I recently attended CESA's elegant awards event, which attracted the best projects in the country, showcasing excellence in engineering. Despite the perennial challenges that engineers face, we still manage to meet service delivery challenges and put forward international quality. I take pride in our engineering.
Civilution is not a word that you will find in any dictionary. The solutions to the challenges currently facing society are also not found in text books. Now is the time to pause and rethink our approach to civil engineering practice.
Transnet Capital Project's container terminal upgrade at City Deep in Johannesburg, the largest dry port in the world, is on schedule for completion in May 2014. This container terminal is the biggest of its kind in South Africa and the upgrade, part of Transnet's rolling capital investment programme, was initiated to sustain current throughput within the terminal by ensuring enhanced reliability, and to reduce operating costs. The improvements will also boost the future operational capacity of the facility.
Mountain-climbing sand dunes (also known as climbing-falling dunes and headland-by-pass dunes) are rare and interesting natural phenomena that only occur when a particular combination of circumstances exists. These circumstances are: a supply of sand that is continually renewed and blown by strong prevailing winds, and a hillside, cliff or mountainside that is downwind of and intercepts and traps the wind-blown sand forcing it to climb the hill or mountain slope, thus forming the climbing dune.
Jones & Wagener Consulting Civil Engineers (J&W) were appointed by EnviroServ Waste Management to design and supervise the construction of Cell 9 at the Holfontein H:H Disposal Site (Holfontein) in Springs, Gauteng.
The conceptual design commenced at a time when the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) were in the process of updating barrier standards from the present standards as described in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry's Minimum Requirements for Waste Disposal by Landfill (Second Edition 1998) document. The Minimum Requirements do not stipulate double composite lining systems for waste cells, only for hazardous waste lagoons. The new Draft National Standard for Disposal of Waste to Landfill (Notice 432 of 2011) would place a landfill site such as Holfontein in the Class A category, which requires a double composite lining system.
A composite lining system is one in which a highly impermeable layer of either compacted clay material, enhanced soil or a geosynthetic clay liner acts together with a geomembrane liner placed in intimate contact with it to provide an impermeable system to infiltration of liquids.
During the construction of the Kraaifontein (Integrated) Waste Management Facility (KWMF) in Cape Town, alternative stormwater management options, which included litter-silt-traps and a bio-swale, were implemented. Stormwater runoff from the site is collected in several litter-silt-traps and discharged into the bio-swale, which is located at the lowest corner of the site. Polished stormwater subsequently discharges into an existing retention pond downstream of the site. The bio-swale is categorised as a 'local control' Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) option, and is the amalgamation of selected properties of two local control SuDS options, namely bio-retention areas and swales. As a result of the unique waste operations onsite the quality of stormwater that is discharged into the bio-swale is highly contaminated, in some instances replicating landfill leachate at over 17 000 mg COD/ℓ. Stormwater samples were taken at four six-monthly intervals at the beginning and end of the Cape's wet and dry seasons. The results clearly demonstrate the efficacy of these SuDS options in reducing, inter alia, heavy metals, suspended solids, total phosphorous and COD, with over 80% removal efficiencies. These results have exceeded the treatment requirements stipulated in the City's latest stormwater management policy.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated the following in his speech The Locust Years in November 1936 to the House of Commons:
The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequence ...
Although his words related to the turbulent political situation at that time in the wake of devastating wars and costly errors, these words have relevance to 21st century issues as well, and can be viewed as a stern warning to the decision-makers of today that the days of reckless living, in which decisions are based on immediate harms or gains, are over.
Seventy-odd years after Churchill uttered these prophetic words, and as the consequences of our forefathers' decisions are starting to have an impact, the realisation is dawning that a period of consequence means that the preferences which are applied will change the Earth's landscape and that of its inhabitants.
Churchill's statement has become a mantra for environmental activists because it so eloquently summarises the environmental climate we live in. Since the industrial revolution, civilisation has boomed. Natural resources such as coal, water and wood have been used recklessly at the will of the consumer, often without due recognition of the fact that once a non-renewable resource is exhausted, there is no way of replenishing it. According to some environmentalists, electricity has been produced in the least expensive, but often most harmful ways - particularly in the case of some of the coal-fired power stations.
Throughout the ages the lives of people and water have been inextricably linked. On a planet that is mostly covered in water, but where less than 2.5% of it is fresh, the ability of societies to regulate and manipulate the water that is available to them has not only been key to their progress and development, but to their very survival.
To overcome its climatic variability and water scarcity South Africa has historically depended on the construction of large dams to stabilise supply. These dams typically store two to three times the mean annual flow of the rivers in which they are constructed.
The country was a relative late-comer to the modern dam construction boom, which started after the Second World War. Yet, while dam construction has slowed dramatically in South Africa in the last two decades, the country still occupies the number six spot on the list of the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), which ranks member countries according to their number of large dams. By 2012 a total of 4 755 dams had been registered with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) Dam Safety Office (including medium large-sized dams).
