Echo slabs answer “Give us homes” cry

One of South Africa’s most important development imperatives is to answer the distress calls of hundreds of thousands of South Africans for a decent roof over their heads. In the creation of new high-density housing communities, the Echo Group, the country’s largest manufacturer of hollow-core concrete flooring slabs, is playing a pivotal role.

ECHO’s advanced hollow-core concrete floor slab technology is being harnessed to accelerate the delivery of thousands of new homes in the creation of two new high-density Gauteng “suburbs.”

The mass-housing projects – Fleurhof Extension 2 township northwest of Johannesburg and the Jabulani CBD development in Soweto – are a joint venture between listed residential development group Calgro M3 Holdings and Inkanyele Projects. They are among the largest of their kind currently under way, and involve the construction of about 14 000 homes.

Similar integrated community projects which are planned for the Western Cape and Free State will also be making use of the Echo technology to fast-track the building of another 4 000 housing units, says Bryan Blieden, Calgro M3 Director: Group Procurement.

At Fleurhof, Echo precast slabs are being exclusively used in the construction of 7 600 three- and four-storey housing units over the next seven years. They will be integrated into a full social infrastructure of mixed business-use areas, schools, crèches, religious sites, community centre and parks.

Another 4 000-plus similar high-density units are under construction at Jabulani adjacent to Soweto’s Jabulani Mall. This development, lasting over the next five years, consists of sectional title units, subsidized rental social housing, open market rental housing and bonded homes for sale on the open-market. Several hundred units have already been sold to various housing institutions and residents’ associations. Echo hollow-core slabs are also being used in the Jabulani project, too.

Preferred supplier

“Echo is our preferred supplier,” Blieden says. “They are dedicated people. This is a major partnership operation between Calgro M3 and Echo. The combination of product quality, on-site service delivery, engineering, design and installation expertise all add up to the solution we have been looking for.”

Blieden estimates that Echo’s product delivery and technical know-how enable his contractors to build a residential block three weeks faster than using conventional wet concrete methods,

“It’s been a contest between design and installation expertise and local knowledge versus low prices – and Echo has come out on top,” says Echo Prestress managing director Monique Eggebeen. “Echo’s experience of 30 years in the local construction industry, and its intimate understanding of South African – as opposed to quite different European operating conditions – are what have counted in the end.”

She says Echo’s two Gauteng plants, which can produce 70 000m² of slabs per month, are fully geared to meet the heavy continuing demand of the Fleurhof and Jabulani developments. Echo factories in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape are also equipped to feed similar high-density housing construction needs there.