Combining design with community
Growing up, my mom wanted my siblings and I to make a difference in the built environment here in South Africa. Engineering wasn’t an obvious choice for me, but I found a passion for it at university when I discovered the focus was on improving areas where many people don’t have adequate infrastructure. Combining the ability to design with making a difference in the community has always been a big motivator.
I secured a bursary to study with WSP in Africa in 2015. Now, as a project manager, I look after several complex infrastructure projects from conception to completion. Our services are always well thought out; we don’t just cover the engineering, the budget, and the timeframe, but we consider the community and stakeholders the work might impact.
Improving living standards in marginalised areas
I’m currently working with the Western Cape Government on the Kosovo Informal Settlement Upgrade Project. Home to around 14,500 people, it’s one of the densest settlements in Cape Town. We have been appointed to develop detailed designs and construction for 10,000 housing units with civil engineering services (water, sewage, stormwater and road infrastructure) to improve living standards for the community and the surrounding areas.
The first phase of the ambitious upgrade project is to develop housing units in the surrounding area which will enable de-densification of the larger Kosovo site. This phase also includes the upgrade of the existing bulk sewer and water services within Mitchell’s Plain. Our role on the project, along with our joint venture partners - engineering consultant MPAMOT - we are also considering commercial, community, and educational spaces, transportation to and from the area while using less disruptive techniques to minimise the environmental impact.
Using non-disruptive construction techniques
One of our non-disruptive techniques is pipe jacking (also known as micro-tunnelling), a trenchless method of installing pipe. During this process, we tunnel below any existing roads, buildings, or dwellings to minimise any ground-level disruption. This contrasts with most conventional methods used in South Africa, where pipeline projects use open excavation – which can be as big as eight metres deep and wide.
Once completed, the bulk sewer upgrade will be the most extensive use of micro-tunnelling in South Africa (both in pipe length and diameter). It opens doors from a technical point of view, sets us apart from other consultants in our space, and brings a significant benefit to the community.
Maintaining an edge over competitors
There is currently a limited amount of work in South Africa for the number of service providers in construction. Working in this environment means you must absorb, learn, and improve – you can never be stagnant. You also have to maintain and nurture an understanding of the market, be clear about where the market is now and anticipate where it is going. In my role as bid leader within the team, I have used my understanding and knowledge of the South African market to develop a winning bid strategy for the team.
To maintain an edge over our competitors, I believe we need to embrace new digital technologies that can assist the work we do, such as BIM360 for the coordination of our projects and Autodesk Civil 3D for designs. As an industry, we need to move into the digital space and streamline processes to enhance project delivery, improve the built environment and the quality of life for the people who live there.