Celebrating the best in architectural steel

by Madelein
Celebrating the best in architectural steel

Over the past year, despite the challenges in the local construction industry – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic – there was no shortage of innovative structures erected across the country. It was evident after the 2020 Steel Awards, presented by the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) via a highly celebrated online event in the latter part of last year.

The ingenuity, creativity and excellence showcased during the livestream necessitates a more in-depth look into some of the most outstanding and innovative projects celebrated.

Taking top honours as the overall winner, as well as the bridge category winner, was the deserving team from SMEC South Africa for their work on the new replacement swing bridge at the V&A Waterfront.

OVERALL WINNER: Steel Awards 2020
Winner: Bridge category
Project: V&A Waterfront new replacement swing bridge
Cape Town is home to our country’s oldest working harbour, the V&A Waterfront. It is a popular tourist destination with some of the best shopping, dining and accommodation, as well as many top hotels and mixed-use residential housing.

The previous swing bridge was well used and much-loved during its 22 years of service, having to open and close as many as 60 times per day to provide access to various boats. Carrying an average of 2,4 million people per year, it needed to be replaced.

Carrying an average of 2,4 million visitors per year, the new swing bridge’s structure had to be strong, durable and safe The project is the Overall Winner of the 2020 Steel Awards, and also won the bridge category.

Steel becomes the material of choice
Early in the project, steel and FRP were considered as the only materials that were light enough to limit the loads on the moving mechanical parts and to limit the foundation size. However, as the design progressed, the use of steel was the obvious choice.

The new swing bridge has a span of 40m. The deck is cable-stayed with a single plane of four locked coil cables connecting to a central, upstand spine beam.

The spine beam is a 500mm wide fabricated box with a total depth of 800mm, but only 470mm protrudes above the top of the deck.

The reclining pylon is in the continuity of the main central beam and its stiffness transfers the cable loads into the piled substructure. The steel-and-timber deck is rotated on a slewing bearing, which is stressed down onto a doughnut-shaped pile cap by 34 vertical Freyssibars.

Lifting the new bridge into place

“It wasn’t just about technical engineering, but about design, architecture, urban design and people’s experience. Everyone was extremely passionate about the end-product, and because of that a huge amount of effort went into it,” comments John Anderson, project nominator and general function manager for structures at SMEC South Africa.

To limit disruption to the V&A Waterfront, the bridge was assembled on a nearby jetty. Once completed, the bridge was carefully craned onto a barge and towed to its final position. The bridge was then lifted off the barge and mounted onto the slewing bearing.

The judges praised the team for “the combination and integration of mechanical, structural, marine, geotechnical, construction and architectural expertise to create a simple but beautiful structure that moves”.
Video link: https://youtu.be/asFPe74wiH4


DOUBLE WINNER: Metal Cladding Category and Factory and Warehouse Category
Commendation: Architecture category
Project: The Bakers Transport, Cato Ridge

The large distribution warehouse was built last year on a sloping site alongside the N3 Freeway.

The striking red steel lattice work added by the architects made a difference to the building’s facade, yet did not cost much.

“In order to render warehouses financially feasible, the structural steel design needs to be as light as possible. Under normal circumstances, the result is a simplified box with uninspiring aesthetics,” the judges say. The architects innovated and added striking features to the external structure that don’t cost much, but produced a “most impactful visual impression at a negligible cost, considering the scale of the structure”.

Bakers Transport, Cato Ridge: White edging contrasts with the dark colour of the sheeted box, which is further enhanced with lighting. Ries Shaw Architects designed the project.


WINNER: Tubular category
Winning Project: The Menlyn Maine West Atrium skylight project.

Complexity and precision
The recent world-class Menlyn Maine, Park Lane West project included a modern skylight manufactured from lightweight steel, which earned this project several awards. Boogertman + Partners Architects approached design build specialists, LEAF Structures, to assist with the specialised development for the Park Lane West atrium glass skylight.

Due to the stringent deflection requirements of the glass, both during installation and over the long term, the high stiffness of the structure meant the joints between each glass panel could be sealed with just a strip of silicone.


WINNER: Architectural Category
Winning Project: The Precinct Lifestyle Hub, Midrand

The client, Century Property Developments, wanted to attract tenants for a Midrand apartment development by providing a “lifestyle hub” which features a movie theatre, spa, games room, restaurant and gym.

The Precinct Lifestyle Hub: The design incorporated a natural hill and features a bridge and walkways, which limited the environmental impact of the construction.


WINNER: Industrial Category
Vamosem Semi-Mobile Crushing Plant (SMCP)

Aside from comprising over 1 000 fabricated component parts, Betterect’s winning entry – the Vamosem Semi-Mobile Crushing Plant (SMCP) – was a truly big project on many levels, including volume, weight and intensity of labour required.

