Sustainable architecture extends and complements the accepted building design concerns of aesthetics, cost-effectiveness, durability, function and comfort. If one defines sustainability as meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the opportunities of future generations, then this means finding the balance between building homes and a sustainable environment.
This was said by Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik, ahead of the 30th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, which are held every year to acknowledge and reward outstanding talent in South Africa.
The competition begins with regional rounds at eight major universities throughout South Africa. Then, the overall national winner from among the regional finalists is announced and presented with a cheque for R50 000 at the Architectural Student of the Year Awards which take place this year in Johannesburg in May.
In Bloemfontein, Musa Shangase, Corobrik Commercial Director, presented prizes to the winners from the University of the Free State. Lana Bramley won first prize of R8 500, second prize of R6 500 went to Petru du Toit and third prize of R4 500 was presented to Sinjon Moffett. An additional prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Nina Nel.
The winner, Lana Bramley, designed Art Gallery, University of the Free State Campus.
In her thesis, she questioned topographic and institutional edges by sculpting inhabitable thresholds. The gallery is placed on the periphery of campus to allow visitors from the university as well as access to the public. The building negotiates the edge of the campus by addressing the public realm and current prohibited access.
The form of the gallery was manipulated through the way natural light is allowed inside the building for art viewing. The gallery consists of several masses with breathing pockets in-between. These pause-moments allow the visitor a time of reflection.
Clay face brick echoes the past
Nina Nel designed a House of Memory for the forgotten narratives of Thaba ‘Nchu. She proposed protecting and conserving collected oral history from Thaba ‘Nchu. Clay masonry and ironstone are used as the material which represents the old voice. The use of these materials grounds the precinct in the landscape, becoming a visual connection with the existing context and forming part of the voice of Thaba ‘Nchu.
Shangase said that developing more environmentally friendly construction practices was central to the concept of sustainable building and one of the ways of minimising negative impacts was to specify low-maintenance and durable building materials like clay face brick with its light environmental footprint and low lifecycle costs.
“An often-overshadowed objective of sustainable building is to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health,” he said. “The use of low-impact non-toxic building materials can enhance indoor air quality, helping to protect occupant health, improve comfort and wellbeing and, in the case of office or educational buildings, boost productivity.”
“Clay face brick excels in this respect. It is incombustible and benign and so does not release any toxic fumes that could affect air quality, both in normal conditions or during a fire. It contains no pollutants or allergens and does not release toxic fumes that reduce air quality. It is also resistant to ants, borer, termites and rodents and, because it dries easily, it inhibits the growth of mould.”
Shangase concluded that the winners in the Free State regional round of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards had shown commendable maturity, creativity and technical skill in their designs as well as a sound appreciation of the importance of sustainable building practices and, as such, were a credit to their chosen profession.