Civil Designer Showcase


The transformation of the Skyways building could easily be classified as one of the great wonders of the world. A once dingy, drab looking building with badly damaged facilities and poor living quarters now offers an upmarket living complex that provides warmth and security to residents. Dion Oosthuizen from Sonnekus & Toerien was one of the lucky Civil Technicians that helped to contribute to the building's completion and recalls the interesting story of how the project progressed.

The Skyways assignment began in earnest in 2005. The dilapidated block of flats was so run-down that it almost faced demolition. "The basement in the block was nearly waist deep in sewerage. In fact, it was literally flowing out at the seams and we soon realised that an in-depth examination was needed to determine the full extent of the damage. Our investigation however, delivered shocking results. We couldn't believe how bad things were! None of the toilets worked and there were broken taps and pipes everywhere. The result was fresh water that was continuously flowing out into the streets and ducts were piled high with sewerage as residents used the bucket system to offer a temporary solution to broken toilets. The situation was horrendous," says Dion in disbelief.

Another severe problem was the level of damp in the building. "The water table was about 500ml below floor level and it took us a long time to drain. We had to cut off the water supply before we could start the draining process and we kept the pumps running for weeks to extract all the sewerage. The occupants on the ground floor struggled for months to get rid of the stench and it only completely dissipated once the walls were sanded down and re-painted."

"The project required a great deal of structural work. We did all the earthworks around the building and designed all the services. Servicing was a special challenge, as there were virtually no records of any existing pipes and cables. In most cases, it was a dig a hole and see what you find scenario! Paving and graded entrances were an absolute pleasure to design with Civil Designer, as end products were presentable to less technical people in a visually understandable manner."

It is hard to believe that the Skyways block was once in such bad shape when the final result depicts a trendy high security block with all the latest mod-cons. "Skyways used to be a high crime haven with police raiding the place almost every week. Today the block is completely upmarket and all the flats have new kitchens, built in cupboards and tiled floors. The previous occupants have all since left and the refurbished flats are available for letting."

Another challenging project that Dion worked on was the Foxtec-Ikhwezi factory in Westbank. "The proposed Foxtec-Ikhwezi factory was constructed to manufacture components for Daimler Chrysler and required large scale site work, earthworks and the installation of bulk services. Our greatest design challenge on this venture was the location of the fuel pipelines which ran alongside the site. We had to establish the exact position of these pipes before we could continue any further with the design," notes Dion.
Skyways | Sonnekus & Toerien

Besides the arduous task of locating fuel pipelines, the client Foxtec Ikhwezi specified that the area should have a large turn space for delivery trucks, providing an interesting challenge. "We had to keep the site level for loading bays which meant that there would be a great deal of cuts and fills. Fortunately we were able to perform all the calculations in Civil Designer which saved us a great deal of time. We also found the program to be quite useful when converting 1947 SG information as there seemed to be a different conversion factor for each new area. Despite the numerous design challenges though, we completed the preliminary designs and construction has since begun."

"With Stormwater attenuation becoming a buzz word in today's residential developments, it's reassuring to know that Civil Designer works like magic. You can design your banks on top of survey data and then present the final image in a combined 3D view. You can then fly through, go back and progress up the ramp in different stages to get an accurate picture. It's wonderful stuff," exclaims Dion with a chuckle.

Thanks to the dedicated work of Dion Oosthuizen and the rest of the team at Sonnekus & Toerien, projects like Skyways and Foxtec will contribute to improved residential and business use and the community will benefit greatly from these developments. "We managed to rescue the Skyways block and today it offers a beautiful home to many residents. This is one project where you literally have to look at the before and after pictures to truly understand what was done. The project has restored dignity to one of the oldest blocks in the neighbourhood. The Skyways and Foxtec-Ikhwezi projects are truly engineering success stories that we can all be proud of," says Dion in closing.

image Dion Oosthuizen qualified as an Architectural Technician in 1993 and then pursued a career in kitchen design using CAD. "At that stage I couldn't find any work in my field and it was at Sonnekus & Toerien that I first got introduced to the world of Civil Engineering." "I knew nothing about the discipline when I first arrived but the company taught me everything from scratch. I first started out as a draughtsman and then progressed to become a Civil Technician," explains Dion recalling those early years.

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