Witbank Presidential Project: Making A Low-Cost Home Look Really Good

8 April 2004



Job Summit Project

OW do you make a low- or middle-budget mass housing development look aesthetically attractive? Finding the answer to that question was a major challenge for the developers, designers and architects of the huge Witbank Presidential Job Summit Project, Tasbet Park.

An important key to the answer was found in Technicrete's diamond-faced maxi-bricks -15-million of them.

Tasbet Park, which when completed in March will be home for about 20 000 people, has been a huge challenge for Technicrete's manufacturing expertIse. It has meant delivering 500 000 bricks a month to the bustling construction site.

Placed end-to-end, those 15-million bricks would extend 4 500km - almost reaching the equator.

Biggest of its kind in Mpumalanga Province, the new community-building enterprise got under way in January last year, and by the end of 2003 about 1 200 homes had been occupied. And as indicated by Ms Gladys Sebeko, head of the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Housing, it could be the forerunner of more similar projects to come.

Homes are being occupied at the rate of about 160 units per month, according to Gary Clark, of Witbank Housing Corporation, part of the EuroAm group which is developing the project. "It's a splendid concept. The diamond-faced maxi-bricks add a quality look not usually found in homes in this price sector.They have succeeded in making what is essentially a middle- and low-cost housing estate look beautiful. The diamond-faced maxi-brick is a break from the traditional. We needed an economical quality brick that was also aesthetically pleasing, and the maxi-brick was the answer."

Concor Technicrete has been one of the stalwarts in this project, Clark says. "It's essential that the right number of bricks of consistent quality are always there to keep the building process moving ahead, and we have been able to rely on them to keep the bricks coming."

Main contractors for the project are Vereeniging-based Seakay Engineering. Architects are Ridler Shepherd Louw.

The brick's special attraction, says Technicrete, lies in the extra-dimensional effect it has of breaking up the otherwise bland face of a conventional brick wall.

Witbank housing project 2

Of the 5 000 homes eventually to be built, about a quarter - 1 250 - will be up for outright sale at prices ranging from R65 000 to R120 000. The balance will be rented out at between R540 and R1 750 per month, which includes municipal rates-and-takes, insurance and maintenance. Sizes range from one-bedroom walk-up units to three-bedroom free-standing units. They are targeted at people in the income group where earnings are less than R3 500 a month.

Adding a technical comment, Technicrete says the diamond-faced maxi-brick's strength of 9MP exceeds by far the minimum requirements of the National Home Building Registration Council.

The Witbank initiative is seen as just the latest example of the growing acceptance of cement bricks, not only in social housings but also in big-ticket developments. For not far from the Presidential project, Technicrete cement bricks are being used to build R1-million-plus homes at a private residential estate.