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Swellendam Primary School

New Swellendam primary school is set to excite

Bold use of face brick colours contrast in a striking architectural design have resulted in an eye-catching school building servicing the Railton community in Swellendam, Western Cape. 

The R45-million project, which was completed in October this year, has provided school facilities for up to 1 120 primary school learners. The VRT Pitt Primary School has been welcomed by the local community as the only other primary school in the area is at capacity. 

The 31 575m2 level site in Railton was selected by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works with work completed by Atuba Construction and Miradi Architects.

Opting for environmentally-friendly materials, Miradi Architects selected the Corobrik face brick range, used for the construction of 90 percent of the 3 672m2 building exterior. 

Corobrik’s Sandstone Travertine and Tokai Red Travertine face bricks as well as Cape Stormberg pavers were used creatively to fashion a structure that is bold in design and colour yet blends into the surrounding area comfortably.

“Good effect was established by the creative use of the two brick colours,” explained Knowledge Makombe of Miradi Architects. “The main brick used was the Tokai Red Travertine which was chosen because of its rich, balanced colour. The accent colour used was the Cape Stormberg Travertine, selected because of its colour semblance to the stones found on site.”

Makombe said, for texture contrast, stones – which were picked on site by local, unskilled labourers – were used to construct gabion walls, helping to bring the “site” into the actual building. 

“The whole language of taking the site into the building was further enhanced by the use of Cape Stormberg pavers on all the pedestrian walkways,” said Makombe. “The Sandstone Travertine was then used as the main finish inside the hall, with the Cape Stormberg used as an accent finish.”

The school building includes a hall, 30 classrooms, administration, art, music, computer, care-taker and refuse rooms, a kitchen and sportsfield. As the school is mainly on one level, Makombe said they decided to break up the “horizontal look” by creating vertical bands of recesses externally, using the Cape Stormberg pavers in a face brick application. 

A number of “green” design aspects were incorporated including the sourcing of locally made bricks, with help from Corobrik. Natural lighting was maximised through the use of shaded roof windows to eliminate the need for daytime artificial lighting and ceiling insulation will reduce loss of heat through the roof in winter helping ensure classrooms are warmer. Indigenous trees and shrubs were used for landscaping while a number of water-saving initiatives - including rainwater harvesting and stormwater collection - were incorporated to lower future costs. 

“The selection of Corobrik’s face bricks and pavers has not only had a visually appealing affect, but will ensure lifetime value for the school building with maintenance cost-saving from day one and comparatively low heating and cooling energy usage as well,” said Christie van Niekerk, Manager: Corobrik Western Cape. 

Thermal modelling studies by the University of Pretoria on day-time occupancy institutional buildings well show the superior thermal performance of double skin clay brick cavity walls and 220mm double brick ‘solid’ walls for providing longest periods of thermal comfort compared to insulated lightweight walling, this translating into some 48% lower energy usage than LSF specified SANS 517 in the Cape Town climatic zone.

“Add this greater thermal comfort and energy saving of clay brick construction to the fire resistance attributes of clay brick and the sound insulation properties of brick that cocoons learners and educators in quiet teaching and learning environments, and clay brick wall construction presents as so superior, right and proper for school infrastructure”, said van Niekerk.

“The Cape Stormberg clay pavers used on all pedestrian walkways was also an inspired choice providing a colourfast and durable skid-resistant surface particularly important for young children.” 

Summing up van Niekerk pointed out; “not only will the warm colours of the face bricks and pavers be enduring over the buildings entire lifecycle but with the pressure on Government to provide more new schools and social infrastructure and there being only limited funds for a lifetime of maintenance associated with lightweight alternative building technologies such as Light Steel Frame, the choice of face brick construction makes sound economic sense for all infrastructure buildings.”