Block making tech helps drive Hillcrest business park’s green focus

GIBA Business Park, a development set in the Giba Valley just in Hillcrest, Durban, has developed its facilities for a variety of its successful businesses using innovative Hydraform block making technology.

Dotted with various factories, buildings, warehouses, open platforms and storage space, the site is probably better well known for its diverse nature and outdoor activities, especially because of the popular Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park with biking and hiking trails, complete with a party venue and restaurant.

The business park is also home to Giba Storage, which is continuously growing to keep pace with the demand for self-storage in nearby Westmead. Since its opening in 2011, the facility has expanded from 56 to 220 units, with ample space for more future development. Giba has also developed an impressive business park with warehousing and commercial space.

To develop structures for an array of facilities in the park, Giba resorted to Hydraform’s block making technology, a solution it has used for the past 10 years with good results. To date, Giba owns two Hydraform block making machines and a single mixer.

‘Green’ focus

According to CEO Chris Harburn, Giba Business Park, which is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), is built on sustainable green business practices, and the Hydraform system ticked the right boxes in terms of reducing the park’s carbon footprint.

“Bear in mind that a Hydraform block is a walling material made of just three inputs, soil (In our case, waste material) that can be sourced on site, a small amount of cement (about 10%) that provides stability to the blocks, and water,” says Harburn.

“We actually have correct material in our own quarry, right on our doorstep and the beauty of the Hydraform technology is that you can take the machines anywhere and make use of the in-situ material that is available on the site. There is no carbon footprint created by transporting blocks from outside facilities. You don’t have to import costly material to your site, which also makes it very cost-effective for us.

“The blocks are made from our waste material which further reduces our Carbon footprint. The GBCSA has set ambitious targets of the Built Environment being Net Zero by 2050. We are trying to do our bit.”

Hydraform interlocking blocks are compatible with Green Building requirements. This bodes well for Giba Business Park’s green focus. The park’s location has largely led to its design as a sustainable environment through low impact eco-practices. The property is home to Stockville Quarry, a Decomposed Granite (gravel) quarry.

The quarry occupies only 14 ha out of 56 ha and this is the area that is being rehabilitated into Giba Business Park. 11 ha has been zoned for tourism and the balance, 31 ha has been zoned conservation. In addition, the environmental management plan for the quarry is to make sure it is correctly rehabilitated. The overall goal, according to Harburn, is to offer an eco-driven sustainable business park where people from all walks of life can work and play together.

Key advantages

Apart from the significant environmental benefits, Hydraform interlocking blocks are well known for their cost efficiency, saving the cost of walling by about 50% compared with conventional blocks. “The overall cost is very cheap compared with normal blocks,” says Harburn.

This is largely due to the fact that Hydraform’s technology saves on mortar and plaster cost, as no mortar is used to bond the blocks together. The blocks have tongue and groove joints that form interlocking masonry wall.

“The thermal qualities of the solid block also make it ideal for the humid climatic conditions in KwaZulu-Natal,” adds Harburn.

Another key benefit is the speedier construction, due to the minimum mortar used. Mortar is only applied before the first course, and after that blocks are just laid on top of each other, without mortar.

Meanwhile, Harburn says the training of the local community is also a huge added benefit. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers are trained to use the simple technology, gaining a significant skill in the process. “It is such a simple process. We make the blocks next to the new structure and when they are sufficiently cured, we start building the walls,” says Harburn.

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