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Inland Branch: Sol Plaatje University Site Visit, Kimberley

Concrete Society members visit Fulton Awards winning structure

Kimberley in the Northern Cape was the location for a site visit arranged by the Inland Branch of the Concrete Society of Southern Africa recently.

The site was the Sol Plaatje University Library Building, winner of a 2017 Fulton Award in the ‘Buildings greater than 3-Storeys’ category.
Present were Prof Yunus Ballim, Vice-Chancellor of the University, Andrew Murray, Chairman and Rukesh Raghubir, CEO of Murray and Dickson Construction Group, Hanlie Turner President of the Concrete Society and Society members.

The visit began with a technical seminar focusing on concrete testing. Speakers were Prof Yunus Ballim, Vice Chancellor of Sol Plaatje University, Jannes Bester from the University of Johannesburg and Jaco du Plessis from Go-Consult. Topics covered the testing of fresh and hardened concrete, results interpretation, standards and durability testing.

Prof Ballim welcomes the visitorsProf Ballim welcomes the visitorsProf Ballim then invited the guests to tour the new library at the University, which is nearing completion, and handed proceedings over to Christine Paddon, Director of Facilities and Infrastructure.
Sol Plaatje University, being an entirely new university, meant there was the absence of institutional capacity at the time of project initiation and therefore, there was effectively no programmatic brief. Thorough, advanced and specific Urban Design [UD] parameters defined the 3-dimensional envelope of all new projects on the campus, of which this is one of the last to be delivered in this phase.


The architects’ response to the brief was to provide deep, highly-serviced, flat floors that maximised flexibility. They pushed the building enclosure up against the 3-dimensional envelope, and optimised floor plate efficiency to ensure that all constructed space was effectively assignable.
Synthesis of these actions located all vertical movement and services in a continuous 2.7 m wide perimeter void between the external envelope and the floor plates. This results in an envelope as an integrated 'wall and roof' shell that is functionally, structurally and technically independent of the ‘building' within it. The container is independent of its contents.


The aesthetic success is directly dependent on overall building form, openings in this form were defined with the Energy Consultant to achieve optimal climate and light-harvesting objectives. Shutter lines and concrete lifts give proportion to the form in the most delicate way; invisible from afar, precisely crafted from close-up. Focusing specifically on the objectives has resulted in the contractor (M & D Construction) delivering a highly refined, unmatched, consistently silky, off-steel surface finish.


2.7-metre gap between the external shell and the floor plates2.7-metre gap between the external shell and the floor platesThe 2.7 m gap between the external shell and the occupied floor plates acts as a thermal duvet between the non-insulated external shell and habitable building with it. Thermal loading on this habitable space is successfully buffered. TABS [thermally activated building structure] piping in all concrete slabs and roofs augments a mechanically assisted cross ventilation system to provide seasonal and diurnally predictable topup heating and cooling requirements while retaining desirable fresh air volumes.


Staging and shuttering of huge areas of free-standing external envelope walling is an unusually demanding challenge. The contractor has been able to deliver this at to the highest possible standards collectively agreed, and was able to constantly increase turnaround times per lift.

These are also the benefits of limiting the scope of activities so that each can receive their proper attention.


Concrete Society members gather for the site visitConcrete Society members gather for the site visit

Because concrete has the capacity to be simultaneously structure, envelope, climatic mediator, final finish and, at the same time be slender, it stands alone in an increasing flood of new material innovations, each claiming to do some specific that none of the others can. This project asserts the inherently authentic nature of concrete as ‘liquid stone’.


The branch would like to thank the Sol Plaatje University for their kind hospitality as well as Chryso Southern Africa Group and Lafarge for their generous sponsorship of the event.






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