Ground-breaking Echo Plan to Speed Housing

FROM ground level to the topmost roof of a high-rise apartment block, new products from Echo hollow-core concrete flooring technology are helping to step up the pace of government programmes to build homes for the needy.

With a track-record dating back to the earliest days of the new government’s social housing projects in Johannesburg in the 90s, Echo Group’s flooring systems have become a preferred solution in high-density housing projects.

Echo’s latest contribution is literally right at ground level – a simple concrete foundation system developed exclusively for single storey social housing developments. It’s a clever adaptation of prestressed hollow-core concrete floor slabs, more traditionally used in the construction of multi-storey commercial and residential buildings.

The method, which carries Agrément Certificate approval, involves embedding separate cut-to-measure “slices” of an Echo prestressed slab in the ground across the width of the house. The exposed raised edges of the concrete beams become the solid foundation on which the final floor slab is installed.

The system has proved itself to be more stable than many other affordable housing foundations. After years of use at a Free State pilot development, no cracks have developed in the house walls, according to Echo Group marketing and sales director Melinda Louw. “The system has shown it clearly outperforms foundation systems used in social housing construction, a number of which have proved defective. The houses mounted on this type of foundation are all very sound.”

Landmarks

Because of the ease with which the hollow-core concrete slab system by-passes time-consuming wet-concrete processes such as propping and form-work, Echo prestressed and precast slabs have been employed extensively in many social housing developments requiring fast completion times. These include the landmark Johannesburg and Newtown “infill housing projects”, which were among the first social housing projects of the “new” South Africa in Gauteng.

The showpiece Alexandra Renewal project is another where Echo hollow-core slabs helped fast-track the construction of attractive high-density housing developments. Having proved their value again, Echo slabs were a key feature of later Johannesburg region housing developments such as the Alexandra Far East Bank project, housing projects in Orlando, Kliptown Square, Cosmo City and the huge Pennyville mass housing project near New Canada off the N1, where units for were built for almost 3000 homeless Johannesburg’s families.

Outside the city area, Echo flooring slabs were instrumental in facilitating the speedy construction of a number of other social housing developments, including projects in Krugersdorp, Randfontein, Witbank and Middleburg.

“Involvement in these projects over the years has been an important learning experience for Echo, and it has made us better equipped than ever to meet the continuing needs of providing sustainable social housing, which is one of the government’s most urgent priorities,” says Ms Louw.