Areas and Places

Corobrik drives affordable energy efficient sustainable housing solution for students at Onderstepoort campus

Established in 1920, the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science is the second-oldest in Africa, and is still the only faculty of its kind in South Africa. Situated in Onderstepoort, the first faculty buildings were inaugurated in 1921 and the first student residence opened its doors in 1924. During that time eight students qualified as the first South African-trained veterinarians. The University of Pretoria’s projections show that student numbers are expected to increase in the future due to the higher intake of new undergraduate students, thus creating the need for more on-campus residence space.

In 2011 MEG Architects successfully completed the first phase of the Onderstepoort Student Housing development at the University of Pretoria. When approached to deliver the second phase, architect Tienie van Rooyen notes that he believed that the second phase would be an identical duplication of what the firm successfully handed over in 2011. “Student housing has always been an exciting challenge for the firm and since circumstances and requirements change continuously, no two projects are truly alike. This phase was no different. The core design principles remained the same with a few tweaks made from lessons learnt during the first phase.

The brief was clear in its requirements: design three new 4 storey residence blocks for undergraduate students, with a total of 96.

The initial phase of the Onderstepoort Student Housing development stands boasting the exquisite Corobrik Country Classic Satin face brick. The red brick with a hint of blue is complimented by the lush green environment of the Veterinarian Campus grounds during the summer months, while still responding positively to the dryer, pale winters. Apart from the University of Pretoria’s mandate for low maintenance student housing the same Corobrik Country Classic Satin face brick was specified as the majority facade finish to strengthen the ties with the first phase. Vertical plaster bands running through the windows are painted with a neutral earthen colour, further amplifying the use of the face brick.

The layouts of the residence blocks followed the same accommodation requirements as the previous development phase; a communal kitchen and lounge area, two respective communal bathroom and ablution areas and eight private rooms per floor.

The SANS 10400 Building Regulations requires that building envelopes perform with a minimum thermal resistance of that of an un-plastered 230mm thick clay brick wall. The thermal benefits of such wall construction have been known for many years. “The necessity to follow good design principles and to design buildings that perform more effectively when it comes to thermal comfort and energy efficiency is of great importance moving into the future. With this in mind, the northern cavity walls of the residences are built with a 230mm wide cavity and filled with fly ash for further insulation, the large cavity creating a passive sunshade during the summer, providing further lag and extending the time in the thermal comfort zone. The other exterior walls are built with a conventional 50mm wide cavity and high density polystyrene was added in the cavity for further insulation,” explains van Rooyen. The combination of thermal capacity [from the bricks] and thermal resistance [from the bricks, the air in the cavity and insulation material applied], provides a wall CR Product that contributes to a comfortable temperature within the respective blocks both during the hot summer months and the cold winter months.

The site was formerly vacant land, used by the students for parking. “The soil conditions made for rather deep and robust foundations and the site was virtually flat, making stormwater drainage a real problem,” says Van Rooyen. “We aimed to create an environment conducive to comfortable living and learning, while promoting the formation of strong social bonds among future colleagues,” he adds.

Founded by Karre Maree and Johan Els in 1974, and joined shortly after by Johan’s current partner, Gerhard Els, MEG recently celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier in 2014. With the ambition to keep the firm and its legacy strong leading into the future, Johan and Gerhard welcomed Tienie van Rooyen as the firm’s newest partner. At the start of 2014 MEG joined the FRESH Design International group as an associate affiliate; FRESH Design International is a network of design disciplines ranging from architectural, interior, product & furniture, graphic and web designers from Miami, USA to Tokyo, Japan. MEG represents FRESH in the Sub Saharan Africa region.

Following the previous phase’s successful delivery, NGA-BASUMI Construction was again selected as the contractors for the second phase of the project. The second phase is due for completion in November 2014.