"I was quite far down the road in going on my own, in fact I was already on my own working from home when Eric and I explored the idea of joining forces. We did some planning and decided that the idea had merit. We were keenly aware of the enormous risks we were taking in setting up a new venture, so before we made the final decision we asked our wives to be part of the decision making process."
"As we discussed and debated the issues, the four of us shared a bottle of wine. We all agreed and ZII was duly born. The name has nothing to do with the name of a car that we might aspire to, it is simply the Roman numerals for the year 2002," says Hannes proudly.
With Eric handling the structural side, and Hannes the civils, ZII has landed some impressive projects in the three months since the launch on 1st of March. "We started with a smallish job in Arusha near Kilamanjaro, Tanzania, where we transformed an old Farmers Union co-op shed into a shell for a Shoprite supermarket."
"The first week of operation I spent fussing with admin things, there was no real work. But the second week saw our first job come in and it has not stopped since then. Being on your own is really nerve-wracking and I have spent a lot time on my knees, but it has paid off. We currently have projects on the go in a nice arc from Angola on the West coast, to Kampala just north of the equator in Central Africa to Tanzania on the east coast. I suppose you could extend the arc into a circle if you include our Cape Town projects."
"We are very fortunate to have Shoprite as client. We are currently in the planning stage of a 9 000m2 building in Kampala, Uganda. This US $ 8 million development is situated on an existing sports field. Tritan Survey in Bellville did the survey work, and as they also use Civil Designer, it was easy to keep on top of the data."
"The experience I have gained working in Africa over the past few years is now paying dividends. That may sound strange when an African says that, but previously we were unable to work anywhere in Africa except here at home. Make no mistake, working in Africa poses challenges that are unique, but I guess you face similar kinds of challenges when you work in any foreign country," says Hannes.
"Working in Beira was the biggest culture shock for me, more than anywhere else. One of the biggest shocks is realising that in Africa, you can't just open a tap and drink the water. But that is put in perspective when you realise that South Africa is one of only 12 countries in the world where you can drink water out of a tap. People are really friendly though and we are welcomed with open arms. You feel at ease walking in the streets in Kampala or Dar es Salaam - even after sunset!
"The lack of available services poses problems for the engineer. Even when the services such as electricity, foul sewer or stormwater are there, often they don't work. So the engineer needs to design buildings that are situated high enough to avoid being damaged when periodic flooding happens."
"Another big challenge is getting your approvals in time to meet developer deadlines. The only way to do this is to use local consultants. We have built up a network of consultants in Africa over the years and so don't battle too much anymore. Working with the local guys has positive aspects as it broadens your knowledge when you are exposed to different ways of thinking and doing things, I really enjoy it," says Hannes with a broad smile.
We have been appointed to do a huge monument in Angola, the pinnacle alone is more than 8 stories high, and the statue cost in the region of $ 3,5 million. Locally we are in the proposal stage of a 6000m² shopping centre and filling station in Belhar with all the parking and services. To round it all off, we also have a few residential houses here in Cape Town as well," says Hannes happily.
"We are fortunate to have joined forces with a Luanda-based and registered company, with the intent of having a fully operational consulting office running in the near future. Reaching out, and ploughing back into the community in respect of sharing knowledge, expertise and more important, cultural exchange, has brought success which will see ourselves deep into rural Angola" says Eric
"To go it alone you need 3 vital pieces of equipment, a computer, a plotter and excellent software. We invested in a plotter and computer and shopped around, but on the software I had no second thoughts, Civil Designer was the only choice. I purchased a copy of Stardust 14 years ago that ran on the first computer at Partnership de Villiers. I think we must have been one of the first companies in the Western Cape to use the software."
"Then a few years ago I spent many sessions with Knowledge Base developer Dawid du Toit talking about the TURN module. I really pushed hard for the creation of TURN, because even when designing a shopping centre these days, you need to see where the trucks can turn to get in and out of the loading yards.”
Hannes and Eric are brave men with the right stuff in their veins, strong and supportive wives behind them, and of course the best software to enable them to blaze their trail deeper into Africa. Knowledge Base with Civil Designer and AllyCAD is proud to be a part of their courageous venture.