New brick revolutionises regeneration of Cape Town's CBD

Posted On Monday, 30 January 2006 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Ultra lightweight resolved building problems inherent to the reconstruction of ageing architectural gems

Construction Industry“Necessity is the mother of all inventions” may not have been a phrase coined to describe the manner in which Crammix Bricks’ innovative new product came into being, but it applies none the less.

When recent regeneration projects in Cape Town’s inner city presented building contractors with a dilemma, Crammix staffers donned their thinking caps and cooked-up a pioneering design for an ultra lightweight NFP maxi brick, the Crammix MaxiLite, which resolved building problems inherent to the reconstruction of ageing architectural gems.

While property developers may be keen to convert the older buildings in Cape Town’s CBD into swanky loft apartments, these dated structures do not always accommodate altering the internal partitioning arrangement.

To convert these majestic old office buildings into apartment blocks would require a lot more solid masonry walling, which translates into more weight, placing extra strain onto the slabs. Although dry partitioning systems have been used in the past, this system has its limitations. So naturally, while working on transforming one of Cape Town’s oldest art deco buildings, Market House on Greenmarket Square, this presented the architects, Smuts & Boyes Architects, to consider other alternatives, such as solid masonry walling or some other form of lightweight partitioning.

The Market House project is what they call a demolition job, in other words an alteration job, entailing new walls and the whole structure being revamped. In this instance the slab was too thin to take the load.

Initially clay NFX (Non-Facing Extra) bricks were considered in the build, but the findings of the feasibility study on the structural capacity of the building dictated that a lightweight partitioning system would be more appropriate. “This system also proved to be economically viable, as we were able to bypass the additional costs that would be incurred in straightening the existing building,” explains Paula McComb, from LC Consulting, the structural engineering practice commissioned to work on the Market House project. Being an award winning company with an international reputation for innovation and economy in design solutions, LC Consulting specified a lightweight SABS approved brick as a prerequisite for this type of build.

In his efforts to find a solution to this conundrum, contractor Roland Hewett of M&M Unlocking Opportunties approached Dean Roux, a sales consultant at Crammix Bricks knowing from a previous experience that they would come up with the appropriate solution.
Crammix is committed to creating innovative solutions for the building industry. Over the years the company has been the first to develop the revolutionary Cramlite Maxi Plaster brick, modular clay pavers and clay cobbles. So it was no surprise when Crammix designed the MaxiLite NFP (Non Facing Plastered) maxi brick, that would enable a safe and cost-effective way to transform old buildings into modern residential monoliths.

Although the “new” brick is lighter, it still meets all the stringent size and performance criteria as laid out in the SABS 227 and national building regulations for standard masonry plaster products. The product is the same size as a standard maxi (222x114x90) brick, but weighs only 2.65kg per brick. This is 11% lighter than the existing CramLite NFP, resulting in the weight per square metre being less than 93kg (excluding mortar). The nearest masonry alternate is as much as 30% heavier.

“It only takes about 36 bricks (compared to 54) in a square metre, which means it lessens the load substantially on the slab,” says Hewitt.

From a surface point of view, the MaxiLite NFP brick mirrors the appearance of its CramLite maxi partner, except for two perforations running through its centre, as opposed to the normal four. According to Hewett, the brick’s ribbed and ridged surface “makes it perfect for plastering and finishing, especially for smooth plastering surfaces.”

Hewett has also observed that “the ridges in the brick help keep in cement when they actually plaster it up and trowel it on, the cement sticks to the actual brick – that’s the bonding process.”

Crammix’ MaxiLite brick has also proved easier for builders to work with, as it is lighter than the standard brick, which makes it easier to lay. In essence, more bricks can be laid before a wall starts to lean over resulting in speedier and more cost-effective construction. Its load-bearing capacity also makes it the ideal product for high rise reconstructions.

“The amazing thing is that the MaxiLite brick has also worked out to be more cost effective than other alternates,” says Hewett. “It can save as much as 25% in productivity, thereby reducing labour costs (compared to the use of a standard NFP), 20% less mortar is required, site wastage is also reduced, crane lifting is easier and there is less weight in transportation, resulting in the build being three times faster than normal.”

The developer, Theodore Yach of Theodore Yach Property Services says not only has he been impressed with Crammix’ MaxiLite brick but also with the high levels of service that the company delivers. “I have never had a company that would go to this extent to manufacture a specialised brick solely for the purposes that we required.” He adds, “Products like this will go a long way to improve our efficiencies as developers.”

To ensure that Crammix’ superior service levels are maintained Clive Archer, managing director of the company advises that as the MaxiLite brick is the only product of its kind on the market and is therefore expected to be in high demand, builders and professionals should plan their requirements in advance as this is a specialised line and forewarning is essential to ensure speedy delivery.



Last modified on Friday, 18 October 2013 09:18

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