The project was completed on time and within the budget, with the fabrication completed in February 2020, in time to be entered for this year’s Steel Awards.

“The plant is ‘semi-mobile’ and modular in design, as it has to be relocated as the coal pit grows, with relocation of the plant taking place every two years. Furthermore, it had to be semi-mobile and moved on specialised crawlers, as it is too massive to be transported in any other way.

“This is a remote site in Mozambique. Construction is difficult, transport is difficult and the structure itself is technically challenging. So, this was a very well-executed project, under challenging and technically challenging circumstances, and was well-solved,” comments Kevin Harris, Steel Awards 2020 judge, and managing director of Fabsmart.

“While the impressive dimensions made it a contender as an entry into the Steel Awards 2020, there were numerous additional criteria for the selection of this project,” says Francois Herbst, project engineer at Betterect.


WINNER: Innovation and Sustainability category
Winning project: Whale Trail staircase, De Hoop Nature Reserve
The new steel stairway was designed for Cape Nature’s De Hoop Whale Tail. The stairway was needed to replace the unsafe timber and wire rope ladder that leads down to a renowned swimming cove at Stilgat.

“With an increasing trend in the average age of hikers, the client realised that the route either had to be closed or made safe. Cable or chain ladders were considered too risky for the profile of the hikers and a stairway was approved for the path to Stilgat,” said the design firm, ParaMatic.

Cape Nature wanted a stairway that was aesthetically unobtrusive, with minimal use of cement works. No survey data on the site was available, and ParaMatic had to use a 3D scanner to capture the site.

While it was initially expected that the finished material would be delivered by helicopter, owing to the remoteness of the site, this wasn’t needed in the end. This was thanks to accurate, finished sub-assemblies in small, portable, site-bolted frames. Almost six tons of steelwork were used for the stairs.
Video link: https://youtu.be/bbCRTdz_rDM


WINNER: Export Category
Project: The Douala Grand Mall in Cameroon.

Douala Grand Mall is a new mixed used development situated in close vicinity of Doula International Airport. The mall is the first phase of a multi phased development in the area and was commissioned to provide a luxury shopping experience to the public. When completed Douala Grand Mall will be the first of its kind in Cameroon.

The steelwork superstructure comprises duo and mono-pitch portalised frames with a first floor at approximately 5.85m above ground level. Localized raised steelwork platforms, with suitable grating to support various plant, are situated above the roof line.

The development comprises a 2-level shopping mall with basement parking and is approximately 112.0m x 120.0m on plan. The development was conceptualized by the project architect (Benoy) to be a 2-level steel structure, constructed on a reinforced concrete basement substructure. Raubex Renovo was appointed as the main contractor, with WSP Group Africa appointed as the Civil and Structural Engineers.

The perimeter ground floor steel columns are supported on a reinforced concrete retaining wall, enclosing the basement parking. The internal ground floor steel columns are in turn supported on RC columns on grid or suitable transfer beams.


COMMENDATION: Architectural category
Project: Barloworld and Caterpillar head office and showroom in Isando

The development consists of Barloworld’s head office as well as a Caterpillar showroom and a new training campus.

The 3 200m² showroom ‘bubble’ was built to face directly onto the R24, commanding immediate attention with its striking facade. It consists of two sections, one for tracked Caterpillar heavy industrial equipment and the other for machines with tyres. The curved roofs and sides had to seal with the straight lines to make the structures weatherproof and thermally insulated.

A steel girder framework provided the tracked-shape design of each of the two bubbles, with large spanning trusses carrying the roof, all sitting on a specially devised grid to accommodate the different sized equipment required.

The two ends of the building consist of curved structural steel and horizontal sheeting that both cantilever 15m out from the base and are 15m high. A girder framework provides the tracked-shape design of each of the two bubbles, with large spanning trusses carrying the roof, all sitting on a specially devised grid to accommodate the different sized equipment required.

“We wanted a truly distinctive structure that required out-of-the-box thinking to push the boundaries of what is possible. Paragon Architects was approached to assist us in realising this vision,” explains Aashen Laloo from the developer and client, Eris Property Group.

This presented an engineering challenge to keep the deflections within allowable limits while also keeping the structural elements economical and within the allowed sizing envelope, especially since the large, cantilevered bowing also carried a flushed glazed facade with stringent allowable deflections. Stressed cables were used to hang the bowing cantilevered arches from the remainder of the roof.

“It was a unique project in which we had to design an office environment and integrate it with a building big enough to accommodate large earthmoving equipment,” Paragon project architectural technologist, David Cloete, comments. Hence the showroom typology focused on a “bubble” design in imitation of the curved shape of an excavator tread, a signature component of a Caterpillar excavator.

