Monday, November 30, 2009

Masdar, City of The Future

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Even the largest of green building projects, pale in comparison to the sheer scale and ambition of the Masdar Initiative, taking place on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Masdar City is to be the world's first zero waste carbon neutral city wholly sustaining itself on solar and other renewable energy sources.

While it may bear resemblance to science fiction, this clean tech 64,583,462 square foot desert utopia is fast becoming a reality, taking environmental design to a whole new level. Initiated in 2006, it was estimated that the project would take eight years to build at a cost US$22 Billion.

Architectural firm Foster & Partners were commissioned to design this multipurpose, high density new walled city and since it is going to be car free, the planning ensures that Inhabitants will never be more than 200 meters away from some form of public transport or personalized rapid transit.

In a recent interview with Carte Blanche, John Picard, sustainability expert and the man who under the Clinton administration greened the White House, expressed the belief that cities like Masdar, simply have to be the way of the future.

“I think it's going to prove to be one of the biggest ideas that we've ever come across in humanity... let's hope so right? Nature is not a bad boss either. We should be running to work for her as if our life depended on it, because it does.”

Ernest Roper

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trish & Grant: Bryanwood Properties CC

Grant & Trish Wood

Grant Wood of Bryanwood Properties CC operates out of the picturesque South Coast village of Umzumbe, 100km south from Durban, near to Port Shepstone.

He is currently busy with his latest development Pumula Woods which consists of eight upmarket holiday homes, each approximately 285 square meters in size.

The units also located in Umzumbe, are fully furnished, and are being sold as wholly owned units or, as fractions of thirteen shares which entitle owners to four weeks per year exclusive usage. To find out more visit

Another exciting project Grant and his wife Trish are involved in is The Umzumbe 2010 Initiative Trust. The trust was established to facilitate an up-market accommodation package on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast, aimed at the FIFA World Cup traveling supporters.

To this end, the trustees have created a fully inclusive accommodation package to relieve the potential traveler, of having to cope with the many logistical issues that need to be resolved, before seeing a football a kicked.

The objective is not only to generate a short term revenue boost for the town, but rather to also encourage future tourism revenue, by creating international awareness and putting Umzumbe on the tourism map.

Ernest Roper

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Durban Golf Day 2009

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal held its annual golf day at the Durban Country Club on Tuesday 24 November 2009. The course was in immaculate condition, following the recent rain and we managed to field 108 players. The event is in fact becoming so popular that it was oversubscribed a few weeks before the closing date.

Aside from being a fun and relaxing day out of the office, events like the Master Builders Durban Golf day are intended to facilitate interaction amongst Members, as well as between Members and the Association. Judging by the feedback that we received on the day and following the event, these objectives seem to have been met.

The winning team, with a score of 85 points, was the Pietermaritzburg-based team Shospec. They walked away with a GPS unit each and will have the privilege of having their company name on the Master Builders Cup, which has a long line of winners going back over 75 years.

We would like to thank our Gold Marketing Partners, who contributed to the success of the day. By all accounts, this was a unique and successful marketing opportunity for all of them and we look forward to welcoming them back next year. We would also like to thank our Silver Marketing Partners who sponsored prizes for the event (you will find their logos in the web album above). The Gold Marketing Partners were:

1. RMD Kwikform
2. Wiehahn
3. Builders Trade Depot
4. Shospec

We would like to build on the success of this Golf Day for next year and already have some exciting ideas. If you would like to participate in this event next year, or any one of our other regional golf days, keep an eye on the events calendar on

Gary Amstutz
Commercial and Online Manager


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

South Coast Year End Function

Our annual South Coast year end function took place on Friday the 20th of November, and was again a resounding success enjoyed by all who attended. While some may refer to the South Coast as the Slow Coast, those who live in this part of the world do enjoy a fantastic lifestyle and know how to enjoy themselves.

The venue this year was C Bali restaurant, situated on the Mhlangeni river mouth overlooking the beach at St Michaels, with live entertainment provided by Dix Forster. The tropical setting and exquisite catering, along with Dix Vorster’s singing guitar playing and unyielding sense of humor, made for an unforgettable occasion.

The floating trophy for the most active member in the region was awarded to a very worthy candidate from NPC, June Smit, who’s acceptance of the trophy was met with warm applause, WELL DONE !!!

