Built out of wooden palettes, wine bottles and other recycled materials, the new building housing the Silindokuhle Crèche in the Joe Slovo Township in Port Elizabeth provides a safe and healthy learning environment for some 80 children.
The centre was designed by Love Story volunteer and NMMU graduate, Kevin Kimwelle, as part of his PhD, which deals with how architecture can be an agent of social change. French architecture from the Collective Saga studio got involved to build the centre and adapt the design to the site and demands from the community.
Apart from being sustainable, recycled materials that were easily obtainable in the area were used to keep costs down, as well as to illustrate to the community what can be done with limited resources. Residents were involved in the process, with five locals working with Collective Saga on site every day.
“The construction principles are based on efficient techniques that are easily repeatable by the community,” notes Collective Saga’s Simon Galland.
The 100m² main building hall is a flexible space that can be divided into three rooms by pulling down two partition curtains. Attached on the southern side, an old container that was found on site and restored forms the kitchen and an office. A second building of 38m² hosts toilets, sinks and access to water.
During the second phase of the project, a permanent pre-school will be built on the opposite plot, after which this innovative building will become an SMME workshop.
Most of the materials were selected on a basis of what was available to collect from companies and construction sites. “We tried to find ways of using cheap materials and establish techniques that will make them become something with a high aesthetic value,” explains Galland.
Approximately six tons of crushed shatterproof glass were collected from a recycling company to make concrete for the foundations. This concrete was designed in partnership with Engineers Without Borders and tested at NMMU’s facilities.
A total of 350 wooden pallets donated by Coca-Cola and 1 500 wine bottles collected from restaurants in Richmond Hill make up the walls, while excess metal beams from a construction site were used to create the structural frame of the building. The two sliding doors on the side of the main building were completed with skateboards installed as a rail system.
From an old building in Central Port Elizabeth, ceiling boards for the main building and corrugated roof sheets for the roof of the water-point building were reclaimed.
A total of 100 old tyres from a nearby company were used to create a retention wall on the front of the site, while the back retention wall was made out of concrete blocks from the harbour.
“Using recycled materials was a challenge for us because it pushes you to invent innovative solutions in order to deal with materials that are not perfect, not straight and not easy to work with,” says Galland.
With the crèche previously operated in a shack, the new building was designed to provide ample natural light and ventilation, as well as access to water and sanitation. The top of the palette wall was designed to breathe naturally and provide fresh air.
To deal with the severe challenge of winter flooding in the township, the building was raised and put on piles with two retaining walls. In addition, trees were planted in an effort to stabilise the soil and provide shade for the playground.
The project was initiated by a non-government organisation (NGO), Love Story, and seed funding of R100 000 for the first phase of the project was provided by the General Motors (GM) ChildLife Foundation through the Williams Hunt Uitenhage dealership.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Collective Saga and General Motors for the information given to write this article.
Recycled materials used:
- 350 wooden palettes.
- 1 500 wine bottles.
- An old container.
- Salvaged corrugated roof sheets.
- Six tons of crushed shatterproof glass.
- 100 old tyres.
- Concrete blocks from the harbour.
- Reused ceiling boards.
- Excess metal beams from another construction site.