UP Hartbeestspruit restoration project receives international certification

Posted on October 02, 2017


The Hartbeestspruit Restoration Project of the Department of Facilities Management at the University of Pretoria (UP) has been awarded Ecological Category 3: Bioregional Status by Ecocert, an international certification body for sustainable development. This makes UP the first university in the world to have part of its grounds named an Ecocert Biodiversity Area.

Ecocert is regarded as the world's authority in organic certification and is responsible for the creation and issuing of many international certification standards that address sustainable maintenance practices in outdoor spaces. The company has a number of offices and subsidiaries worldwide, and operates and offers its services in over 130 countries. The Biodiversity Area Standard specifically, comprises five distinct biodiversity categories (National Native and Non-invasive Exotics, National Native and Biome, Bioregion, Plant Unit and Local Biodiversity) with the first two focused mainly on impact mitigation and sustainable horticultural practices, while the latter three are ecologically targeted towards biodiversity conservation and ecological sustainability. A category level is determined by auditing the type of environment for compliancy and the impact of site operations. The sites that have been certified globally range from royal gardens and 200Ha municipal parks in Paris, France, to industrial facilities.

The Hartbeestspruit runs through the University's Hillcrest Campus, which is home to university residences, the UP Sports Campus and the High Performance Centre (hpc). Over the past few decades, the University has made significant capital investments towards controlling the flow of the waterway and repairing damage — particularly after flood events — to protect its sport infrastructure. A number of storm water issues related to the Hartbeestspruit, such as the outflanking of the farm dam, security of access at the inflow and outflow points, and the erosion of channel protection works, necessitated a holistic approach the problem through the development of a storm water management plan.

The restoration project, which is still in its first year, involves the hydraulic modelling of the waterway, and includes the construction of a new 13 m wide spillway at the original farm dam. The dam basin has also been reshaped to encourage a diverse ecology. While the restoration of the farm dam has so far been the main focus of the project, the team from the Department of Facilities Management also had to deal with existing erosion issues caused by the fast-flowing river. These include two scour holes, each about 1.5 m deep, which were repaired and filled to prevent further erosion and to slow the flow downstream. Repairs have also been made to the retaining walls of the waterway to prevent future erosion. It is envisioned that once completed, the project will facilitate the economic and sustainable pro-active management of storm water issues as opposed to reactive repair, which will reduce costs to UP in the long term while ensuring the safety and environmental sustainability of the surrounding facilities.

Ecocert conducts annual certification audits in order to provide site managers the means to continually improve and achieve best practice sustainability goals. Part of the ecological management requires a succession plan to be followed to enable the ecosystems on site to mature from a pioneer to a climax stage. Over the next two years the Department of Facilities Management will endeavour to move up a category as the site matures and is taken through a process of ecological succession.



- Author Ansa Heyl

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