SU’s Department of Civil Engineering wins big at the 2020 Greenovate Awards competition

[Article by Chris Jurgens]

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Greenovate Awards competition had to be postponed to the start of this year and, for the first time, the competition was also presented in an online/virtual format. This presented several challenges to ensure smooth student-mentor communication and judging processes, but in the end, the competition was deemed to be a great success.

The Greenovate Awards is a joint initiative between Growthpoint Properties and the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) that was launched in 2015. This student programme seeks to educate and reward the young minds and future leaders of South Africa for environmentally innovative thinking in the built environment. The intention is to expose undergraduate students to key focus areas concerning the sustainability within the industry, whilst also introducing industry leaders to the talent that is available to them. The Greenovate Award, therefore, encourages students to learn more about green building and sustainability early on in their careers. These students will then hopefully enter the market as advocates for green building with a passion to create better and more sustainable cities, towns and neighbourhoods.

The programme consists of two streams: namely, the Greenovate Property Awards which covers property studies, quantity surveying and construction management, as well as the Greenovate Engineering Awards which covers electrical, computer and electronic, civil and mechanical engineering studies. Each stream has a total prize pool of R55 000 available, so the competition is fierce!

This year, 31 finalists from six universities around South Africa competed for the top honours:

  • Nelson Mandela University ​
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Johannesburg ​
  • University of Pretoria ​
  • University of Witwatersrand ​

Stellenbosch University’s Department of Civil Engineering has been entering the Greenovate Engineering Awards competition since 2017 and has since then consistently managed to achieve a top 3 result.

However, for the first time, Stellenbosch University not only won the competition but took home the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places!

Congratulations to the following students and their study leaders with the excellent results:

  1. Mr Jean-Pierre Mostert (Dr Jacques Kruger) – “Topological interlocking for 3D Printed Concrete”
  2. Ms Rue Munemo (Prof Gideon van Zijl) – “Thixotropic characteristics for robust interlayers in 3D Printed Concrete”
  3. Ms Monique Scheepers (Prof Jan Wium) – “Development of a training methodology for Emerging Contractors”

Mr Mostert investigated the existing 3D Printed Concrete (3DPC) and other work on enhancing the bond strength of “cold joints” in concrete. He then develops several innovative proposals towards enhancing the interlayer bond strength in 3DPC, before critically evaluating these proposals via Finite Element analysis and simulation. His final result consisted of a comb-like nozzle to make grooves in the 3DPC as it is being placed, thereby improving its bond strength significantly.

Ms Munemo investigated the thixotropic (or time dependant shear thinning) behaviour of 3DPC as a means of improving its interlayer bond strength. She did this by designing several test mixes, whilst also using a sensitivity analysis to optimise the required workflow. She then evaluated the sample mixes via tensile tests and microscopic photos in the lab. She ultimately discovered that there may well be a positive relationship between the concrete’s thixotropy and its bond strength. Further testing will now be done in this regard.

Ms Scheepers investigated several emerging contractors’ challenges, as well as the success of current training programs in the South African construction industry. She thus identified that many emerging contractors have difficulty with the accurate costing of projects. Ms Scheepers then investigated several teaching and learning methods for effective learning, something that is outside of “traditional” civil engineering’s scope. She used this information to develop a training program and App, thereby demonstrating that electronic means/tools can successfully improve the development of emerging contractors in South Africa.

All three of the above students are continuing with their master’s studies in 2021 at the SU Department of Civil Engineering.

If you would like to watch the full Greenovate Awards results video and/or learn more about the competition itself, please click here:

Photograph (from left to right): Mr Jean-Pierre Mostert, Ms Rue Munemo and Ms Monique Scheepers