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Two new residences at the Durban University of Technology’s Steve Biko Campus

Rod Stagman

23 September 2014 - The Durban University of Technology (DUT) currently has nine residences located throughout the Steve Biko campus in central Durban. As part of a consortium led by Creative Axis architects, Aurecon has been contracted to undertake civil, structural, fire and wet services engineering on two new blocks of student residences that will help accommodate additional students.

The two new residences, called Winterton and Steve Biko residences, are set to address the very serious shortage of student accommodation near campus and are set to be completed within the first few months of 2015. Each of the residences will be four stories high; feature single as well as double rooms; and be able to accommodate paraplegic students.

Rod Stagman, Aurecon’s Project Leader on the project, comments: “The two new residences form part of a larger campus upgrade and had to be tied in with the DUT’s master plan in terms of facilitating the flow of pedestrians, students and visitors through campus. In addition, their design was required to be modern in order to appeal to students.”

 “A number of significant challenges have been experienced during construction,” comments Stagman, going on to say that the most significant of these was an abundance of groundwater.

“The site drops in elevation and due to the fact that there are sports fields above the site, groundwater flows in steadily. To combat this, Aurecon designed cut-off drains and fin drains in order to funnel the water away from the site,” says Stagman.

In addition, while the design of the buildings begun in December 2012, the ground works were only able to commence in November 2013 as the brownfields site required the demolition of a netball court and removal of large amounts of building rubble on site in order commence with the piled foundations for the new residences.

The foundation platforms are also close to mean sea level, meaning stabilisation of these were key. “Geotechnical studies were conducted to ensure that the solution we were proposing was viable. After we were able to determine that this was the best way to create a sturdy foundation, we were able to specify the ground preparation for the piled foundations,” says Stagman.

Additional challenges included the sequencing of construction to expedite completion due to delays for various reasons, including the protracted Metal Workers Union strike. Stagman explains: “The contractor decided that more concrete pours needed to be tackled at the same time, which meant that additional site supervision and more workers were needed. Aurecon and the design team helped the contractor plan how we could execute various jobs at the same time in order to meet very tight deadlines.”

This was also facilitated through using Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Revit software to create a 3D model of the structural aspects of the project. “The two new residences are substantial in size, and creating a 3D model of the buildings assisted us in coordinating the various services within the building with the architects, who were working within the constructs of the same 3D modelling software,” says Stagman.

The new residences at the Durban University of Technology have been designed to create a welcoming, modern space for students living on campus. “More students will soon be able to secure accommodation on campus thanks to these two new residences. Staying on campus is not only more sociable and safe for students, but it means that more students will be able to attend lectures and student functions without needing to organise transport or taking lengthy commutes to the University,” concludes Stagman.

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