Civil Designer Showcase

If I Make a Mistake, We've Had It!

The experienced eyes of André Spies twinkle with a ready smile. "I have to determine the level where the cut and fill are properly balanced, or for example balance a site using a 20% bulking factor and leaving about 5000m3 excess fill for later use. If I mess up here, the whole job starts on the wrong foot and it is difficult to fix."

André Spies has been around the block a few times as they say. The section headed "Detail of Experience" in his voluminous résumé seems to almost downplay the varied and vast experience of this quietly spoken Civil Technician at Africon in Cape Town. It says his 'main responsibilities are geometric design and related road works, and then lists eight different aspects of roads as examples.

On the side he manages to maintain and keep all the computers in the office running smoothly. He also has experience of mass earthwork platforms and excavations using DTM's. Three exclusive golf course clubhouses - two local, the other international - are listed here, alongside the words, 'numerous housing projects'.

This résumé section finishes by stating that, in the twelve years André spent at Spoornet, he 'gained experience in the design of commuter and goods railway lines and related works, station yards, goods yards, shunting yards and private sidings and also has experience in hydrographic surveying and dredging of harbours.'

“One of the more challenging accommodation of traffic jobs that I have been involved in, was the dualing of Carl Cronjé Drive which passes under the N1 just before the Durban Road interchange in Bellville. In the first of three phases we had to divert the traffic towards the middle. While we built the middle section, we diverted the traffic out towards the sides, and then diverted traffic back to the middle for the third phase of construction. It was a heck of a story!" Although the speed limit was brought down to 80 km/h you still had to accommodate the person travelling at “normal” speed.

"Notably, there was only one accident during the entire project lasting about a year and a half, and the unfortunate person was not even part of the construction crew," he says proudly. "This was one of those jobs where we used just about everything in the CIVIL DESIGNER package. If we didn't have the package, I suppose we would have been a bit lost given the time constraints. One of the really strong points about this program is that you are able to vary everything with templates – you can create a template for virtually every scenario you work with."

What other jobs has André Spies been involved in? "We've designed a number of golf course developments. We're quite strong in that field, doing bulk earthworks and services, that kind of thing," he says in a matter-of-fact way. Has Africon designed any 'signature' courses, like a Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, or an Ernie Els design? "Yes we've done some. We did Erinvale, Leopard Creek in Malelane, the first course at Fancourt and even one at Noi Bai, about 50km from Hanoi in Vietnam, Pecan Wood, and currently Pearl Valley and Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay."

"Leopard Creek was very challenging. We had to cope with major earthworks, not only on the course, but the clubhouse, retention dams, feature ponds etc. The huge parking areas are very interesting. There are no manholes - the water had to flow freely and naturally into the Crocodile River. We had to design the grades exactly right to meet the required standards.
Dualing of Carl Cronjé Drive | Africon

The area is quite steep and the parking area slopes had to be designed not to steep, so that you would not be able to open your door. That was a huge challenge."

Does he play golf? "No, not at all. I usually don't even go to the site," he says with a quiet chuckle.

Having used the software from the very early days, has he got involved with writing macros as so many pioneers have? "Man I seem to have just been too busy training our young engineers who are constantly rotated between the site work and studies to become involved in writing macros.”

Africon has offices in many countries throughout Africa. "We are currently building a large shopping complex on different levels for Shopright in Luanda, Angola. This is also on very steep terrain. Typically, the client or architect will request an optimum floor level regarding earthworks. Again, it's all about balancing the cut and fill. I place the whole footprint into CIVIL DESIGNER with its levels as a separate surface, onto the DTM. Then I balance the whole project out and provide the architects and client with economic alternatives. You have to be accurate because serious decisions are made with the information you supply."

"So, if I make a mistake here, we've had it. If the construction people start casting concrete in the wrong place they will soon realise that something is drastically wrong - normally too late," he says with a laugh. "But seriously, I have to trust the survey - the DTM - I'm given. If that is inaccurate, then everything goes wrong. We can't take responsibility in that case. The software we use also needs to be reliable and we feel that we have that with CIVIL DESIGNER."

The résumé has page after page of a wide variety of projects - none takes more than four brief lines to describe the months of hard work that have gone into each one. André is a team player - he never says 'I did,' it's always 'we'. His eyes twinkle when he smiles, and the smile often leads to a ready laugh. You get the feeling that after all these years, André Spies hardly ever makes mistakes.

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