A special thanks to NPC who sponsored bottles of wine for the tables and also to Roberta at C Bali, for having provided us with an excellent venue and excellent service.

Hans Stols
South Coast Regional Manager


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Midlands Race Day 2009

On Sunday the 22nd of November 2009, Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal held its annual Midlands Race Day at its traditional venue, Scottsville Turf Club. Those who attended enjoyed it immensely with many having experienced the thrill of punting for the very first time.

Of the many networking events we put together annually for the enjoyment of our members, our race day it would appear is the most relaxed. There is no dress code, no speeches and lunch is as and when you feel like it.

In order to encourage everyone to take part and to also get caught up in the excitement of occasion, guests were given race vouchers with which to punt. Those who were new to horse racing, set about learning the ropes with tremendous enthusiasm and some like myself, surprisingly came home better-off for it.

Thanks to Gareth and his team for an excellent day out. If I’m fortunate enough to crack the nod next year, I will most definitely be back. It was a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon and fun was had by all.

Ernest Roper

Monday, November 23, 2009

Closing 9:30 AM, 4 December 2009

Dear Members and other interested parties.

Please note: On the 4th of December 2009 Master Builders Kwa-Zulu Natal is having its end of the year Christmas Function for staff.

While an individual has been appointed to man the switchboard at our Essex Terrace head office, all Master Builders Kwa-Zulu Natal branches will on the day, be closed from 9:30 am onwards.

Normal business hours will resume on Monday the 7th.

Ernest Roper

Friday, November 20, 2009

Website Update, November 2009 has grown exponentially and continues to do so with news articles, blog posts, forum posts and fresh page content, uploaded on a daily basis.
Maintaining our online strategy is an ongoing process, the objective of which is two fold.
  1. To be recognized by the public as South Africa’s No1 authoritative building industry web portal.
  2. To be recognized by the search engines (Google), as South Africa’s No1 authoritative building industry web portal.
These objectives are intertwined. If we reach our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) milestones, public awareness and recognition will as a result follow.

My close working colleague Gary Amstutz and I are both strongly of the belief that Google get behind and support what they deem to be Authoritative Sites which are measured by volume of content pertaining to a specific subject, and the regularity with which new information is uploaded. Once you get to a point where you have the weight of a big site behind you, it seems that information moves higher and quicker up the search lists.

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal is now beginning to see tangible evidence that our strategy is bearing fruit.

A great example of this is Wednesday's blog post (category: Focus on Staff) entitled John Taylor and the Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog. The Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog needless to say has very little to do with construction, it is however an endangered species to which John gives of his time to assist in protecting. As one would expect there are loads of sites containing information on this particular species, however if on Google you do a search using the term Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog, you will find us second from the top. If you click over to the South African search, we top the list.

As part of the exercise we have been monitoring various search terms with all achieving similar results. If you wish to test us, try a Google search for either Allendale Bridge, Master Builders, Annual Shutdown, to name but a few.

While a committed and ongoing effort is what’s required to maintain momentum, we are exceedingly pleased to have reached a point where our members will now start to realize and enjoy the benefits of it.

Members wanting to feature in “Focus on a Member” please read the criteria here, and contact me at the Association on 031 266 7070.

Ernest Roper

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Excellent Images Moses Mabhida Stadium

Images supplied by Debbie Gowar

We have over the last year, proudly displayed a succession of web albums depicting the progress of the FIFA 2010 Moses Mabhida Stadium. Now that the project is all but complete, we bring you what is likely to be the last in the series, featuring the end product.

If I may be allowed to express a personal opinion, while Moses Mabhida is not the biggest of the 2010 World Cup stadiums, it is by far the most asthetically captivating.

For those who are interested visiting the previous posts, click through on the following links.

Moses Mabhida Stadium Latest Pics
An Arch With a View
View From The Top The Of Arch
Aerial Photographs - Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium WC2010
Visit to Moses Mabhida Stadium
Master Builders Association - Moses Mabhida Stadium Visit

Let the Games Begin.

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

John Taylor & the Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog

Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog

While most associate the name Giba Gorge with Mountain Biking, Master Builders KwaZulu Natal’s in-house programmer John Taylor, concerns himself more with the gorge’s various habitats, some of which have been recognised (at a national level), as highly significant for conservation purposes.

