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South Africa’s first 5 Star Green Star tall building recognised at SAPOA Awards 2015

WSP is proud to have been involved in bringing Cape Town’s iconic Portside building, which was nominated for a merit award at the SAPOA Innovative Xcellence in Property Development Awards this year.


The building sets a South African benchmark in sustainability and collaboration as the first AAA grade commercial office development and tall building in South Africa to achieve a 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) – and is currently also being assessed for a 5 Star Green Star as-built rating. 

Portside is a joint venture (JV) development between FirstRand Bank and Old Mutual. Situated in Cape Town’s central business district and emerging regional economic hub and financial district, the JV called for the creation of an office development that would serve as the regional headquarters of FirstRand Bank’s three divisions as well as rentable office space. 

According to Charl de Jager, one of WSP’s structural engineers on the project: “With an investment value of R1.6 billion, the client placed significant priority on meeting the deadline for completion of this project for occupancy. Construction therefore commenced in August of 2011 and an extremely fast-tracked construction programme was implemented to keep everything on track, which enabled us to deliver on the majority of the project within 34 months.” 

Despite the tight construction deadline, however, there was no sacrifice on quality. “As the first tall building constructed in Cape Town in the past 20 years, Portside towers at 139m tall. It’s successful completion was underpinned by a commitment to responsible and sustainable development. Therefore, the structural engineering expertise required on this project was of the highest calibre as far as high rise commercial building projects are concerned,” says de Jager.

The design team was involved in providing the preliminary and detailed civil and structural design for the Portside development and all the structural and civil tender and construction documentation. WSP Africa also provided full-time construction monitoring for the project. 

“Overall, the complex nature of the project presented several major challenges,” notes Sebastian Dockter, WSP Africa Regional Director in Structures. “The sheer size and height of the Portside building, for instance, constituted a challenge simply because not many buildings of this size have been built in South Africa, and especially not in Cape Town. As such and to ensure the highest quality design, we sought advice from our New York office with the aim of capitalising on their expertise in high-rise buildings.” 

“The origin of the majority of challenges experienced on this project was its extremely fast-paced nature; from conceptual design to construction completion,” adds de Jager. “However, constant collaboration within a driven and dedicated project team ensured that any challenges were addressed in a professional and timely manner.”

de Jager further indicates that all parties of the professional team were committed to a responsible and sustainable development. “Although this originated with the clients’ decision to pursue GBCSA accreditation, as being beneficial to both the environment and their investment, this commitment filtered through all disciplines and stakeholders and constant cognisance was given to the various GBCSA requirements that needed to be taken, right from the project’s inception.” 

“We are tremendously honoured to have been part of the team that delivered such a remarkable new addition to Cape Town’s skyline. The structural design was delivered in time and aligned with the client’s brief and architectural intent, whilst being built to an acceptable degree of quality and accuracy. The success of the Portside development was the product of extensive professional collaboration with all stakeholders, patience, long hours of hard work and constant commitment – certainly a project to be proud of,” concludes de Jager.




Sebastian Dockter
Sebastian Dockter Regional Director