SAISC Steel Awards – what makes a good Steel Awards entry?

The 2019 South African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) Steel Awards were an unmitigated success with a record number of entries, a record level of sponsorship and an unprecedented diversity of entries. However, the question that has to be raised is what makes an entry strong for this key event on the local steel industry’s calendar.

“The first thing we are looking for is the innovative use of steel in construction – and this year’s entries were characterised by particularly high levels of innovation,” says SAISC Technical Director Amanuel Gebremeskel.

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Innovation was a particular hallmark of this year’s overall winning entry and winner of the steel innovation category, the Durban Christian Centre (DCC). The new building was commissioned to replace an earlier domed building on the site which had been destroyed by fire. The client wanted to retain the dome superstructure and appearance over the auditorium, which in itself was a challenge. Three visually striking steel arches are used to support the roof below, circumventing the need for supports inside the auditorium, and resulting in a clear and uncluttered under-roof space.

“With the new DCC, the strength and flexibility of steel allowed the architects far greater creativity in realising the brief,” comments Gebremeskel.

Innovation was also linked to the environmental aspect of one of the winners of the architectural category, the Peech Hotel in Johannesburg. The architects Meshworks were tasked with extending the hotel onto a newly acquired neighbouring property. Steel mesh cladding was ingeniously used on the exterior to separate various guest spaces, and to serve as a framework on which indigenous vegetation could be cultivated.

“The steel mesh of the wraparound balconies was an important element in the components used to create the articulate façades of an urban village, while also serving to integrate the building with its green surroundings,” he comments.

Again, innovation came into play in terms of the various building techniques employed in the Steel Awards project entries. A good example thereof was the winner of the light steel frame building category, Protea Glen Secondary School.

The SAISC was largely responsible for pioneering the introduction of light steel frame building in South Africa. With the Protea Glen School, the Gauteng Department of Education wanted to see what advantages this type of building technique would offer.

Employing the key features of light steel frame building, namely: speed, thermal efficiency, acoustics and flexibility of design, the building was a great success, presenting a harmonious structure, which was also conducive to learning,” Gebremeskel points out.

Efficient, cost-effective construction was the hallmark of the winner in the industrial category. By using steel to construct the Omnia Nitro Phosphate Plant, constructor SE Steel Fabrication was able to meet the key criteria of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

“By using steel, it was possible to pre-assemble portions of the plant at a lay-down area approximately a kilometre away from the actual building site. The pre-construction of the steel segments was done to a very high level of accuracy, so that no rework was required,” he explains, remarking that cost-effectiveness was also a key factor in the construction of the winner of the metal cladding category.

The building, named the 1054, needed to make an impact on the public and customers with its striking design, but at the same time, be very economical, as budget constraints were very tight. By stripping back the building to its essential elements, time was also saved which was highly advantageous for the developer.

Once again, efficiency and cost-effective construction were a key factor in the KTM Raceworx building, winner of the commercial category. This structure made use of a steel frame system with non-composite cellular beams to support the floors. As steel was a common feature throughout the structure, this contributed to fast erection times and consequent cost reduction.

“This year’s entries for the Steel Awards truly highlighted the innate strength and flexibility of steel as a construction medium. By using steel, architects and engineers can also give full rein to their innovative creativity. At the same time, steel in construction is immensely versatile and as such, allows for more efficient and cost-effective construction,” Gebremeskel concludes.

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