These habitats are home to a large number of endemic plant and animal species, some extremely rare, listed as Red Data species:
  • Kloof Frog (Natalobatrachus bonebergi) – found near unpolluted forested streams.
  • Spotted Shovel-nosed Frog (Hemisus guttatus) – found in grasslands.
  • Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus) – breeds in gorge forest.
  • Ruby-legged black millipede (Doratogonus rubipodus) – only ever recorded from Krantzkloof and Giba Gorge.
John (aka Gregory John) is a committee serving member of Giba Gorge Environmental Precinct, a group dedicated to safeguarding the area's many ecological treasures. For them, a key strategy going forward is to create public awareness.

“It amazing to see the amount of species that have returned to the Gorge” he told us in an exclusive interview, from his desk, immediately to the right of mine. :)

For more information on Giba Gorge Environmental Precinct, visit

Ernest Roper

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Events Not To Be Missed

Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal’s two most anticipated annual outdoor events are scheduled to take place within the next week:

Midlands Race Day

Venue: Scottsville
Date: 22 November
If you are a member of Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal and wish to attend, Contact Gareth on 082 301 4812, there are still a limited number of seats available.

Durban Golf Day

Venue: Durban Country Club
Date: 24 November 2009
A full field will take to the course and there are just two marketing packages still available for the event. If you are interested in purchasing one or more of them, you need to contact Tanya as soon as possible on 031 266 7070.
Participants are requested to please contact Lynda on the same number to confirm Tee-off times.

We look forward to seeing you.

Ernest Roper

Monday, November 16, 2009

Environmentally Responsible High-Rise

Bank of America Tower New York is a 2.1 million square foot, 52-story crystalline skyscraper, located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Although having opened its doors in 2008, the tower is scheduled for completion in 2010 at which point it will, according to its designers, be the most environmentally responsible high-rise office building in the world.

When it comes to green architecture they don’t come much greener than this. At an estimated cost of around US $1 billion, this 54 storey tower was designed to be extremely efficient, allowing heat from the sun to be maximized, waste and rainwater to be reused, and an abundance of natural daylight to filter through.

In line with the ideology of sustainable building practice, the majority of raw materials used came from renewable and recycled sources within 800 kilometers of New York.

Green Building design elements include:
  • Floor-to-ceiling insulating glass to contain heat and maximize natural light
  • An automatic daylight dimming system
  • A greywater system, which captures rainwater and reuses it
  • Building constructed largely of recycled and recyclable materials
  • Air entering the building is filtered; air exhausted is cleaned.
  • Insulating glass reduces thermal loss lowering energy consumption and increasing transparency.
Slag, a byproduct of blast furnaces, made up 45% of the concrete mix used. The use of slag lowers the amount of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas produced through normal cement manufacturing. (One ton of cement produced emits about one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.)

To put it into perspective……

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a Green Building Rating System that was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. There are 100 possible base points plus an additional 6 points for Innovation in Design and 4 points for Regional Priority. Buildings can qualify for four levels of certification:
  • Certified - 40-49 points
  • Silver - 50-59 points
  • Gold - 60-79 points
  • Platinum - 80 points and above
Not too surprisingly, Bank of America Tower has been accredited with Platinum Status.

Ernest Roper

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do It Yourself Construction, Not Clever

Let’s face it, unless somewhere along the line you have gained a fair amount of experience in the field, Do It Yourself Construction, is not a clever idea. As you will no doubt have gathered from the above video clip, any form of construction big or small, constitutes an unsafe environment.

It is equally as unwise to hire contractors who come cheap, especially without doing your homework.

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.” English critic, essayist, & reformer John Ruskin

The good news is that Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal has approximately 600 members from which to choose, all of whom subscribe to a strict Code of Conduct.

In the unlikely event that your chosen contractor does not adhere to it; our contractual and legal department will address the matter on your behalf.

Next time you need a contractor, why not choose one from our very own Find a Builder Module or, if Occupational Health and Safety is more your game, visit our Health and Safety division, on

Ernest Roper

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gamalakhe Community Project Concluded

In an earlier blog post we reported that Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal had pledged R20,000 to a construction project aimed at uplifting a particular family in the Gamalakhe township west of Port Shepstone.

