Botswana Innovation Hub’s icon building within its Science Park-in Gaborone’s Block 8 suburb is now at an advanced stage. Business Reporter, Portia Nkani visited the construction site recently.
Driving into the Science Park which is just behind the state-of-the-art DTCB, one sees a fenced grassy plot, but in the heart of the plot lies the structure of the iconic building which is under construction.
The Botswana Guardian team enters the site and gets to meet the Botswana Innovation Hub executive team of Tshepo Tsheko- Director of ICT and Marketing, Tigele Mokobi Communications Manager; later joined by Leungo Molomo-BIH Director Real Estate Property and Facilities Management.
We get into a temporary structure painted white and blue which currently serves as the site offices. Without wasting any time, Mokobi introduces his superior, Tsheko and the interview starts right away.
Tsheko speaks passionately about the Science Park, how it is going to transition the Botswana economy into a knowledge based economy. The groundbreaking of the Science Park,a 57ha plot was first done in 2010 and the construction of the iconic building commenced in August 2014 with an expectation to be completed in 2016.
Its central buildings are a world class, iconic masterpiece of architecture whose designs won the 2013 Auto Desk Design Awards. With 23 000m2 of commercial development space, the building will house both local and international innovative businesses and institutions thereby creating a network that fosters entrepreneurship, technology transfer and innovation.
As the interview progresses, Tsheko confirms that the project is now over 80 percent complete and the land leased for developments, which is 41 plots, is currently at 31 percent. Of the lettable space there are anchor tenants, start-ups, partners and business support services.
Tsheko explains that their anchor tenants include Dimension Data which is an ICT company expanding its regional activity and hubbing it in Botswana and will be moving into the icon building to scale. Another anchor tenant,Alpha Direct best known as an insurance company, is moving into a telematics space as a driver to the use of technology to improve the value as an insurer to its clients.
Alpha Direct is also setting up a 100-seater call centre. The third is RPI company that deals with nuclear technologies and will be setting up a lab to test the use of nuclear technology and they will be a regional lab here in Botswana, they are working with the IAEA which is an accrediting body for the use of such.
Tsheko also discloses that they will also house over 250 start-ups (one of BIH core spaces) some of which are the youth companies in the space of ICT. Amongst those confirmed are WorldQs, Ditech and Modisar. Microsoft are partners in the icon building, Cobit will also be in the building as well as Liquitelecom.
Concerotel, Bofinet, PureData Centres, a 5-star hotel which could not be disclosed, form part of those that have leased part of the 41-plot land to set up their own structures within the Science Park.
“We have already embarked on a marketing drive to attract appropriate tenants to occupy the icon building,” says Tsheko.
Mokobi adds that, everything will be within reach for all the companies that will be operating in the Science Park. “The BIH ran adverts in the media last year for other amenities of which some have been evaluated and some are under evaluation. We are in talks with commercial banks to set up their ATMs here and we will also have gyms amongst other services,” reveals Mokobi.
No cost overruns in the project
As close sources allege that this project has had cost overruns of about P100 million, Tsheko indicated that, the disbursements on the contract sum are in line with the milestones of the development.
“..but we cannot obviously speak to the final account until we have done the project closure when the building is commissioned and running, we then will be able to bring everything to balance. Currently there hasn’t been any over disbursement because it is guarded against the milestones, the contract sum is P643million,” according to Tsheko.
Why the project is delayed
From a design perspective,the icon building is not a typical building, atleast according to Tsheko. It’s an ambitious building - a symbol that Botswana is part and parcel of the innovation agenda. He says if one rates it as a typical building then there will be more questions than answers regarding progress of the development.
The building, which was supposed to have been completed in 2016, is at 82 percent complete and the reason it is behind schedule is due to a (Cantilever); which is a rigid unsupported 30m extension structural element of the central building, says Tsheko.
The three-building icon project is connected by bridges. The central building at the front of its cantilever required as per the engineers; they realised the building because of other floors compounded on top of the extension needed further strengthening, so to be able to bear the load.
The central building in question is going to house the auditorium, restaurant and BIH offices. These were the three activities affected by the delayed works of the 30m extension of the cantilever.
The building is a green building where they are going to plant on top of the building. Tsheko explains that, the engineers felt because this has never been done before, the soil loads and the live loads; the building would require further strengthening.
As they were loading they realised that it was deflecting beyond the tolerance initially calculated. This area makes up the 29 percent of the structural works which are behind. The partitioning works are said to have already commenced.
Explaining further on what contributed to the delays of the project, the building enclosure is a façade, based on the dune and delta which regulates how cold and how hot without spending on the normal aircons. When the sun hits on the glass which has specialised gel in between, the building will give a stable temperature.
The procurement of this façade was very complex with some of it made overseas and assembled in Cape Town and sent here and further assembled with each coded. According to Tsheko, when the façade process was started, the waterproofing (spray being used) had to be redone; its works was affecting the ability to install these glasses (façade) as it stained the glass.
Had it been planned it could have run concurrently. The waterproofing had to be completed before installing the glasses. Further delays were on the issue of electrical and mechanical, the mechanical is based on the thermo deck technology. The strengthening controls the ultimate date of the handover.
“But what we have done and reported through the His Excellency President Ian Khama briefing, we are seeking for the three buildings to delink them from one date. Bar 1 and 3 are ready and it is now working towards a sectional occupation which we are targeting in September-October 2017. The back of bar 2 is almost ready as well,” he explains. The handover will happen once the whole building is done.
About the icon building
The cultural significance of the dune and delta to Botswana has been embraced in the design of the icon. These have been the conceptual drivers since inception of the project.
The embodied characteristics of these landscape features have remained visible and prominent in the form of the project most notably with the building massing, the façade expression and landscape planning.
On a site tour, Molomo explains on the processes involved in the construction. The men on site are busy at work doing various installations and partitioning. Botswana Guardian can confirm that the icon building is at an advanced stage of completion, hoping that indeed it will be delivered in 2017 as anticipated.