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Monday Jan 23, 2012

Kogelberg green project gets gold

In between the Atlantic Ocean and huge sandstone mountains on the False Bay coastline near Gordon's Bay lies the 100 000-hectare Unesco-registered Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, home to almost 2 000 different plant species - 77 of which occur nowhere else.

The Kogelberg site before demolition of the old cabins.

The combination of spectacular seascapes, landscapes, flora and fauna draws thousands of tourists each year and is becoming a worldrenowned role model for conservation and sustainable living.

For work done in the area on an environmentally sensitive project, specialist contractor GVK-Siya Zama recently won a slew of awards. In addition to first place for safety on-site in the National Master Builders SA health and safety competition for projects in the R5 million - R20 million category it received a special mention in the specialist contractors/suppliers category at Construction World's Best Projects Awards. At the same event the company won the Afrisam award for sustainable construction - beating 11 high-profile projects.

One of the new cabins at the Kogelberg reserve near Gordons Bay.

"The multi-award winning Oudebosch Mountain Camp project, commissioned by Capenature, is the first part of the two-phase accommodation and upgrade project at Kogelberg," says GVK-SIYA Zama managing director (Cape) Errol Gibbons. "This initial phase involved the demolition of six existing Oudebosch 'bosdorp' huts and the construction of five new self-catering cabins to replace them, along with a conference building, an eco pool and boardwalks of lightweight, stilted structures designed to blend into the environment.

"The contract also called for the installation of a new water supply from the Palmiet River, specialised waste management systems and indigenous landscaping, including planted roofs on all the buildings."

The aim of the project was to balance tourist needs and preservation. Capenature executive director of business development, Sheraaz Ismail, says this was a pilot project to introduce green building principles and methodologies - a task for which GVK- Siya Zama is well suited. Gibbons says: "Long before pen was put to paper in the design of the project, a comprehensive environmental team consisting of professionals including hydrologists, botanists, ecologists and other scientists, as well as reserve management specialists , worked together on producing a thorough environmental impact assessment of the site.

"Architects Justin Cooke and Jessica Cohen responded with an integrated, ecologically-based and sustainable design that incorporate technical features as well as the landscape and the people in the area." In keeping with the sustainable green design ethos of the project, the GVK- Siya Zama team donated some of the original cabins to the local community and scrapped others, ensuring that reusable parts were recycled.

For the construction of the new elements the team made extensive use of renewable materials, such as local and recycled wood, with all timber coming from Forestry Stewardship Council certified sources.

To minimise the use of bricks and mortar that could contaminate the groundwater, they used packed stone baskets or gabions. The stone was sourced from a local quarry to match the stone surrounding the site and although neatly packed and squared off, these stone baskets blend seamlessly into the backdrop.

To minimise consumption of the already heavily used Palmiet River and to avoid wastewater, the team installed low-flow showers and a dedicated "percolation pond" - constructed out of clay material from foundation excavations - for each cabin to address grey water treatment. Grey water passes a variety of aquatic plants before being released into the ground. To treat black water, the cabins were equipped with self-composting toilets.

Historically, waste was released into the ground by a French drain soakaway system. However this results in nutrient-rich deposits entering the soil and feeding fynbos, which naturally thrives in nutrient-poor soil conditions. Self-composting toilets manage the sewerage by ensuring that nothing is released into the ground, and obviate the need to deal with raw sewerage by drying waste through a combination of heat and air circulating through the system.

The development was designed around maximum energy efficiency but ensures a level of creature comfort at the same time. Thermal insulation in the walls, roofs and floors, as well as solar water heating, LED lights and gas stoves, are some of the energy-efficient features.

An "eco pool", which requires no chemical treatment of the water, was designed by a bio-engineering specialist. It is divided into a deeper swimming area and a shallow regeneration zone, and hosts aquatic flora that facilitate the cleaning process.

"We are delighted to have won these awards for our green building work. However, the biggest rewards are knowing that our work resulted in a greatly reduced construction phase carbon footprint, and that Kogelberg - one of the most critically important reserves in the country - remained pristine and largely untouched," says Gibbons.

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)


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