New buildings to provide accommodation closer to institutions

16th August 2019 By: Khutso Maphatsoe - journalist

To address the issue of the lack of student accommodation in close proximity to campus, ADA Consulting Engineers has been involved in a greenfield construction project for a Southpoint building on Jorissen street, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

“Owing to Braamfontein being a densely built-up area, a project of this kind has not been constructed in the area in the past 20 years, making it unique. In such an area, it is a known fact that, with taller buildings, there is less cost involved in the development of related infrastructure,” says ADA Consulting Engineers director Paul Maitre.

He adds that the 18-storey building is situated across the road from University of the Witwatersrand and is expected to be completed in November 2020, ahead of the 2021 academic year.

With ADA Consulting appointed as the consulting civil and structural engineers for the project, Maitre explains that the project has very stringent local requirements, with regular meetings being held with the local councillor to ensure that there are employment opportunities for locals, as well as skills development.

Maitre notes that a new type of masonry system, called the autoclave aerated concrete (AAC) block, manufactured by fibre cement manufacturer Everite, is being used for the project.

AAC is a lightweight concrete material used for manufacturing of building blocks. The main constituents of ACC are cement, sand, fly ash, gypsum and water.

AAC is lighter than conventional building blocks and, therefore, results in cost savings, for example, in the support structures. It also increases productivity, as the building blocks are lighter and allow faster construction.

AAC also provides good thermal and fire characteristics, improving temperature control as well as offering better resistance to fire.

The advantages of a greenfield project are that greenfield buildings can be designed and built from scratch and built for purpose in terms of room sizes, services and lifts.

Further, repurposing existing buildings can become complicated as the entire building will have to be redesigned to the building’s new requirements.

“There will always be more of a preference to build from scratch as opposed to repurposing, which is difficult, complex and costly,” he says.

Meanwhile, ADA Consulting Engineers is involved in similar projects in Auckland Park, adjacent to the University of Johannesburg, as well as in Soshanguve, outside Pretoria, to deal with the same issue.

Meanwhile, infrastructure development is deflated, owing to a lack of capital investment by government, and there has not been much capital expenditure in the past ten years, Maitre explains.

“The lower volume of work has resulted in construction companies downscaling and some even closing.”

Although South Africa’s construction capabilities have decreased substantially over the past few years, the industry is positive about the latest announcements by government in having identified the massive need for infrastructure spend, he concludes.