The purpose of the Distribution centre is to manifest in the hardware of the design, the most economical structure, and spatial format that is a combination of built budget, robustness and efficient product flow. The spatial make-up of the entire campus must both serve the myriad of possibilities in terms of vehicle use externally and internally, but also in terms of product storage, staging, incoming goods and out-going goods. Future proofing is a heavily considered aspect. The logistical design is the intertwined set of flows, identifying efficiencies and exploiting them as well as any overlapping synergies and putting this into reality. The architecture needs to respond to all of these.

The brief to the Architect was to co-ordinate the considered logistics, to build to a set budget in the most robust manner and to future proof in terms of a 5 year, 10 year and 15 year vision with multi campuses in mind. The DC also needed to be as vermin proof as possible and simple in terms of upkeep and cleaning.

The project was always going to incorporate steel into the design, as this becomes the most economical and column free way to extend a “shed” type space over a vast span, allowing free flow and staging areas for numerous product flows.

The structural framing is a simple truss and girder configuration, all connected down by steel columns onto what essentially is a vast concrete ring beam that surrounds and protects all the low level docking stations. The economy and design principle that makes this otherwise semi-unconventional, is that 2 separate grid structures were used throughout the build; one below for the concrete portals and one above for the steel. The concrete responds to the most efficient dimensions for maximising docking stations, being extremely robust, and the second grid responding to the steel structure above in the making of the most economical spanning steel structure above. The steel structure is a combination of I-sections, H-sections, Channels, Angles, Circular hollow sections, and Cold formed lipped channels. All these different sections were used for their different qualities to fulfil specific functions whether it’s a sag bar or a bearer beam.

The cladding was a simple vertical clad design, the IBR sheeting was fixed broad flute out with a Colourplus AZ 200 material. The upper 1100mm of the vertical cladding is a continuous polycarb sheet which tucks behind a large structural gutter, then Lapps onto the Colourplus AZ 200 sheeting below. The cladding starts here and is fixed as a single span extruded sheet to the drip trim slightly above the brickwork on top of the continuous concrete ring beam. The resultant gap between the sheet and the brickwork is closed with flashing. The polycarb sheeting to the top, allows natural light to filter into the warehouse and at a level where the building enjoys air extraction, thus allowing the light without contributing to the heat loading of the space. The natural light contributes to our green points in terms of access to the outside, humanising the space, and saving on the day time lighting.

In terms of the fabrication, the major issue we experiences was in terms of the steel accuracy and the cladding and roofing sub-contractors’ challenges with the system implemented. In a building of this scale it is virtually impossible to survey and hand over with everything level and true. We found the implemented cladding and roofing systems were able to deal with the challenges, but with special focus from the design and sub-contracting team. The resultant meetings met with agreement in terms of getting the structure and the covering membranes to work together, especially when fast track is integral to the project. The systems we have developed will certainly be used as a template going forward and improving these aspects of implementation.

The first major aesthetic consideration in terms of the roofing and the cladding, was to use conventional roofing in terms of budget, but to interchange with different colours so as to realise the client’s corporate identity. These simple colour changes brought focus and visual dominance to the office and important ancillary functions of the large scale warehouse complex. This also acts as an intuitive architectural signage within the functionality. The complex can immediately be identified to be owned and run by the client we represent regardless of the specific corporate signage hung from various locals.

The second aesthetic consideration was for the ancillary office buildings to have exaggerated clad elements as barge boards, so as to conceal the guttering, RWDP’s and steel structures behind, without necessarily extending the structure unnecessarily. This also served to neaten the appearance and contributing to the corporate image as mentioned above.

The project teams worked extremely well on this project, as we engaged with logistical experts prior the tender and had advanced the design to such an extent before tender. The building inspector had also commented that in all his years he had never seen such an accurate and finished building as compared to the approved council drawings he was walking with. We are extremely proud of this.

We enjoyed working closely with the contractor, the sub-contracting parties, the suppliers as well as the design team in terms of reaching our goal, well. We were pleased in developing an extensive set of documents handed to the client, dealing with guarantees, warrantees, assembly guarantees, snag remedy documentation and schedules identifying repair materials, repair details, anti-weathering agents and a comprehensive maintenance plan in relation to all that was done. This was also done with regard to the surrounding air as industrial fall out.

Tons of structural steel used 835.5 Tonnes
Structural profiles used I-sections, H-sections, Channels, Angles, Circular hollow sections, Cold-formed lipped channels
Cladding profile/ type used IBR sheeting
Cladding area/ coverage and tonnage 7653m2

 Project Team

Project Team Role Company
Nominator Safintra
Client/ Developer Woolworths (Pty) Ltd
Architect R&L Architects (Pty) Ltd
Structural Engineer Aurecon Engineers
Engineer Aurecon Engineers
Quantity Surveyor iQS Quantity Surveyors
Project Manager MDSA Project Managment
Main Contractor Stefanutti Stocks
Steelwork Contractor Mazor Steel
Steel Erector Mazor Steel
Cladding Manufacturer Safintra
Coil Manufacturer (Cladding Supplier) Safal Steel
Cladding Contractor Chartwell Roofing
Photographer, Photo competition Fourth Wall Photography

If you were a part of this project, and your company details are incorrect or missing – please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.