Orpen Group

An aesthetic marvel with an impressive set of staggered, angled and off-shutter structural concrete columns connecting the building’s stand beams.

Strategically placed on Malibongwe Drive, Boundary Park is situated in North Riding, one of Johannesburg’s most desirable Industrial and Business nodes. It is easily accessed from the N1 (Johannesburg, Pretoria) and N14 (Pretoria, Lanseria). 

The excellent visibility from Malibongwe Drive has led the developer to consider aesthetic appeal as one of the major considerations in the design of the various industrial facilities within the park.

This emphasis on aesthetic appeal has resulted in unique, individually eye-catching buildings being erected within this office park, deviating from the norm of a “one-size fits all” approach.

Boundary Park is being developed allowing optimum flexibility with a combination of warehouse and A-Grade office space.  

As a leading industrial and commercial property investment and development company specialising in building solutions for businesses needing industrial and warehousing space, Orpen Group offers the flexibility of running operations for tenants from leased facilities customised to suit individual tenant needs.

Salient points regarding Boundary Park:

  • Tenant specific design 
  • Internal nine metre wide road to accommodate traffic flow for cars and trucks
  • Ample parking and loading space
  • Excellent visibility from Malibongwe Drive
  • Close to labour pools
  • Energy efficient design

Cube Route, the tenant for the entered project, started an online retail platform – ePetstore.co.za – in partnership with leading veterinarian practices and suppliers around South Africa, delivering premium veterinary products to consumers seeking an online experience.

With the brands available in close to 800 outlets in South Africa, stockholding space limitation at most outlets is the barrier to keeping product levels up to match fluctuating daily demand for them. Multiple deliveries via a fleet of 30 trucks, which takes place daily to replenish depleted shelves, necessitates a well laid out and functioning facility. Cube Route head office is a busy, yet relaxed environment where people are encouraged to bring their pets to work. 

The Project

The entered project relates to the 1,100 m2 aesthetically designed office space juxtaposed with the industrial warehouse and e-Pet storage facility creating a landmark building. 

The complete project measures approximately 12,000 m2, and comprises one level of basement parking, premium office space of 1,100 m2, as well as a warehouse and e-Pet store facility totalling 9,600 m2

The architecture of the office façade was purpose designed to impress onlookers travelling along the prominent Malibongwe Drive. The location also affords visitors coming to engage with the click-and- collect business (related to the e-Pet store) and physical retail shop on ground floor, an easily recognisable facility. 

This non-conventional façade is a rationalised version of what was initially presented to the developer and the tenant.  

What is visible is an array of concrete lines warping around the building, and with the judicious use of colour in the wall infill panels between the glass curtain walls, the design provides an almost futuristic structure. The architects’ vision was to present a raw concrete exo-skeleton, filled by a pristine, smooth envelope containing a modern, clean and sleek interior. The aim was for juxtapositions of raw and smooth, dull and bright. These contrasts shock and make interesting, striking and memorable architecture.

The main feature is the set of staggered, angled, off-shutter concrete columns. These columns are completely structural (unlike a conventional decorative approach), connecting the bottom perimeter down-stand beams and the top up-stand beams. The conventional approach to beam and column setup would have been a structural frame. In this case, the concrete structure was made part of the building aesthetics, in a very honest approach, driven by purpose not only aesthetics.

The columns, constructed with standard steel formwork and without self-compacting concrete, were driven by budgetary constraints. The tilt on the columns was kept the same; a 15 degree angle to ensure enough visual variation, without excessive complexity in formwork construction and casting.

Some columns further connect at mid-height to the structural RC beam that supports the suspended first floor slab. Constructed predominantly using local labour, the multi-stage pours proved challenging but certainly contributed to much needed skills development in the construction sector. 

Assuming a simply supported beam, more reinforcing in the bottom than in the top, which will lead to having more congested reinforcing in a downstand beam than would be the case in an upstand beam.

Approximate concrete volumes used:

Foundations: 400 m3 (25 MPa)

Columns: 200 m3 (35 MPa)

Why concrete

Concrete was from the onset the architect’s material of choice to complement existing structures on this site and as a contrast to the aesthetic impact of the other buildings. The other buildings have respectively a black masonry façade and a glass and spider fitting façade.  

The specifiers also saw the value in using concrete because of the available knowledge on site. It is also a relatively conventional construction method, which meant the reduction and elimination of material variation, different trades on site, difficult junctions and potential errors. This resulted in a simplified use of materials that reduced the project complexity as well as the timeline and was a more appropriate fit to the client’s budget models.

Once the decision was made to use concrete as the main construction material, several different options were initially considered by the specifiers, namely lightweight, self-compacting, post-tensioned, and tilt-up concrete, and in consultation with the specifiers and the contractor the best option for the ultimate execution of the project was selected. 

A decision was taken to use a design of down-stand beams and top up-stand beams, without self-compacting concrete and to construct these beams in continuous pours. 

The staggered, angled, off-shutter concrete columns are completely structural (load-bearing), unlike the conventional decorative approach of such columns. These columns connect the bottom perimeter down-stand beams and the top up-stand beams.  

The design principles for the down-stand beams and the top up-stand beams followed the design parameters for traditional beams, but the placement of reinforcing steel required considerable attention to detail. 

Involvement of local community, transformation and health and safety initiatives

The site’s proximity to Kya Sands and Cosmo City made it an ideal project for employing members of the local community for the purpose of skills transfer. Interaction with the Local Business Forums resulted in a number of unskilled labourers being employed on the project. Even though this practice demanded time from the project managers in training these individuals, the result was a workforce skilled in concrete strip footing, brickwork and plastering, which in turn has the potential to aid small business development at the end of the current project. 

Construction Challenges

The off-shutter work was not meant to be a perfect finish, and in the words of the architect, this project was based on honest architecture, driven by purpose.  

The readymix subcontractor was changed during the construction process as the quality of the concrete supplied by the initial contractor was not acceptable.  

Where obvious colour variations occurred, the exo-skeleton was left raw and rubbed down to achieve the required uniform finish.    

Environmental considerations:

While AfriSam as concrete supplier is always focussed to keep its environmental footprint as small as possible, the proximity of the batching plant to the site reduced the environmental cost of transporting concrete to site, and road congestion. Wastage on the project was reused by Orpen in their own facilities on site. 

It also reduced the chance of delays in construction and possible late night operations which could result in noisy environments and disruptive living conditions for residential neighbours.

The rationale behind this structure was to be virtually maintenance free, with a timeless functional elegance – main characteristics of a concrete façade.

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