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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Students restore heritage structures

PROTECTION AND RESTORATION:  Dal Josafat has an interesting and varied selection of buildings dating from the 18th century.  PROTECTION AND RESTORATION: Dal Josafat has an interesting and varied selection of buildings dating from the 18th century.

Civil Engineering and Surveying students are thrilled to bolster the national Department of Arts and Culture and other heritage authorities to overcome the common challenge facing heritage structures caused by the use of incompatible materials during heritage conservation and restoration.

The research group composed of three Master’s students and PhD Candidate Maphole Loke under the supervision of Dr Pallav Kumar, in collaboration with the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) investigate the heritage (building) material. They also carry out surveys in order to know the building’s present condition and carry out non-destructive testing to know the material properties in order to analyse its present condition to restore and protect them.  

Dr Kumar says: “The study is going to ensure authenticity in maintaining and on future maintenance projects and avoid the problem of repeated repairs and the re-painting and re-plastering on these heritage buildings.”  The group is conducting applied research on various heritage sites such as: Castle of Good Hope, Robben Island, and Dal Josafat, Paarl. Kumar states that the study, “will provide support to SAHRA to solve the problem”.

The project started with Loke in 2018 on: Characterisation of heritage and cementing when she was a master’s student. Her research topic is on: Development and design of heritage cementing material for Robben Island and Castle of Good Hope. This work is expected to be completed by the end of the year 2022 after Loke finished the pilot project this year.

The Master’s students are working on Dal Josafat where they are investigating the mechanical properties of the material used, deformation of the structure, and analysing the load-carrying capacity of its walls. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the year 2021.

Loke says being part of a project that works towards rejuvenating the South African heritage through structural engineering has been one of the most fulfilling moments in her career. “I got to witness that there is more to engineering than modern constructions and designs, but exploring the distinct designs and materials as well as preserving the heritage aesthetics of the previous eras”.

Master’s student Reevo Anders says he has been fortunate to be able to work closely with the SAHRA. He learnt that SAHRA has been tasked with a significant undertaking in looking after buildings of significant historical and political importance. Part of their remit is to protect and maintain the physical status of our national estate and in so doing, protect and conserve the buildings for our future generations to come. “I am therefore very excited to be given the chance to be able to play even a small part in this massive undertaking.”

Another student, Riaan Victor says South Africa has a rich heritage and it is captured in monuments and buildings. “I am excited and honoured to have the opportunity to study and contribute to the conservation and restoration of heritage buildings.”

His fellow student, Monique Mentoor adds that structures form a fundamental part of our history and shaping our diverse society. Mentoor says: “This experience has opened my perspective on the importance of preservation of heritage buildings as it forms part of our identity and history.”

“It gives me immense satisfaction to apply my knowledge to structural engineering in the restoration of heritage buildings in South Africa and I am really feeling happy that CPUT is supporting [us] through its resources to the SAHRA in the restoration of heritage buildings,” Kumar remarks.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce


Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.