Today in SA a water tank is a necessity for most businesses. Tanks dot our landscape from urban backyards to corporate rooftops, hospitals to business parks and increasingly the landscape of our countryside.
With a predicted 17% gap between demand and availability of water supply by 2030 predicted by the South Africa Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), there is little doubt that any new architectural development needs to be built to be self-sustained, at least, in terms of their non-potable water requirements.
Although unanimously an essential aspect of our future buildings, water tanks remain a life-saving eyesore for those who can afford their initial cost.
We ask the question is aesthetics important and what is its impact on us as the inhabitants of the spaces around these tanks?
As developers move to incorporate water tanks into residential homes, game lodges, eco estates and even corporates, the value of the entire project becomes intertwined with the aesthetic beauty of the project. Just like architecture needs to blend in seamlessly with the landscape, so too should the life providing water tanks of the buildings. Tanks are becoming available in an increasing variety of shapes, sizes, colours, materials and can be disguised with magnificently beautiful screens or murals to be turned into a work of art.
However, blending these colossal structures into their surroundings provides its own challenges such as being limited by what materials can be used, the additional cost of the aesthetics and having to ensure the water can still be stored safely.
In the case that artful concealment is not an option, then can the space be used to actively add to the landscape in which it sits?
Leading manufacturers Abeco Tanks are not only creating ways to democratise access to water but to use the tanks themselves as a sustainable secondary income source for the hundreds of terminally ill and elderly inhabitants of the Alexandra township.
In partnership with the remarkable Grace Marutlulle, The City of Johannesburg and Johannesburg Development Agency, Abeco recently supplied a 152 Killolitre water tank on a 30-metre stand to the new Alex Hospice and Rehabilitation Centre development. By raising the 52-ton tank up 30 meters the Abeco team was able to use gravity to help solve the institution’s water pressure challenges and ensure the facility has stored water in case of emergencies such as fire without relying on electricity.
Whilst a life-changing achievement for the community, the sustainability of the running costs will become more important than the City of Johannesburg’s initial investment of R80 million if this beacon of hope is to stand for generations to come.
To help raise these funds the hospice is cleverly turning to advertising that can wrap around the sky-high Abeco water tank to create an opportunity to fundraise monthly costs.
The Alexander water tank has come to be a landmark that symbolises a fairer, more sustainable kind of collaboration between institutions like Hospice, our Government and big corporate. Water is now a commodity we must treasure, and the tanks can be so much more than simply a storage vehicle.
When we design the landmarks of our futures, architects will need to go beyond designing mere buildings to designing entire self-contained ecosystems that can generate, distribute, recycle resources and empower their inhabitants. The Abeco tank in Alexandra is a great example of this approach to building a brighter future. As a landmark, it is changing the way we resolve issues of sustainable income, hope and dignity in South Africa through prioritising sustainable access to water, ecologically sound building practices and economic interventions that have a ripple effect into the cultures of their communities.