Around that same time, we also reported that 15 pre-selected members of the Association had attended a breakfast meeting at the Margate Country Club, the purpose of which was to request their participation.

Hans Stols our South Coast Regional Manger who was present at that particular gathering, recalls how without hesitation, Association members came forward and pledged everything needed for the projects completion, “it was overwhelming and absolutely fantastic to be a part of,” he later said.

We are pleased to inform that yesterday, a ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the project. While the above photo sequence depicts the after, should you be interested in seeing the before, visit a post entitled “Master Builders pledges R20,000

We will within the next day or so, be publishing a detailed news article pertaining to the event on

Ernest Roper

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moses Mabhida Stadium Latest Pics

Master Builders KwaZula-Natal is enormously proud that all aspects of the immense Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium project, involved members of the Association.

While the stadium itself is all but complete, an adjoining indoor arena, sporting museum, sports institute and a new transmodal transport station, is still to be integrated.

Using aerial photographs produced by Skyimaging, the web album above reflects various stages of the construction process. The excellent images towards the end of the sequence, were taken by Elloise van Rensburg, daughter of our very own Ben van Rensburg.

If Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium is of interest to you, you may want to visit previous posts pertaining to it.

An Arch With a View
View From The Top The Of Arch
Aerial Photographs - Moses Mabhida Soccer Stadium WC2010
Visit to Moses Mabhida Stadium
Master Builders Association - Moses Mabhida Stadium Visit

Ernest Roper

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goodbye Allendale Bridge

I can’t imagine that too many of my ex-colleagues at PostNet Southern Africa are mourning the passing of the Allendale Bridge. Having at one point worked in Midrand, sitting in traffic on the Allendale off-ramp is by far my worst memory of the place. The daily flow into the area is nothing short of mindboggling; I assure you that Umgeni Road at rush hour from the N2, is a bicycle lane by comparison.

The above picture sequence represents the demolition of what was probably its worst bottleneck, and as long as it ultimately results in less traffic congestion, the only tears shed will be by those annoying sales folk, who make a living harassing motorists.

Among the must have items available for purchase were:

Inferior quality black refuse bags
Tennis balls
White coat hangers
Pirated DVDs
Nock-off rugby jerseys
Rugby flags
Inflatable hammers
Inflatable superman dolls
Big Blue/Pink Plastic containers
As well as (I kid you not) 100 per box condoms

Working on the principle that you do indeed get what you pay for, who in their right mind bought from these vendors, particularly the last item, …….. an optimist who enjoys risk perhaps. :)

Au Revoir Allendale Bridge, you wont be missed, not by me anyway.

Ernest Roper

Monday, November 9, 2009

Buildings Breaking Boundries, Hearst Tower

Hearst Tower was designed by architect Norman Foster and was constructed by Turner Construction. Structural engineering for the 46 storey project was supplied by WSP Cantor Seinuk and its initial recognition was for being the first skyscraper in New York City, to break ground after September 11, 2001.

Upon its completion in 2006, it also became New York City’s first skyscraper to achieve LEED Gold accreditation from the USGBC (United States Green Building Council). 80% of the structures steel component, had been recycled.

The exterior’s diagonal diamond shaped design was incorporated so that fewer steel beams could be used to achieve the same durability as a conventional skyscraper, while at the same time, allowing for more natural light to enter. Not too surprisingly, the buildings floor and ceiling tiles are also made from recycled materials.

In addition, rainwater is collected on the roof and is channeled into a 14,000-gallon tank in the basement. It then gets pumped into the structures cooling system and is used for irrigating the towers many plants, as well as for supply to its innovative water sculpture, housed in the main lobby.

In 2006, the building received the Emporis Skyscraper Award, citing it as the best skyscraper on the globe to be completed that year.

Ernest Roper

Friday, November 6, 2009

Letters of Complaint to Durban Council

I always suspected that working for the Council had to have a lighter side to it; today’s blog post definitely serves as evidence of this.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, you would be interested to know that this was forwarded to us by a colleague on the inside, so there is every reason to believe it’s factual.

Here goes …….

