Civil Designer Showcase


Lilene Louw from Kwezi V3 Engineers is the epitome of beauty, brains and drive. This quietly confident young woman has a string of academic accolades that would be the envy of anyone and successfully juggles a bustling civil engineering career with recent motherhood.

Lilene was born on a farm in the Soutpan district, north of Bloemfontein and has always had a deep love for the environment. It was also this fascination that led her to become a civil engineer where she could tackle numerous development projects. One of these projects was the Magalies Water project, a venture that began in 2005.

"This project had everything. It was challenging, stimulating, nail biting and great all at the same time. The Magalies Water project involved the construction of a rising main from the Roodepoort Water Treatment Works to the Wallmannsthal Reservoir. The venture was however not a straightforward one as the pipeline passed through a conservancy. Fortunately we could rely on Civil Designer to help us with the design. The program is amazing and makes life a lot easier."

"Of course with the discovery of environmental restrictions comes the usual red tape that follows. We had to prepare an Environmental Management Plan for the tender document which the Contractor had to comply with. One of the requirements was the barricading of trenches until they were completely backfilled. This would prevent animals from falling in and injuring themselves. An Ecologist was also appointed to sweep the area for bird nests or other wildlife which had to be removed before any excavation could commence," explains Lilene.

Problems with the location of the contractor's camp came next. "The reservoir was located on the property of the Magalies Water. It was therefore a logical step to position the contractor's camp adjacent to it. Due to the environmental conditions associated with the project however, special permission had to be obtained from the City of Tshwane so that we could position the contractor's camp within the Roodepoort Water Treatment Works."

Lilene recalls a horrific story during the excavation phase when a few crocodiles escaped a crocodile farm in the conservancy. Employees of Magalies Water eventually caught one of the crocodiles with the intention of returning it to its natural habitat. On release however, the animal suddenly broke loose and attacked one of the helpers. His leg was later amputated.
  Other challenges on the project included the servitude and the groundwater. "A portion of the pipeline was not located within the servitude. We therefore made application for this portion of the pipeline which thankfully was not extensive in length. I've followed up periodically on our application and have kept this section of the pipeline till the very last until our application was approved."

"Groundwater was also a problem. We had a minimum cover of 1m and appointed a geotechnical engineer to do a geotechnical study on the ground. Topsoil was reinstated and where trees were found to clash with the pipeline route, replacement trees had to be planted. We also had to give careful consideration to issues like dust control", explains Lilene.

Preparing a tender document for the construction of municipal infrastructure in line with the CIDB format and incorporating the EPWP Guidelines for Labour Intensive Construction involved other headaches. "There are many legislative considerations that affect your document. One is the Occupational Health and Safety Specifications, the other is ensuring that skills transfer takes place during the contract. A tender document for labour intensive activities can only be prepared by someone that has successfully completed the relevant NQF level 7 course that covers labour intensive construction," she says.

According to Lilene a contract is so much more than just getting the job done. It has become a powerful means of imparting knowledge to workers. "With some contracts, provision has been made for things like Aids awareness, the availability of an on-site clinic attendant and even the availability of a condom dispenser. Each venture provides an opportunity to educate and everyone shares in that responsibility from the contractor to the consultant."

Lilene Louw has clearly taken any previously stereotypical notions of women in civil engineering and turned them on their head. She is tackling some hard pressed issues while balancing other softer issues like skills transfer and Aids awareness and making a solid contribution in her own right.

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