SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa: Going Up - Cape Town's New Skyscraper

Cape Town's city skyline will soon feature a stunning addition. The 32-storey, R1.6-billion Portside Building - Cape Town's first new skyscraper since 1993 - represents a substantial investment in the Western Cape and a major boost for the local construction industry.

It was announced this week that construction group Murray & Roberts has been awarded the R1.6-billion contract to build the Portside, which will be located opposite the entrance to the V&A Waterfront, in the emerging financial district on Cape Town's Foreshore.

The project is a joint development between South African financial services giants Old Mutual and FirstRand, and will partly house the provincial headquarters of FirstRand Bank's three divisions, FNB, Rand Merchant Bank and vehicle financier WesBank, with 25000m' of corporate and retail space to be let by Old Mutual Property.

'Sustainable economic stimulus'

Designed jointly by DHK and Louis Karol Architects to represent a "city in the sky", the 148-metre Portside will be the highest building in Cape Town's central business district, offering its residents all-round views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the building in August, FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana said the group's investment in Portside would provide "sustainable economic stimulus and creat[e] much-needed jobs in line with the government's employment development and social upliftment agenda."

Andrew Boraine, chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership, a public-private partnership that focuses on the regeneration of the inner city, wrote on his blog in August that the significance of the project lay "in the vote of confidence given to the Cape Town economy by two of South Africa's biggest corporate businesses".

Old Mutual Property MD Peter Levett said in a statement this week that the visual, environmental and social impact of Portside were key to the building's design process.

'Historically, environmentally sensitive'

"The design had to provide Old Mutual and FirstRand with two distinct business addresses in the city," Levett said. "Moreover, the location in a central city urban conservation area meant the design needed to be highly sensitive to the historical and environmental character of its surroundings."

The architects were required to take cognizance of both the current and potential future development of the city around the site of the new building, and to ensure that it would "be able to create the necessary synergies with other buildings in the area, contributing to the overall revitalisation of this part of Cape Town over time".

FNB Western Cape provincial chairman Stephan Claassen said the project team planned to submit the building for formal green star rating to the Green Building Council of South Africa.

"We intend making Portside a benchmark of environmental sustainability in terms of both construction and building management processes," Claassen said.

"[We] have worked closely with the architects to ensure that it serves to raise the standards of green design, indoor environmental quality, and the reduction of energy, water consumption, waste production and management production and negative carbon emissions for tall buildings."

Portside is due for completion in March 2014. The last tall building to be built in Cape Town's city centre, Safmarine House, was built in 1993 and stands at 123 metres.

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