Authentic Snippets from letters of complaint to Durban Council:
  1. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.
  2. He has this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can't take it anymore.
  3. It's the dogs mess that I find hard to swallow.
  4. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.
  5. I wish to complain that my father hurt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.
  6. And their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.
  7. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was a bad wind the other night that blew them off.
  8. My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?
  9. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.
  10. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she's pregnant.
  11. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.
  12. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster and 50% are plain filthy.
  13. I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.
  14. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.
  15. Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.
  16. Our lavatory has broken in half and is now in three pieces.
  17. I want to complain about the farmer across the road, every morning at 6am his c*ck wakes me up and it's now getting to much for me.
  18. The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.
  19. Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third so please send someone round to do something about it.
  20. I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.
  21. Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.
  22. I have had a clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction.
  23. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get SABC2.
Who would want to work for the Council!

Ernest Roper

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wind Power

Those who have been following the Eskom proposed tariff hike saga will no doubt be painfully aware that the strong likelihood is that in 2012, we will be paying 5 times more for electricity than we were last year.

The equation is that if you take the recent tariff hikes of 27.5% and 31.3% respectively, and factor in the three 45% expected increases, it works out to just more than 500% in total. While the mere thought sends shivers down our spines, it would appear that perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Irish developer Mainstream Renewable Power plans to spend €850 million (R9.9bn) building 18 wind farms in South Africa over a five year period. Business Report quotes chief executive, Eddie O'Connor as having said that they are on track to build its first facility at Jeffreys Bay next year, and that the group expects to begin generation in 2011.

Whether when or how this is going to impact on pricing is unclear at this stage, it is however a very exciting prospect. Wind is something that we certainly have no shortage of in this country and CLEAN energy simply has to be the way forward ….. it makes me want to get behind them.

Let us know what you think, CLICK HERE for link to forum thread.

Ernest Roper


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Major Hazard Installation Regulations.

Association Safety Advisor Neil Enslin recently uploaded a post to our Occupational Health and Safety Forum wherein he reminded us that his close working colleague Neels Nortjé, represents Business Unity of South Africa (BUSA) on the Minister of Labour's Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS).

He goes on to say that they do from time to time request input on Regulations and are at present seeking participation, with regard to Major Hazard Installation (MHI) Regulations.

As their area of expertise essentially pertains to the construction sector, those who have MHI knowledge are invited to make suggestions concerning regulations, which may ultimately be written into law.

He ends off by asking that if you do have something to offer, that you please read the attached document. For access to that download, or to post a comment on the OHS forum, please CLICK HERE.

Ernest Roper

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Website Update

After many long nights spent working on content, as well as working closely with web developers ensuring that design elements were as we envisaged, the new Master Builders KwaZulu-Natal website, went live on 21 May 2009, as per its scheduled launch date.

At the time, while we had completed enough to go live with, we were under no illusion that the bulk of the work was still to come. Since May the site has expanded considerably with lots of industry related news articles having been added along with fresh content to key areas, such as Health and Safety.

New pages recently added to this section include:

2009 OHS Competition Winners
Tool Box Talks
The Real Cost of an Accident
New H&S Intro Copy

We have also added an entire menu dedicated to the 2009 Excellence in Construction Awards, and have livened up various pages throughout the site, by adding new and visually stimulating images.

We are now moving into a second phase of development and there are lots of exciting features to come. WATCH THIS SPACE!!!!!

Ernest Roper

Monday, November 2, 2009

Buildings Breaking Boundries: 1450 Brickell

In 2005 Miami’s Brickell Avenue made international news headlines when tens of thousands of office block windows, were blown out by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Businesses were severely interrupted by devastating winds and flooding rains necessitating that new measures be explored to limit damage of this nature in future.

1450 Brickell, (class-A' tower scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2010) is breaking boundaries by incorporating a glass curtain wall system, produced entirely out of large missile impact resistant glass.

Alan Ojeda CEO of Rilea Group, the Miami-based development firm responsible for the project, stated that construction quality has from the outset, been their chief priority. He noted that they are indeed proud that the glass contained in their tower, will be the strongest available on the market.

"In setting a new threshold for curtain wall engineering and construction, 1450 Brickell is offering tenants a peace of mind that cannot be found elsewhere in Miami - or the United States."

The Tower's curtain wall system (now more than 50-percent complete) withstood wind speeds of up to 327 mph in laboratory testing. Design considerations have also ensured that occupants of 1450 Brickell will enjoy sweeping views in every direction, including east to Biscayne Bay.

Ernest Roper