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Construction of SA’s new mega mall – Mall of Africa – well underway

Mall of Africa

13 October 2014 - The 1.6 million square metre mixed-use Waterfall City is being called the most ambitious commercial development undertaken in southern Africa to date.

Close to the Allandale off-ramp to the N1 highway in Midrand, Gauteng, Waterfall City will be the epitome of the eat-shop-work-play integrated living environment that we are already seeing at internationally acclaimed commercial hubs across the globe. At its centre is the Mall of Africa. Set to become the largest mall ever built in a single phase in South Africa, Mall of Africa is raising the bar for retail centres on the African continent.

Earthworks for the Mall of Africa began in October 2012, with the mall’s opening scheduled for April 2016.

It is envisaged that the 130 000 m² retail mall’s distinctive design, which was meticulously planned by MDS Architects, prime location and envious retail mix will offer a unique retail experience, making it a destination for both local and tourist visitors.

Aurecon was contracted by leading South African property developer and investor, Atterbury Property Developers, to undertake both civil and structural engineering on this iconic development, with a focus on optimised design solutions through continuous value engineering, working closely with the Quantity Surveying team, to ensure budgets are adhered to in support of the feasibility of the project.

Proven investment potential

“Several urban studies have proven that there is an excellent business case for situating the Mall of Africa within the Waterfall City development. The mall will help the City realise its financial potential,” believes Aurecon Project Director, Nicol Labuschagne.

He adds that while involvement in such a large-scale project has been exciting, projects of this scale and magnitude present a unique set of challenges to the project team.

Pre-empting material shortage

The recent strike in the metals and engineering sector, led by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), saw over 200 000 Numsa members embark on what was dubbed an ‘indefinite strike’ by the local media. This could potentially have derailed a number of major deliverables on this project. “In this instance, detailed design documentation had to be fast-tracked even further to enable the contractor, WBHO/Group Five JV, to pre-order rebar and steel formwork ahead of the strike. This mitigated many of the potential delays as a result of the strike,” says Labuschagne.

Geotechnical challenges

The underlying geological profile of the 16.5 hectare footprint of the mall site comprises soft to very hard rock granites with intrusions of diabase in places. Residual soils have developed from the weathering of the granites and diabase bedrock with overlying transported hillwash of varying depths and an abundance of subsoil groundwater in places.

“Geotechnical challenges to be dealt with as a result included the upfront profiling of the granite bedrock to minimise the amount of hard rock excavations, the subsoil drainage design over such a large footprint, and the varying founding conditions encountered due to the variable nature of the site geology,” says Labuschagne. He adds, “This meant that no single founding solution could be used. Our project teams had to tailor the founding solution for each column or wall in accordance with its specific site condition, making use of either piling or conventional spread footings or a combination of both.”

Time constraints

The planned opening of the mall at the end of April 2016 has placed the professional team and the contractor under tremendous pressure with a number of milestone deadlines to meet. This called for close cooperation and collaboration with the full professional team.

“For Aurecon, this meant ramping up our delivery capability by allocating additional resources to the project to ensure our construction documentation is timeously produced, peer-reviewed, approved and issued to site. The fast-track nature of the construction programme saw us using reinforced concrete flat and coffer slabs for the retail areas and post tensioned flat slabs for most of the parking decks to speed up construction,” explains Labuschagne.

The epitome of integrated living

In terms of aesthetics, the parking areas at Waterfall City include valet parking as well as additional parkades which, together with the entrances, will accentuate the urban planning framework and the unique identity of the mall. The development is being designed to create a pedestrian-friendly environment around the perimeter, with focus being placed on immaculately landscaped areas and aesthetically pleasing walkways.

“The Mall of Africa is much more than an economic anchor of Waterfall City; it’s also a visual and social anchor with striking features and bespoke amenities. Aurecon applauds the developers for this bold, ambitious project and is proud to be involved,” concludes Labuschagne.

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