10 July 2024

Gabi Wojtowitz, who oversaw the foundation and geotechnical work.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series.

…continued from Part 1.

The SKAO has a global footprint, consisting of its global headquarters in the UK, the two telescopes at radio-quiet sites in South Africa and Australia, and associated facilities to support the operation of the telescopes. Once fully operational, the SKAO will be a single global observatory operating two telescopes across three continents on behalf of its member states and partners.

Local community engagement is a high priority for the SKAO. “The telescope will be operating for an extended period of time, and therefore, the buy-in and benefits to the local community is a major focus area.” The Northern Cape where the telescope is being constructed, has a high level of poverty and unemployment.

As a result, a range of initiatives have been implemented to benefit and upskill local companies and entrepreneurs, from providing physical labour, local contractors and suppliers to related soft services. “We are looking at the entire region both during construction and post-construction when the telescope is operational,” confirms Jooste.

Another benefit for the South African economy is the anticipated construction of a data centre and operations centre based in Cape Town, which will attract international researchers and boost local tourism. “We are sure that anyone who visits in this capacity will fall in love with the country, as well as boost our international standing in the scientific community,” says Jooste.

Zutari’s involvement with the project has garnered it major local accolades. It won in the project category from R50 million to R250 million at the CESA Aon Engineering Excellence Awards 2023. It subsequently received a commendation for Most Outstanding Civil Project (Technical Excellence) at the SANRAL SAICE National Awards 2023. The project was declared a winner in the Consulting Engineers category at the 2023 Construction World Best Project Awards on 9 November last year.

“We are proud to have provided the critical base infrastructure needed for these SKA dishes to operate effectively,” says Gabi Wojtowitz, who oversaw the foundation and geotechnical work. Zutari conducted preliminary and detailed design, verification and construction monitoring for the 24 dish foundations for MeerKAT+, as well as the power and fibre needed to collect and relay data over vast distances. The project included the complete design verification and design of the access and foundation elements for the remaining 109 dish positions for the SKA-Mid array.

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