The development of additional teaching and research facilities for the School of Engineering through the financial support of both the University and the Department of Higher Education and Training resulted in the construction of the new Engineering 3 Building and parkade on the Hatfield Campus. This development provides additional lecture halls, laboratories, a new access road and entrance, and a parkade for 1 000 cars.
A further development, which forms a vital part of the School’s strategy to increase the success of engineering students, is the construction of a study centre, to be officially opened on 31 October. This study centre will provide facilities to support learning, especially group work.
Such a facility became a necessity due to the complexity of the students’ lecture timetable and their changing demographic profile. There are many students who live far from the campus and travel great distances on a daily basis, and who do not have adequate facilities for study or group work at their homes or on campus.
The development of the study centre, situated immediately west of the Engineering 1 Building, was financially supported by Glencore-Xstrata and the Anglo-American Chairman’s Fund. Additional sponsorships were received from CBI Electric (electrical components) and PCC Cement (cement). The contract for the project was allocated to Robenco Construction. It accommodates 758 students in the following configurations on two levels: On level 3, there are 252 individual workstations accessible to students on a first-come-first-served basis. There are 30 conceive, design, implement and operate (CDIO)-type venues where groups of seven students can work in a private cubicle equipped with a table and a flat screen monitor. These venues are reserved through a computerised booking system. On level 4, there are 296 cubicle seats without workstations.
The study centre is situated at the University’s previous entrance off University Road at the Engineering 2 Building, which was closed when the new entrance to the parkade was constructed. A new “drop-off-and-go facility” has been constructed at the old entrance, which is convenient for dropping off or picking up students in a safe environment adjacent to the study centre.
Unique landscaping project
A unique landscaping project also forms part of the new study centre. The site of the study centre consisted of a degraded space of impervious surfaces and roads older than 60 years resulting in very poor soil conditions. As the new building has a large roof, it placed considerable pressure on the existing overloaded stormwater infrastructure. The space also needed to address the requirements of an increasing number of students at the University.
The landscaping project revolves around the collection of stormwater from the roof of the study centre and surrounding hard surfaces into vegetated swales. From there, the cleansed water flows into a permanent pond with overflow into tidal ponds. The latter have been designed to flood in the rainy seasons and to be partially dry during the dry seasons. The overflow from these ponds flows into a tank under the staircase on the western side of the study centre. This water is to be used for irrigating the botanical garden. A total of 145 aquatic and terrestrial plant species have been used in the spaces in and around the system.
As a suitable microclimate has been created, the University's tropical African cycad collection has been transplanted into the rain garden. The site has a number of existing trees protected by South African legislation, all of which have been incorporated into the design. The landscape design showcases the progressive nature of the various professions involved, and is an example of a functional, cultural and aesthetic landscape. It is designed to be a living laboratory for research purposes.
Demolished building materials have been recycled as permeable paving, cladding for walls in the ponds, and energy breakers for the stormwater entering the system. The landscape’s lighting has been reduced to a minimum so that it does not interfere with the natural day-night cycles of the plants, frogs and fish, which would be introduced into the system for ecological purposes and research.
This is the University’s first project that truly merges landscape and building and is one of only a few buildings in the world where a rain garden system has been integrated with a building.
The new study centre from another angle.
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