“At the end of the day we have a landmark heavy industrial equipment showroom near OR Tambo International Airport. It is a tribute to the entire professional team behind it – from the architect to the engineer, as well as to the entire structural steel industry,” says Central Welding Works managing director, Stephen Horwitz.

COMMENDATION: Architecture Category
Project: Botha Halte Farm School, Worcester

The new primary school building was designed by Meyer & Associates Architects and Urban Designers to replace a dilapidated farm school. Although the project was privately sponsored, the school is operated by the Western Cape Education Department and 250 pupils from the farmworker community attend the school.

A walkway at Botha’s Halte Farm School, with four light scoops that pierce through the roof garden above and light up the “tree columns”, similar to the light filtering through the tree canopy in a forest, to provide soft and natural light quality.

The steel “tree columns”
The four “tree columns”, each different in its configuration, are individually sculpted and constructed from tubular steel sections, fitted and welded together, to carry structurally a large central concrete roof and planted roof above.

The central library, where the tubular steel “tree columns” are the most spectacular aspect of the building, according to the judges.

The buildings operate largely off the grid, with solar and wind generating capacity. The benefit of this is demonstrated to pupils via interactive displays. Stormwater is harvested and stored in a reservoir under the buildings, from where the grounds are irrigated.

Project: The 28-day house

The design and construction firm RAW Module came up with a modular house that can be built in 28 days.

By building on an existing slab, the bulk of the house’s structure is erected on the first day on site. By the end of day 1, all modules and structural posts are fixed to the slab. By day ten, all exterior structural work and interior drywalls are completed. After this, the interior work can commence. As the modules hold most of the small items that take a lot of time to fit, the interiors can be completed quickly.

This 158m² house was recently built on a stringent world heritage site.

Project: Pods at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway, Worcester

The client briefed the architect to design pod units for a vacant portion of the farm to be used as guest accommodation, and initially requested to make use of shipping containers to form the structure.

The architect underwent a process of investigating repurposing shipping containers. However, due to the limitation in design, challenges with transport and the complexity of building with containers, working with light steel was suggested. This paid off – in the end, the construction was simplified and the time on site limited.

Project: New conveyor system for the Sappi Saiccor mill, Umkomaas

The new addition to the mill – constructed within a “severely confined space” – added 24 woodchip conveyors which are up to 200m long, as well as other conveyors, to the site. The judges praised the new design’s unique four-conveyor, double-decker, walk-in type gallery, with the gantry bridge spanning 45m, at a height of 24m, over the existing sulphur plant.

The new conveyor system for the Sappi Saiccor mill – designed by TAKRAF Africa – helped to increase production at the Saiccor mill from 780 000 to 890 000 tons per year.

COMMENDATION: Factory and Warehouse category
Corruseal new offices and warehouse, Boksburg

The massive 41 000m² warehouse was built in only six months and required large minimally obstructed spaces to accommodate the production lines and to move materials.

Other category winners and commendations for the Unica Steel Awards 2020 are as follows:

1. Architectural Category – The Precinct Lifestyle Hub
2. Industrial Category – the Vamosem Semi-Mobile Crushing Plant
3. Tubular Category: Menlyn Maine Parklane West Atrium skylight project
4. Metal Cladding: Bakers Transport Cato Ridge
5. Factory and Warehouse category: Bakers Transport Cato Ridge
6. Export Category: The Douala Grand Mall project in Cameroon
7. Innovation and Sustainability category: The Whale Trail Staircase

1. Architectural Category:
a. Bakers Transport Cato Ridge
b. Barloworld and Catepillar head office showroom
c. Botha’s Halte Primary School.
d. Menlyn Maine Parklane West Atrium skylight project

2. Industrial Category – The Sappi Saiccor woodyard mill upgrade

3. Factory and Warehouse category:Corruseal new offices and warehouse in Boksburg

4. Innovation and Sustainability category: 28-day modular house and Pods at Dwarsberg Trout Hideaway

Reflecting on the quality of the projects, Paul Trinchero, chief executive officer of the SAISC, says: “In the light of the pandemic and related economic pressures which we face in South Africa, the industry’s agility and adaptability was clearly reflected by their enthusiasm and participation in this year’s virtual Steel Awards.”

“South Africa needs a healthy and vibrant steel construction industry. This year’s highly successful Steel Awards event showcased not only the capabilities of steel as a material of construction, but the resilience of all the amazing people who work throughout the entire sector to promote the future sustainability of our industry,” he concludes.

Southern African Institute of Steel Construction
Tel: +27 11 726 6111 (Denise Sherman)
Email: denise@saisc.co.za

For more information on the winners and each of the projects which were nominated, visit:
• Winning projects and commendations playlist:
• All nominated projects – project profile videos:

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