3 Alice Lane – Out-of-the-box thinking brings success

by Ofentse Sefolo
3 Alice Lane – Out-of-the-box thinking brings success

The latest major facade renovation of 3 Alice Lane in Sandton is part of an ambitious plan by the City of Johannesburg that commended in 2016, to renovate its iconic but dilapidated buildings throughout its suburbs. Restoration is significantly more cost-effective than rebuilding and if effectively planned, as in the case of 3 Alice Lane, the building can continue to be operational during the restoration.

This is according to Pherdy le Roux, managing director at GVK-Siya Zama’s regional business in Gauteng – a leading construction company that worked on the building. “The project was commissioned by the Public Investment Corporation for its tenant, Bayport Financial Services, designed by ARC Architects and the renovation took 18 months to complete.

“We fitted a new glass and aluminium facade to bring the 40-year-old building, situated in the heart of Sandton, in line with its iconic neighbours, one of which is The Leonardo and Michelangelo Towers,” said Le Roux. “The five-storey building was built in the 1980s, and the dated precast concrete panelling and flush window design detracted from the value of this prime property in the economic heartland of Johannesburg.”

Specialised skills

The most significant part of the renovation was the addition of the new facade, which required specialist construction skills which seem to be all but lost with the demise of so many of the big names in South African construction.

The new facade consists of a full glass wrap of the building, with a ventilated tiling system cladding the ground floor. The east elevation facing Alice Lane features a perforated aluminium screen, with a design of trees in the panelling. Blue LED lights backlight the screen to highlight the perforated design at night.”

The north elevation was divided into three sections with an eyebrow, wing cladding and a tongue frame highlighting these. All three sections were constructed of powder-coated aluminium to fit in with the design aesthetic of the suburb.

Safety specified
The fact that the building was live with more than 600 people working there during construction proved challenging in terms of safety, noise and access. Specially designed cantilever scaffolding had to be used to allow all work to be done on the outside of the structure.

As is common with facade installations of this nature, the work required exacting precision, even more so due to the use of different materials such as glass, structural steel, tiling and aluminium cladding.

Thinking out of the box
“One of the most challenging aspects was to keep thinking out of the box, and a perfect example was the use of alternative demolition methods. Instead of the typical peckers and breakers, the precast panels were lifted using a crane, which significantly reduced noise, while improving production rates,” comments Le Roux.

Other challenges that made the project technically challenging included:
• The scaffolding requirements were significant, complex and required specially designed cantilever scaffold.
• The existing precast panels had significant structural damage that needed to be repaired prior to the new facade being attached to it.
• The age of the building resulted in unplanned and unforeseen surprises (asbestos found during the demolition work, unexpected services).
• The building needed to remain watertight while construction was in progress and a specific methodology was required to best ensure this outcome.
• The interface between the new facade and the remaining aspects of the existing building required millimetre accuracy.

Le Roux adds that due to the duration of the work and the fact that the building was occupied during the project, the structure had to remain watertight for the entire period. In addition, the discovery of unexpected asbestos and services during construction added to safety concerns and complexity of the task, and had to be mitigated.

Le Roux pointed out that adding a new facade to an old building is a challenge. In the end, all kudos to the client and the architects. “This new skin has really brought the building to life again, probably adding a few decades to its appeal. Renewing buildings presents landlords with a viable option to keep their assets current by adding decades to the life of a building at relatively low cost,” he concluded.

For more information, contact GVK-Siya Zama.

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