The SAPS Radio Control Centre in Korsten, Port Elizabeth, is designed to be efficient and self-sufficient. The design team has applied for a 4 Star office “As Built” certification from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

The building’s facebrick edges and galvanized steel frame exude resilience, while expansive glass windows offer SAPS personnel 360-degree views. Behind the pavilion, a 50-metre tall white and red communications tower connects the centre to other SAPS units around the country.

The pioneering building is made to house 187 people at full capacity. At its core is a 10111 call centre. A mono-pitch roof that slopes downward at 10 degrees from south to north flies above the main centre, linking the two-storey 10111 section on the north side to the three-story radio technical section on the south. A single-storey block detached from the main building on the south end, houses a radio repair workshop.

The centre is equipped with high-end computing equipment and an array of servers. A key question for the design team was how best to facilitate the building’s technological specifications and provide air conditioning to keep the servers cool.

From the outset, project architect Neil Fisher of The Matrix…cc Urban Designers and Architects, pushed to include sustainability elements in the design. With support from the client – the National Department of Public Works (NDPW) – he managed to realize many of the green elements he had pooled on an “endless checklist” of options. Correctly orienting the building, focusing on energy efficiency, and installing a central building management system (BMS) that controls and monitors electricity and water consumption along with the air conditioning, were key aspects.

The west side of the building features a double-glazed façade fitted with low-emissivity glass to reduce solar heat gain and glare.

The 10111 centre plays a critical role in crime prevention and runs 24 hours a day. It was engineered to be self-sustaining and continue its functionality in the event of municipal power or water outages. To avoid lag time for back-up services coming online, the centre is equipped with a dual redundant uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that runs off batteries, since solar power was not a cost-effective option. It also has two 750 kVA diesel generators that are constantly alternated when required to function.

“The centre won’t lose a second if power should go off,” says Frans van Zyl, chief project manager with the NDPW.

An emergency supply of water is stored in a 180 kL onsite reservoir, which can supply the centre with water for at least 24 hours. Additionally, the roof hosts a syphonic rainwater collection system for irrigation purposes.

Combined power-saving efforts result in a 30% active reduction in peak electric demand at the radio control centre, according to Fisher.

All timber is Forest Stewardship Council certified Balau wood. The building scores further sustainability points for the fact that about 85% of the joints holding the steel frame together are bolted instead of welded, making them easier to dismantle.

“Everything is put together like a Meccano set, so if they decide one day to demolish the building, they can loosen all the bolts and get all the structural steel out,” explains structural engineer Ruan Swart of BVi Consulting Engineers. The process of bolting also uses less energy than welding.


* The full feature appears in the June – July 2013 issue. Images: Wianelle Brier (