The recently completed student accommodation project at 49 Jorrisen Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg stands out as a model of what can be done by retrofitting existing buildings to serve the ever-growing demand for student accommodation.

Quick building turnaround time for refurb

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South Africa, in line with global trends, is experiencing an ever increasing dearth of student housing. Going forward, this problem will only get worse as the population grows and more students than ever gain entry to universities and colleges. This, however, presents the private sector with numerous opportunities to step in and provide top quality, affordable accommodation for students across the country. At present it is estimated that the shortfall of beds for students sits at a staggering 500 000.

The original 18 floor hotel and office block was revamped in a little over four months and opened in January 2020. The successful conclusion of this project in time, and on budget, can be attributed to a number of factors including the expertise and diverse product range offered by Saint-Gobain.

While the original brief called for a focus on cost, function and space allocation in the 645-room project, there was still a need to provide the modern facilities and conveniences. This included access free Wi-Fi, a gym, laundry facility, library and study areas within the building. Additionally, lightweight building materials were essential as there were load restrictions within the existing structure.

Despite the challenges inherent in a retrofit like this, the end product met all the client’s requirements and expectations. According to Daniel Trolip, director at Local Studio architectural firm, the original brief was governed by the current market offering of student housing and therefore driven by the need to develop a product that stood out. “The project was, in a sense, an internal fit out of an existing structure and therefore the layouts had to be refined around the existing structural grid, fire escapes, window positions and circulation core. Within these constraints the challenge was then to develop an efficient layout that combined a variety of communal and private spaces. Coupled to this, the timelines to complete the project where incredibly tight and, being a refurb, there are always unexpected issues to resolve as the project progresses. To further complicate matters, traditional brickwork was out of the question as we could not exceed the original structures load bearing capacity.”.

Noting these constraints Local Studio took advantage of the raft of building solutions available from Saint-Gobain that offer lightweight, cost-effective products. “Traditional brick and mortar is not always suited to every project. As a result we specified a number of products from Saint-Gobain which not only has a reputation in the industry as suppliers of world class products but also due to the fact that they offer on-site assistance and their in -depth product information is always helpful when selecting an appropriate product.”

“The use of the company’s products in this project delivered a number of benefits traditional materials would not have,” says Bongane Msiza, Gyproc Isover Specification Manager at Saint-Gobain. “Essentially, we had high quality finishes that could be installed far quicker which ensured on-time delivery despite the tight deadlines. Moreover, material handling was far easier and made logistics simpler in the constraints of an 18 floor building due to the use of lightweight materials. Initially there were concerns when it came to areas subject to moisture and the idea of using AAC blocks was discussed. The decision was eventually made to go with our moisture resistant wall system which has a high resistance to mould, is pre-primed for tiling, and is highly fire-resistant.”