This article explores the evolution of environmental awareness in the water resource development sector - more specifically within the DWA as the country's main designer and builder of large dams.
On the northern outskirts of Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, the Limit Hill and Model Kloof neighbourhoods are separated by the busy National Route 11 (N11) which connects Ladysmith in the south to Newcastle in the north. The N11 has two access roads in the area - Muller Street, which accesses the N11 from Model Kloof to the west, and 1st Avenue, which accesses the N11 from Limit Hill to the east. Commercial developments nearby had resulted in increased vehicle traffic volumes in the area making the section of the N11 between Limit Hill and Model Kloof unsafe for both vehicles and pedestrians.
The scenic 4.5 km stretch of coastal road between Muizenberg and Clovelly, one of only three routes linking the Cape Town metropolitan area with the far south, had been re-surfaced in 1994 using a hot in-situ recycling method which was designed to last approximately ten years.
As a result of this road starting to show signs of serious distress, the City of Cape Town appointed Kayad Knight Piesold Consulting Engineers to undertake an initial assessment of its condition in September 2006. It was subsequently determined that, in addition to the generally poor condition of the road pavement, the underground services (water mains, stormwater, and both gravity and pressure sewage pipes) were severely degraded and needed to be replaced urgently.
In terms of the SANS 10100:2000 Parts 1 and 2, designers of reinforced concrete structures must base their designs on the cube strength of concrete, and SANS 5863:2006 specifies how this must be tested. The cube strength is known as the characteristic strength of the concrete and is the strength given in the material specification for the structure. It is further defined as the strength below which only 5% of the cube results may fall, i.e. it must give the designer a 95% confidence level that the strength will be achieved. Statistically, a 100% confidence level requires making concrete so much stronger than specified that it becomes economically unacceptable.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a collective term commonly referring to the resolution of disputes outside of the litigation process of our courts. As an extrajudicial process it usually refers to mediation, adjudication and arbitration. ADR is extensively used in engineering contracts to resolve disputes that arise out of the contract. However, factors that influence the decision as to which of the ADR processes to utilise are: the type and nature of the dispute, enforcement of the outcome and whether there is a further option to finalise the dispute, and the costs of the chosen ADR process.
In most cases the ADR process is stipulated in the contract, and the parties to the contract are obliged to follow the agreed process. In some contracts the contract-specific process provides an alternative for the declarer of the dispute to choose from. Certain purely legal disputes cannot be properly dealt with by way of mediation and adjudication, and it falls to arbitration to deal with such issues. A technical or expert opinion or decision, necessary for the execution of the contract, given by an engineer or architect, as the case may be which is disputed by the contractor, is not a dispute for resolution by an ADR process. A payment certificate, interim or final, issued by a properly appointed engineer, is a liquid document and is not a dispute for an ADR process. What may be in dispute is a claim sounding in money where the contractor is of the opinion that the payment certificate is undervalued (a contractor never complains if it is overvalued).
Of further importance in any ADR process is the choice of presiding officer by the parties. The parties enjoy mutual autonomy and by mutual agreement can make such an appointment. The dispute may be overly technical and/or overly legal, and in making the choice of the presiding officer, these facts should be taken into account.
In June this year Rubicept (Pty) Ltd, the developers of the Metrowind Van Stadens Wind Farm, announced the arrival of the first shipload of Sinovel wind turbine components for the project. The components arrived in the Port of Ngqura near Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
I've always been unsettled by the expression that small things amuse small minds, which casts an inherently negative and somewhat condescending light on the subject. This creates great discomfort, as it essentially imposes critical judgement on the creative process of the mind, which is not at all conducive to imaginative and innovative thinking to begin with. I'd rather like to perpetuate the idea that the greatest minds can be inspired by the smallest of things. This is indeed a much more positive perspective and one which resonates well with the contemplative nature of the engineering mind. I also find it to be a valuable trait in the South African context at large. Amidst the chaos and struggle we seem to have developed an exceptional affinity for appreciating the small and simple things in life, both in thought and action. Somehow we've managed to remain justifiably optimistic about the road ahead.
The Agricultural Revolution was the world's first economic revolution. This occurred about 7 500 years ago, when homo sapiens switched from gatherers-hunters to farmers. This change led to a sense of place and ownership. Then the industrial revolution started in England in the mid-1700s and it spread to parts of Europe and North America. The revolution suddenly meant that people had to go to machines to work, instead of farming. The machines made processes more efficient and quicker, while ensuring better quality. Both the revolutions empowered man to produce goods and services more efficiently than their predecessors.
Leon Dison, who was a member of SAICE for 60 years, was born in 1922. After school in Standerton and Pretoria he enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand where he graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1942.
Paul Nicolaysen, who was a member of SAICE for more than 60 years, passed away recently at the age of 88. Until three or four years ago he still attended SAICE branch meetings and site visits (Bloemfontein) and never missed the presidential visits.