Corobrik Architectural Student awards

11 Jan 2013

The Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards were created to promote quality design and to acknowledge talent among architectural students. 

In her winning thesis entitled Hillside Sanctuary:  Reception centre for the urban refugee Mhlugu explored a refugee’s survival strategies in Johannesburg.  

Twenty six years later, the same award has evolved to the point where it explores students’ ability to move with the times – and the times now mean that the design challenge is driven by key sustainability issues. 

This year’s winners have clearly demonstrated that the architects of tomorrow are more than capable of rising to the challenge of incorporating key environmental factors without compromising either functionality or aesthetics. 

Allin Dangers, Corobrik Director of Sales, Inland Region, says Nontokozo Mhlungu, the overall winner, together with second and third place winners Jacques du Plessis and Shayne Schwendenwein not only demonstrated that tomorrow’s architects were aware of the demands of sustainable architecture but had come to grips with intricate technological advancements that were closely linked with energy and water conservation and minimising the environmental footprints of future residential and commercial developments. 

In her winning thesis entitled Hillside Sanctuary:  Reception centre for the urban refugee Mhlugu explored a refugee’s survival strategies in Johannesburg.  

She believes that refugee camps are an example of ‘post crisis’ rehabilitative systems, which vainly attempt to restore stability in a state of disaster. 

With so many refugees arriving in Johannesburg, she questions whether the city has made sufficient provision for sheltering and protecting them - particularly should there be a crisis of xenophobic turmoil in the townships.

Her research takes into account facilities offered by refugee aid and religious organisations and how this type of accommodation differs from typical rural and urban settlements. 

She says by understanding these fundamental parallels, a premise is formed for the development of a unique and prototypical urban refugee centre, located in Hillbrow, at the heart of Johannesburg’s eclectic foreign national communities. 

The centre comprises emergency relief facilities, rehabilitative programmes and transitional accommodation all encompassed within a spiritual, yet nondenominational Christian church establishment; a gesture which serves to highlight the ‘curative’ relationship between the spirituality,  architecture and the user. 

Du Plessis’ thesis is entitled ‘Exchange’- a mixed metals market for 21st century mining.  His open public trade forum is a dynamic market place for commerce and industry where people meet to trade in mixed metals. 

Schwendenwein’s thesis title is Idle Iron: the adaptive re-use of oil rigs into rehabilitation machines that decompose to form coral reefs. 

This thesis looks at reversing the damage done to reefs around the world by adapting retired oil rigs into mobile watch dogs. The adapted rigs will be parked off damaged reefs and integrated into the community. 

These will house research, eco-tourism, diving, community facilities and aquaculture, intertwined with experiential spaces where visitors can get a feel for the reef, the tides and the ocean.  After the reef is regenerated the rig will be dismantled and sunk to allow an artificial reef to form, with the area becoming a community protected sanctuary. 

Mhlungu won R7 000 as first prize whilst Du Plessis received R5 000 for second place and Schwendenwein R3 00 for  third place.  

In addition to this Craig Warman won a R3 000 prize for best use of clay masonry for his entry entitled Architecture Speaks, a music school for the Deaf. Warman says the incorporation of clay masonry withinthe thesis entry allowed for an addressing of the senses on a level that would not be able to be achieved to the same level as any other material. 

The many variations of face brick available, as well as the various bonding and jointing methods available, allows for infinite possibilities. 

Thesis students from Universities and qualifying Institutes of Technology throughout South Africa are invited to submit entries for one of seven regional competitions. Each regional winner is entered into the national finals. 

At the 26th National Student Architect awards function on 18 April 2013, at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, the national winner will receive a prize of R50 000. 

Dirk Meyer, chief executive of Corobrik, praised the standard of entries received this year. “Drive through this beautiful city and you will recognise that clay bricks were the building materials of choice through the centuries. Look to the future and you will realise that clay brick offers the most sustainable solution for both residential and commercial developments.” 

He says for a growing number of large corporates, the ideal is a green building that goes beyond the requirements of stringent building regulations. On the residential side, he says, smart eco-friendly design will cut down on burgeoning water and electricity bills. In fact, he points out that most upmarket residential estates are now being marketed by highlighting exactly these factors. 

At the forefront of the sustainable architecture debate, Corobrik continues to focus on lowering the embodied energy values of its products to provide architects with materials that are in line with international best practice. 

The key factor that architects need to take into consideration is that double skin clay brick walls embody low total energy over the lifecycle of houses. The sustainability of clay brick is also inextricably linked to durability and longevity with clay bricks reducing carbon debt associated with replacement of less durable materials. 

However, it doesn’t stop there. A number of additional generic factors underpin clay bricks’ environmental integrity - namely inertness that ensures no release of VOC’s or toxic fumes to impinge on air quality, incombustibility, good sound insulation qualities, inorganic qualities that provide no food source for mould, negligible maintenance costs not to mention earthy colours and textures that sit unobtrusively in natural environments. 

According to Meyer clay brick also represented the most energy efficient option with at least 10 different local and international studies demonstrating that its structures are cooler during summer and warmer during winter, significantly reducing the need for artificial heating and cooling. This, he adds, was crucial, in light of the South African climate. 

Corobrik has supported the integrity of its product with ongoing investment in introducing sound environmental practices in both quarrying and manufacturing processes. 

The company’s Lawley and Driefontein facilities have been converted from coal-fired to natural gas-fired operations. It has also committed itself to introducing this technology into all its operations that have access to natural gas.  

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