The words belong to engineer Sampie Laubscher of NHL who started on the project at green-fields stage in July 1997.
Parklands is a massive project. It forms part of a new city to be developed over the next 40 years to the north of Tableview that could ultimately boast a population of 450 000, similar in size to East London. "It is one of the few areas in which Cape Town can expand. Apart from residential developments, opportunities are also created to provide employment in the commercial and industrial sectors. Over the next 6 to 8 months, another 1 000 units will be sold" says Sampie.
"You have to stay ahead with your basic planning. In our infrastructure and bulk-services planning we are currently 5 years ahead. This is where the assembled professional team is so important. MLH Town Planners, Hawkins Hawkins Osborn, De Villiers & Moore, Hellig Abrams & Le Brun and us - NHL make up this team."
"The sheer size of this project meant that the team had to conduct an integrated planning exercise. Rolling 5-year business plans are vital in a project of this nature. For instance, the Regional Water Master Plan undertaken by GLS, the Storm Water Master Plan by KFD Wilkinson and the Sewerage Master Plan by Blanckenberg & Wessel for Blaauwberg Administration, were used to plan and develop Local Master Plans.
"Young engineers should take note of the changing face of engineering. The practice of engineering is no longer just engineering. Business and environmental factors, to name just a few, are now an integral part of civil engineering," says Sampie, who has an MBA tucked away in the string of letters after his name. "For this project we have developed rolling budgets that enable us to spread the load yet still deliver on time and on budget."
"A modern-day engineer can't operate in isolation. Similarly, you can't engineer in a vacuum. Today you find engineers conducting community liaison meetings and even working with environmentalists as part of the professional team."
The project development team of The Milnerton Estates Ltd and Aska Property Group exposed Sampie to challenges that initially caused some concern. "Pre-selling of the units was foreign for me. We couldn't develop until the sales had reached a certain level. The sales went at a very fast rate, and then we had to design at an equally fast rate. That's why planning is so important."
A canny smile brings a gleam to Sampie's eyes. "You know, the biggest challenge for us as engineers on this project is determining what infrastructure will be needed in 15 to 20 years' time, then putting in the detail; but then ensuring that the plan allows for future flexibility so that the detail can be developed on a 'just-in-time' basis some time in the future. Who said civil engineering is easy?"
"The engineer today must be flexible. Match what is needed with what is affordable. The municipalities do not have the budgets of the old days. I am constantly reviewing our planning to see where we can reduce costs, yet still maintain the required quality of service and standards."
"I believe that there should be more business training in the education of all engineers. The Parklands product has a price ceiling that is set by demand from buyers, therefore as engineer, I have to be sensitive to that aspect when designing the engineering requirements."
"That's where software plays such an important role. CIVIL DESIGNER gives me answers quickly, it saves me days. Another way of looking at the saving is that it allows me more time to engineer."
"I analyse in detail the current block of the development with the STORM module. I input data and get accurate and quick answers for all the 'what-if' scenarios. But I still need to interpret those answers in terms of engineering application. CIVIL DESIGNER gives me that valuable time to simply get on with engineering work."