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Building scoops up another award

The Sol Plaatje University Library and Student Resources Centre scooped up yet another award at this year’s CESA AON engineering excellence awards. The university won in the category of Projects with a value of R50 million to R250 million.

This project was judged on a combination of 13 different criteria namely: quality of the engineering design, management of planning and technical design, aesthetics of engineering elements and complexity and sophistication, to name a few.

The distinctive sculptured nature of the Library and Student Resource Center rises from the horizontality of the Northern Cape landscape like a small hill, mine­shaft or traditional Karoo farmhouse.

A 22 cm thick concrete shell propped on steel columns like a cooling tower emerged as the optimal self-supporting external envelope. Inside, an independent stack of flat slabs is supported on a concrete column grid, with services, steel stairs and lift shafts located in the gap between the envelope and these slabs.

This six floor building acts as a 24-hour winter lounge and a veranda in summer, providing a studying alternative to compact residence rooms.

The design workshop applied five strategies in defining the form and potential of a flexible building that could be used for a range of activities by the university.

Firstly, to directly correspond the building’s primary volume with the three-dimensional envelope defined by the Urban Design vision for the campus. Secondly, to match the corners of the resulting volume with the varying heights of the surrounding buildings. Thirdly, to make a landmark for the university and city by vertically developing the North West corner facing University Square.

Fourthly, to maximize the construction budget by reducing circulation and service space and lastly to separate the outer concrete walls from the internal workings of the building, accessing them from the perimeter to provide deep uninterrupted, highly flexible and highly serviced floor plates.

The energy efficiency of the building is assisted by placing the usable floor plates away from the concrete walls to allow natural daylight to spread further into the building and retain the heat on the external wall away from the usable areas of the library.

This is not the first time that the university wins an award. On 20 June 2017 it also won a Fulton award in the Buildings Greater than 3-storeys category and received a commendation in the architectural concrete category.

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