There is just no question about it ¬– one of South Africa’s development needs is a decent roof over every citizen’s head. The country’s largest manufacturer of hollow-core concrete flooring slabs, the Echo Group, is playing a key role in the creation of new high-density housing communities for such a need.
Two new high-density suburbs in Gauteng are using Echo’s advanced hollow-core concrete floor-slab technology to accelerate the delivery of thousands of new homes.
These projects – the Jabulani CBD development in Soweto, which is a joint venture between listed residential development group Calgro M3 Holdings and Inkanyele Projects, and Fleurhof Extension 2 township northwest of Johannesburg – are among the largest mass-housing projects currently under way, and involve the construction of about 14 000 homes.
Bryan Blieden, the director of group procurement at Calgro M3, says similar integrated community projects are planned for the Western Cape and the Free State. “These projects will also use the Echo technology to fast-track the building of another 4 000 units,” he says.
Over the next seven years builders will be using Echo precast slabs exclusively at Fleurhof’s 7 600 three- and four-storey housing units. The plan is to fully integrate the units into a full social infrastructure of mixed business areas, crèches, religious sites, community centres and parks.
Another 4 000 similar high-density units are under construction at Jabulani, adjacent to Soweto’s Jabulani Mall. This development, lasting over the next five years, consists of sectional title units, subsidised rental housing and bonded homes for sale on the open market. Several hundreds of units have already been sold to various housing institutions and residents associations. Echo hollow-core slabs are also used in this project.
Blieden says Echo is their preferred supplier in this major partnership. “Echo has dedicated people. The combination of product quality, on-site service delivery, engineering, design and installation expertise all add up to the solution we have been looking for,” he says.
He estimates that Echo’s product delivery and technical know-how enable his contractors to build a residential block three weeks faster than using conventional wet-concrete methods.
“It has been a contest between design and installation expertise and local knowledge versus low prices. Echo has come out on top every time,” says Monique Eggebeen, the managing director of Echo Prestress. “Echo’s 30 years of experience in the local construction industry and its intimate understanding of the country, as opposed to different European operating conditions, have counted in the end.”
Eggebeen says Echo’s two Gauteng plants can produce 70 000m2 of slabs per month and are fully geared to meet the demand of the Fleurhof and Jabulani developments. “Echo factories in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape are also equipped to supply similar high-density housing constructions needs in these provinces or close by.”
Echo offers a professional design service, the manufacturing, installation and grouting of prestressed hollow-core floors. Structural designs are in accordance with SANS 0100:1992 and are flexible enough to suit the requirements of the consulting engineer and the client with the focus on a design solution which is both economically viable and aesthetically pleasing.
One team can erect up to 600m2, which enables the contractor to proceed with the balance of the structure without being delayed by wet concrete. A grouting service is also included in the price and is done by an in-house team. The approximate quantities for 120mm, 150mm, 170mm and 200mm deep slabs require 1m3 of river sand and ten pockets of ordinary Portland cement per 100m2. Slabs that are 250mm deep require 1,5m3 of river sand and 15 pockets of cement per 100m2.
Echo Prestress is suitable for most types of multi-storey buildings and can also be used in security walling, retaining walls, reservoir roofs, and attenuation tank roofs and foundation systems for social housing.