The SAISC (South African Institute of Steel Construction), hosted its SAISC Steel Awards 2023 last week. This is the second part of a three-part series covering the event.

Steel Awards 2023 overall winner – Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market (exterior aerial view). Image supplied by SAISC

Steel Awards 2023 overall winner – Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market (exterior aerial view). Image supplied by SAISC

Inspiring steel value chain collaboration between architects, designers, engineers and construction companies delivering world-class projects across the African continent was the highlight of the 2023 Steel Awards, presented by the Southern African Institute for Steel Construction (SAISC).

This red carpet event, commonly referred to as the ‘Oscars of the steel industry’ was held at Emperor’s Palace in Gauteng on 19 October 2023 and themed Game of Thrones: not only to celebrate the proud legacy of steel through the ages and its pivotal contribution to civilisation, but also the significant achievements of the South African steel sector.

Every year, the SAISC-hosted Steel Awards provide an opportunity for stakeholders across the industry and steel value chain – including designers, architects, engineers, processors, merchants and fabricators – to present their work and be honoured for their outstanding achievements.

Forging ahead in Africa

Of particular interest to the judges this year was that many of the notable projects nominated were not confined to South Africa, but exported – and in some cases executed – across the continent. This was reflected in the number of Pan-African projects which won awards and indicated that one of the SAISC’s long-held goals is being realised.

“Fabricators and manufacturers have really forged ahead and made a big leap into Africa! They have built structures in a way that has never been done before, delivering products and innovations which have never been seen before – not only locally but across the continent,” says SAISC chief executive officer (CEO) Amanuel Gebremeskel.

“For over a decade, we have been encouraging our industry not only to be a centre of manufacturing excellence, but also to get involved in more advanced projects – producing products and innovations which have not been used before in the world. You would expect this in first-world economies like Europe, the US, South Korea or Japan. The fact that we can achieve this standard in South Africa is impressive! We always hear that many large African projects are being created by Chinese, Indian or even American contractors. That does not have to be the case. We have the capacity and the engineering capability to do this and that is what the Steel Awards are all about,” Gebremeskel enthuses.

He adds that many of the projects showcased at the SAISC 2023 Awards are iconic structures, which have made a lasting contribution to the built environment – and will be a testament to the South African steel sector skill for many years.

Gebremeskel highlighted the following three projects in particular:

Fresh and fabulous as the overall winner – and more

The Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market is not only the Steel Awards 2023 overall winner, but also garnered several other awards as winner of the Factory and Warehouse category, the Tubular category and recipient of the Best Project Mpumalanga Award.

Nominated by Tass Engineering, the project was designed by Orbic Architects and constructed by (amongst several others) the main contractor Enza Construction and steelwork contractor Tass Engineering.

This so-called ‘market of the future’ was constructed for the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency to act as a regional catalyst for growth, creating jobs and improving food security. Serving the local and international food industry, it is more effective and efficient than existing, traditional fresh produce markets.

The steelwork roof covers a 29 000m2 floor and is designed to provide maximum usable floor space with minimal support columns. The building was also designed to accommodate future alterations and expansion.

The main challenge was the sheer size of the roof structure and its structural framing system, which posed a significant logistical challenge to transport – from the Kempton Park fabrication site, to the market site over 300km away in Mbombela. To address this challenge, modular components were transported in smaller sections and then erected on site.

“Fitting all the pieces of this Meccano-like construction in a seamless and cohesive manner was a huge achievement. These challenges were overcome by carefully designed jigging systems used for the fabrication of the components and then trial assembling the major structural components and interfaces between them.

Also impressive is the fact that the engineer who designed the structure came up with a very elegant solution for the problem posed: the need for a lot of column-free space. To solve this, an arched roof was used along the entire 220 metre length – supported at each end using a structural framing system. The aesthetics and project execution – including the engineering, connections used, the seamlessness thereof and how the structure was erected – is quite amazing and a testament to the power of structural steel as a material of construction,” Gebremeskel comments.

A record-breaking distribution centre

Structural steel also played a pivotal role in the Pick ‘n Pay Distribution Centre East Port project, joint winner of the Factory and Warehouse category, winner of the Innovation and Sustainability category and recipient of the Best Project Gauteng Award.

One of the stand-out features of this exceptional project is the use of extremely long roofing sheets, ranging from 68 metres to a staggering 280 metres. These unprecedented roof sheeting lengths required innovative solutions for handling and installation – ultimately earning the project a place in the Guinness World Records.

The roof design features a distinctive curved profile with a radius of approximately 600 metres. This unique curvature required the use of the ‘sky-forming’ method to roll and shape the roofing sheets accurately. The success of the project hinged on close collaboration between various teams, including structural engineers, steel fabricators, material suppliers and roofing contractors. This teamwork was essential for problem-solving and adapting the design and construction to the very specific challenges posed by this challenging project.

“This is a phenomenal innovation and a lot of work went into it. It is very nice to see one of our established, older steel companies showing a lot of vigour and energy. We have really achieved world leadership in sky-rolling capabilities. This is not only a notable project in South Africa, but globally,” Gebremeskel comments.

Continued in part three…