The highest residential block in Cape Town’s city centre – 16 On Bree – has resumed construction, but under demanding new Covid-19 conditions. The project is being developed by FWJK Developments.
This makes Concor Western Cape, the contractor on the project, a pioneer in the application of Covid-19 health protocols in a building of this height and complexity, says senior contracts manager Collin Morilly.
Pioneering COVID-19 Safety Protocols
“With the large number of people on a site where space is severely restricted, we have introduced a range of new health and safety measures aligned with post lockdown Covid-19 regulations,” Morilly says. “These are in addition to Concor’s standard stringent health, safety policies and environmental procedures that have been fine-tuned over decades of experience.”
At the project’s peak, about 800 staff, labourers and subcontractors were active on site. The carefully phased on-boarding process in lockdown Level 3 will see 300 of the overall workforce allowed back in the initial intake, in compliance with regulations.
“The rolling out of construction activities will demand close adherence to our rules, and extensive training and monitoring will be introduced,” Morilly says. “We have revised our method statements to allow work to continue safely, as managing social distancing under these space-constrained conditions is a major challenge.”
Skills, processes and facilities
He notes that the new health and safety specifications will require Concor Western Cape to take on additional staff who are specially trained and tasked with applying Covid-19 regulations. New processes will include screening and close monitoring of all workers by monitoring staff. Office space for construction management has been reconfigured, and rooms set up for screening, isolation and induction.
The project began in May 2018 and had progressed well until South Africa’s national Level 5 lockdown in March 2020. Construction is ramping up again in June 2020 under the Level 3 State of Disaster regulations.
“The main structure topped out in early March this year, just days before the Covid-19 lockdown,” Morilly says. “The apartments on levels 12 to 19 are complete, with only snagging work underway. The fitting out of levels 20 to 27 is returning to full swing including electricals, water infrastructure, fireproofing and air conditioning systems.”
The 120-metre high, mixed-use development has two floors of retail at ground level, followed by nine parking levels. The living area comprises 25 storeys of apartments with 380 units in all. There are also two floors for plant and equipment.
He says that work is underway to waterproof the final levels from 33 to 37. At these levels curtain walling will comprise a glass façade including installation of structural steel canopies that will be bolted to the main structure.
Despite a high demand for specialised building-related skills in Cape Town over the construction period to date, work has proceeded well with our chosen selected subcontractors, says Morilly.
Spreading the risk
“We split a number of the work packages to manage the risk effectively,” he says. “There were two drywalling contractors, for instance, each working on alternate floors then leapfrogging each other to keep an optimal workflow.”
The packages for the built-in cupboards, balustrading and tiling were also split. Close monitoring of work to maintain quality and schedules is achieved by deploying at least four foremen on each level.
Located on a busy city block, the project has had to deal with a restricted laydown area, demanding out-of-the-box thinking. Morilly says this has required upgraded safety plans including safety fans around the building, and required additional flagmen and banksmen to ensure compliance.
The early phase of construction was complicated by a 100-year-old front façade of significant heritage value. This 16-metre wall required a specially designed structural steel brace, which supported it while it was cut free from the rest of the building. It now provides an eye-catching feature affirming the city’s rich history.
Despite the challenges posed by lockdown and complying with Covid-19 requirements, the project is on track for completion later this year.