrix and quantitative SLI Map is established using the SLI Model developed in this chapter. 

Figure X: New SLI Model for structuring and comparing BEECs in the GS (Author, adapted from Gaum et al. (2022:6))


Chapter 5 is a brief exploration indicating the development of levels 1-5 of the SLI Model. The progress in addressing the main problem and its associated sub-problems is reviewed. Chapter 5 determines that existing GS BEECs do not currently address BE resilience or its climate change challenges. However, the chapter found that mandatory GS BEECs covering the entire building sector can be used to develop SLIM³. An analytical tool is needed to compare relevant criteria and currently no such tool exists.



In Chapter 5, a concise investigation is conducted to illustrate the development of levels 1-5 of the SLI Model. The review highlights the progress in addressing the main problem and its related sub-problems. This chapter determines that existing GS BEECs do not address climate change challenges and the need for BE resilience. Nevertheless, the study found that GS BEECs requiring mandatory implementation for the entire building sector could serve as a foundation for developing the SLIM³. 

The last stage of the study included a comparative analysis of the technical requirements outlined in the 20 BEECS, from 18 countries belonging to the GS. In this part, a comprehensive evaluation and comparison of each country’s code helped to identify the energy efficiency criteria. As a result, a comparative SLI Matrix indicated the detailed technical requirements, including a comprehensive comparison of the actual quantitative energy efficiency criteria of each BEEC, presented as an SLI Map on an IOP. 


To summarise, the newly developed SLI Model was used to organise the data from the SLI Matrix and Map according to relevant themes, topics and terminologies, resulting in overall coherence and harmonisation amongst the various BEECs. This chapter serves as the foundation for Chapter 6, where a prototype tool is introduced. The goal is to develop a decision-making tool that is contextually appropriate to the GS, by using the SLI Model, SLI Matrix, and SLI Map (SLIM³), as developed in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.



Figure X:  Geographic overview (SLI Map) of the quantitative energy efficiency criteria in the BEECs of 18 GS countries (Author, 2023).




Chapter 6 forms the final product of this thesis, whereby Phase 5 (Part 3 of the main study) amalgamates the results obtained from Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5. To assist GS countries in enhancing their BE resilience, the SLI Model, SLI Matrix and SLI Map are combined to develop the SLIM³ prototype decision-making tool.

Chapter 6 discusses the SLIM³ tool and IOP as a contextual prototype and solution, providing GS countries with individual decision-making guidelines that are easily accessible, contextually appropriate, socially achievable and economically viable. Hosting SLIM³ on an IOP provides access to GS BEECs that are currently available. This is accompanied by additional explanations of the tool’s purpose, scope and developmental stages, including screenshots of its functionality and performance.


To illustrate the functional operation of SLIM³, Chapter 6 concludes with screenshots of the decision-making tool applied to South Africa’s BEECs as a case study. The SLIM³ tool provides a comprehensive overview of the energy efficiency criteria and requirements available in the BEECs of South Africa. This serves as a guideline when revising existing BEECs or developing new BEECs that are appropriate to the GS.


The objective of SLIM³ is to encourage knowledge sharing and to facilitate inter- and intra- learning among GS countries. The SLIM³ decision-making tool, along with its IOP, is currently in the prototype stage and should be considered as the first version of its development.