M&D Construction Group, a leading South African contractor, is strategically positioned to continue its aggressive diversification into the demanding industrial infrastructure market.

This is considering the depth of skills and extent of the capabilities housed within the group that have enabled the various construction divisions to significantly accelerate construction times while maintaining extremely high levels of precision throughout the project lifecycle.

These are complemented by M&D Construction Group’s ability to assist its industrial clients to optimise their engineering designs to improve construction efficiencies and save costs.

A sound example is the critical role that the group’s Building Division recently played in helping the FX Group enhance the engineering design of the many structures for its new engineered-particle board factory that is being developed in Lothair, Mpumalanga.

Funded by the Industrial Development Corporation and part of the Black Industrialists Scheme, this state-of-the-art plant represents a sizeable investment in an extremely underdeveloped region of the country. It will feature the latest international pressed-board production technology, as well as a co-generation plant with a capacity to generate up to 6MW of energy from the operation’s residues to reduce reliance on grid electricity.

M&D Construction Group’s Building Division was appointed by this leading participant in the South African timber products value chain to undertake all of the building works for this high specification project. The division’s scope of work includes constructing the 16 factory floors– totalling about 28 000m2 under roof, as well as the administration centre, a large ablution facility and retention dam on the 12ha site.

“Our involvement in this project started with providing the client with a more cost-effective alternative design for the various structures without compromising the extremely high quality standards required by a world-class manufacturer of engineered-particle board. The group’s willingness to become involved in the very early design phases of a project as the contractor remains a tactical competitive edge,” Rory Clark, Head of M&D Construction Group’s Building Division, says.

M&D Construction Group’s Building Division mobilised to site to commence building the various structures in late October 2018. The extensive site establishment operations also included the procurement and installation of the eight large generators required to provide power to this outlying area of the province. This is in addition to fully-equipping the various boreholes that are being used to supply water for the project.

Notably, site establishment was completed in only eight days where after the contractor undertook its first concrete pours for the concrete floor slabs. Shortly thereafter the Building Division also quickly adapted to accommodate the extended work scope, which included the construction of the 1,4km concrete-surface road that will service the new factory, as well as the installation of ancillary infrastructure.

Led by Remi De Meyer, M&D Construction Group’s Site Agent, the Building Division team has made swift progress on this complex project which is well on track for completion in October 2019.

De Meyer attributes most of the success achieved thus far to the extensive preplanning undertaken by the Building Division ahead of the initiation phase.

“M&D Construction Group’s extensive Integrated-Management Procedures play a critical role in pre-empting risk and implementing robust contingency plans long before we commence working on the project. Certainly, one of the biggest risks on this project has been the extremely remote location of the development, situated just outside Chrissiesmeer. Transport and logistics has to, therefore, be carefully co-ordinated to ensure full truck loads, both in terms of construction equipment and materials, such as the 900t of structural steel, 400t of rebar and 16 000m2 of steel-metal cladding required for the project,” he says.

The buildings comprise concrete columns with a 1.50m high brick infill and then sheet-metal cladding to the roof, an apex structure that consists of purlins, supported by rafters. They span parallel to the building eave and reinforce the steel roof sheeting.

These structures house the main mechanical equipment and there is, thus, minimal scope for error.  

To ensure high levels of accuracy, close contact is maintained between the mechanical co-ordinator, a representative of the international original equipment manufacturer, and the Building Division.

This has also ensured that unforeseen problems are resolved swiftly to avoid delaying the works programme.

A case in point is the decision taken by the professional team to install piles to support the heavy base of the particle-board hot press machine in the main building. The very complex ground conditions were only discovered once the contractor had already started blasting for the concrete pit, and Gauteng Piling was swiftly appointed to install the 10 piles with a loading capacity of 1000t.

In addition to achieving 5mm tolerances on all cast-in structural steel components, the concrete floor slabs of the factories are being constructed to a FM2 specification, a finish with extremely high levels of flatness and levelness to accommodate the mechanical equipment.

Moreover, the 15 concrete pits, six of which located in the main factory and up to 6,5m deep, have to accurately align over the 180m length of the entire structure.

Sophisticated laser total station technology is being deployed by the contracting team to achieve the necessary high levels of precision for this aspect of the works programme.

“M&D Construction Group continues to embrace advanced technology on all of its projects. This supports our core value, which is to ‘Do it Right’. The use of the laser total station technology has completely eliminated errors and ensured that we are able to keep the construction programme on schedule. Importantly, it has also avoided wastage and the need to dispose of building rubble at the closest Enviroserv facility in Middleburg, almost a two hours’ drive from Lothair,” Clark says.

Mobile procurement apps are yet another example of the cutting-edge technology deployed by the Building Division to accelerate production. They have significantly reduced the cycle times of placing orders – a major boon while working in an extremely remote location and where the closest urban node, namely Ermelo, has limited construction supplies.

The Building Division has also mitigated this risk by relying extensively on its own resources, including the extensive formwork and scaffolding requirements for this project and, in so doing, minimising the need to rent critical equipment.

M&D Construction Group is also batching its own concrete requirements. The about 6000 m³ of concrete that is being produced for the project comprises a CEM4 cement with a percentage of fly ash to reduce shrinkage and cracking, while also improving the workability of the material. This high quality cement is being supplied from Lafarge South Africa’s depot in the province.

Certainly, the Building Division’s impressive track record in the design and application of concrete technologies was among the many reasons for it also being awarded the contract to construct the service road.

De Meyer says, “We also applied extensive value engineering in this aspect of the works programme. M&D Construction Group proposed a 200mm-thick roller-compacted concrete (RCC) surface as an economic and long-term road-surfacing solution. A further benefit of RCC is its ability to significantly accelerate road construction projects.  Meanwhile, the about 15 000 m³ of aggregate required for the various layer works are being sourced from the large excavation for the 9Ml retention dam in another innovative approach that has saved time and costs.”

The project will peak in August this year providing additional employment opportunities for about 100 more members of surrounding poor local communities and select black-owned small businesses. This is over-and-above the black-owned sub-contractors and just under 60 skilled locals, including carpenters and bricklayers, that are already working alongside the Building Division’s team.

They have also benefited from M&D Construction Group’s mentorship and training programmes, including, among others, working at heights, as well as HIV/Aids awareness.

Certainly, the Five Star Grading that the Building Division received from the Master Builders Association following an audit of the construction site earlier this year attests to the high quality of the company’s health and safety programmes. It also showcases the group’s unwavering focus on a fundamental value, namely “Be Safe”.

By July, the Building Division was already preparing to install the sewer and water-reticulation services. This is in addition to the fire-protection system, an extensive undertaking that includes the installation of two 431kl tanks, 2km of fire ring mains and 2500 sprinkler heads.

Rukesh Raghubir, Chief Executive Officer of M&D Construction Group, says that he is proud of the Building Division’s stellar work in delivering a high specification product in such a remote area of Mpumalanga.

“The FX Group and its international investment partner also have to be lauded for the confidence that they have demonstrated in South Africa. Lothair is a notoriously poor area of the country that is in dire need of investment to stimulate development. FX Group’s state-of-the-art factory will provide numerous sustainable employment opportunities over-and-above the many jobs that this project has already created during the construction phase,” Raghubir concludes.