Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) as part of the Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team (“CC19RRTT”) is calling on Government to make the Construction Sector part of the designated Essential Services.

Contractor Grinaker-LTA in a joint venture with BEE firm Keren Kula Construction has announced that it is close to completing a R580-million construction contract for the Department of Health’s new headquarters in Pretoria’s CBD.

Graeme Jones The contractor's work has entailed a complete refurbishment of the 30-storey Civitas building – which was originally built in 1971 and has housed the Department of Internal Affairs – as well as the construction of a new nine-storey office tower alongside it.

As part of the Expanded Public Works Programme, this contract has contributed to training artisans for the skills-strapped construction industry. Skills training was provided in various trades, including bricklaying, carpentry, tiling, plastering and plumbing, explains Graeme Jones, contracts director at Grinaker-LTA Building Inland. Following a six-month training period, each student received a certificate of compliance. A total of 169 students were trained, he reports. Life skills and AIDS awareness training also formed part of the programme.

In addition to the Expanded Public Works training initiatives, the contract provided 498 workers with in-house training in subjects ranging from first aid to plant operation. A further 205 staff members were trained on site in basic construction skills, Jones states. Four candidates from the Civitas site were also entered into a two-year trainee foreman learnership. A full-time HIV/AIDS awareness programme was conducted for all staff, and Jones says that it’s estimated that this programme reached 3 000 people.

This contract has netted a number of safety awards since it commenced, including twice attaining second place in its category in the Gauteng Regional MBA (Master Builders’ Association) safety competition, and receiving a 5-Star MBSA (Master Builders South Africa) safety rating. The site has currently achieved 1.75 million lost time injury free hours.

Jones says one of the contractors’ greatest challenges on this contract was the vertical movement of staff and materials within the old Civitas skyscraper – with demolitions going down and material for installation needing to go up, all while two staircases were being demolished and rebuilt. “We also faced the challenge of limited storage space,” he notes.

Both the refurbished Civitas building and the new office tower feature striking glass facades, the R40-million sub-contract for which was undertaken by Grinaker-LTA Facades, a division of the Building Business Unit. In addition to giving the old structure a modern new look, these glass “curtain walls” are also designed to make the buildings more energy efficient. Jones elaborates: “The glass curtain walls comprise sealed, insulated glass units consisting of specialised inner and outer glass panels with an airspace in between them. These units are designed to improve natural lighting in the office areas while simultaneously reducing solar heat build-up within the buildings, resulting in decreased lighting and air-conditioning energy requirements. With SA’s building regulations under review with the aim of reducing energy demand from industry by 15% in 2015, the new Civitas buildings’ energy-efficient features are particularly noteworthy. The average office building has a heat load of 120 Watts (W) per m3, depending on the details of the building. With their energy-saving curtain walls, the Civitas buildings run at approximately 90 W/m3.  These energy-efficient glass facades have resulted in the buildings surpassing the target to reduce overall energy consumption by 24% on the air-conditioning side. This represents significant cost savings for the client, the Department of Public Works, and the tenant, the Department of Health.”

During the installation of the glass facades, the contractors employed innovative safety systems to minimize the potential safety risks associated with lifting 510 000 kg of glass up a 30-storey skyscraper. “Project specific lifting rigs were developed,” Jones notes. “In addition, more than 1 200 m of lifelines were installed to protect the panel installation workers.

“This is a project of which we are justifiably proud, and we look forward to handing it over to the client next month (April),” he concludes.


Spending on construction could exceed R100bn this year due to low interest and inflation rates, says the Master Builders Association of SA. 

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