Pieter van der Walt, a professional architect at WMS Architects, played a key role in the successful implementation of a flight simulator building for Comair.
The client requested a space for the simulator training units, with their supporting rooms and additional services close-by. Training facilities needed to be included in the complex, with the building complimenting the design of the two existing simulator buildings on the site. The client required a building to house two mobile training units and two static training units, with their supporting rooms surrounding them. The provision of lecturing rooms, a computer room, boardrooms, a cafeteria and open-plan offices was included in the brief.
The core purpose of the building is the training of future pilots and continuous training of qualified pilots. The training, briefing and debriefing rooms enhance the harmony between the theory and practical training, which is very beneficial to the trainees.
Carefully selected site location
The building is situated in Rhodesfield, next to the R21 highway, across OR Tambo International Airport. The building is partly visible from the highway. There are three simulator buildings in total on the site and all three are being used for the training of pilots. The strategic placing of the buildings ensures that the training facility is close to the airport for easy access of international trainees, who receive training in this facility.
Unique design and functionality
The curved outline of the building simulates the fuselage form of an aeroplane. The curved space allows for the correct height in the centre of the building to accommodate the total envelope of the simulators when they are in motion. The sides of the building are lower to host the training rooms and other service rooms, supporting the operation of the simulators.
The biggest feature of the building is the curved roof structure that also covers parts of the sides. The building is directed to the north. The northern and southern facades are glass and aluminium curtain walls to allow maximum light into the building. The louvres on the northern and western sides of the building control the sun and the heat gain into the building.
The roof structure consists of different layers of material to achieve the necessary insolation towards the control of heat gain and for sound absorption. The roof structure includes a suspended ceiling with a 20 x 20mm stainless steel Mentis grid and 40mm thick, black cineplex insulation batting with fibre-cement ceiling boards, fixed to the underside of the curved trellis trusses.
The main building construction consists of steel portal frames with brick and plaster infill, as well as glass and aluminium curtain walls on the northern and southern sides of the building. The offices on the second floor are constructed in dry walling to allow flexibility of future developments and requirements.
Exterior and interior transformation
The exterior of the building is done in off-white coloured curved Brownbuilt roof sheeting and the brick walls are finished in light-grey Marmoran, which is a long-lasting, decorative plaster finish. All the window frames are aluminium, with a 9m high aluminium and glass curtain wall on the northern and southern sides of the building.
The interior of the building has an industrial look with exposed services, such as the air-conditioning ducting, chilled water pipes and cable trays for electrical and data lines. The concrete columns, lift shaft and ceilings are exposed off-shutter concrete. Suspended ceilings in the offices and training rooms consist of acoustic panels.
According to Pieter, the building should reflect and communicate an openness and transparency towards the environment and the public. “The operations in the building are open and clearly visible through the big glass and aluminium curtain walls,” he emphasises. “During the night, the simulator halls are illuminated to add an airiness to the building’s appearance.”
Acknowledgement and thanks go to Pieter van der Walt for the information contained in this article. Photographs courtesy of Hermien Klopper.