High quality precast elements from the “Cape of Good Concrete”

In the South African metropolitan region of Cape Town, Cape Concrete Works are manufacturing precast concrete products of all kinds used in the construction and civil engineering industries. In doing so, the cooperation partner of the German manufacturer Profilbeton can look back on a long-term and successful tradition, like the BFT International trade magazine.

Once called by the Portuguese discovers „the most beautiful end of the world“ or also „Cape of Storms“, but still today known under the common name „Cape of Good Hope“ (Afrikaans: Kaap die Goeie Hoop) which was already known at the time of the Dutch East India voyagers, the most south-western point of the Republic of South Africa also stands for innovative and high-quality concrete products, for example. With Cape Concrete Works, this article introduces a leading manufacturer of concrete components primarily used in the civil engineering industry. In one of the next issues, we will present you, dear readers, with Revelstone, another supplier of concrete products for the road, landscape, and garden construction sector, which is also based in the metropolitan region of Cape Town.

Rich in tradition like BFT International

Cape Concrete was already founded in 1932 by R.A.M. Louw and hence, looks back on a long-term and successful tradition – similar to your BFT International trade magazine (being meanwhile in the 84th year of publication). Initially started as a supplier of cement, sand, and stones as well as a limited range of precast concrete products, the company based in the Western Cape Province grew steadily during the post-war period and expanded into sand and gravel mining. By acquiring African Spun Concrete in 1969, large-sized, heavyweight precast products were added to the product range.

Still today, the company is controlled by the Louw family in the third generation now and is producing with a workforce of about 300 people at a factory premises of more than 20 ha, using latest technologies, concrete pipes and manholes, curbstones, retaining and channel systems, precast stand elements for stadium construction, wall panels and floor slabs as well as many other products for the public construction and civil engineering industries. The prestressed-concrete bridge beams are the biggest individual elements of the portfolio; they are weighing 65 tons at a length of 37 m. In addition to that, numerous special components are offered such as fencing products, water tanks and hazardous waste and shielded waste containers, wine tanks, prefabricated garages, bus shelters and toilet cubicles as well as lighting poles made of concrete.

„Big Boys“ track record

The actual flagship of the company are the bridge beams  and the „Big Boys in the pipeline“, which are extraordinarily large-sized concrete pipes even for African conditions. Previously, Cape Concrete, like many other manufacturers, only supplied the common nominal diameters between 300 and 600 mm, using likewise traditional machine technology that excludes pipe reinforcement.

However, not long ago, the new plant equipment of HawkeyePedershaab was installed, allowing the production of pipes with diameters of up to 1.6 m and manholes with cross-sections of 1.5 x 1.5 m according to the „fixed-core principle“. Starting from a nominal diameter of 2.6 m, these pipes are also known under the term „Big Boys“.

„All our products, no matter whether pipes, manholes, or curbstones, convince by their consistently uniform appearance without any cracks. The only imperfections permitted are tiny holes on the face of the products and a certain roughness on the back of the products,“ general manager, John Watson, explains. „Moreover, we always comply with the tolerances for evenness of maximum 5 mm over a length of 1 m, and the characteristic compressive strength tested after 28 days averages 25 MPa.“

A mix of manual manufacturing and modern plant equipment

Another asset of the company is a very well-balanced mix of modern plant equipment and manual manufacturing, ensuring both an efficient production of high-quality concrete products and the preservation of numerous jobs. As far as the plant equipment is concerned, apart from the HawkeyePedershaab pipe machine mentioned above, a slipformer of Weiler for the production of prestressed-concrete hollow core slabs is worth mentioning. In addition, two used 80-ton cranes were bought at an auction so as to enable them to erect the wind turbine towers made of concrete elements independently. Two water tanks with a volume of 90,000 liters each serve for storing the large amounts of water needed for securing the supply during longer periods of drought.

Many other tasks, however, are carried out by the staff manually, starting with the production of reinforcement right through to the final quality control.

„Kassel Kerb“ as another main pillar

„We base our particular strength on more than one but several pillars,“ added plant manager, Johan Nel, in answering the question about other products. „The ‚Big Boys‘ are, of course, our flagship number 1; anyhow, we are in the position to respond quite fast to customer requirements and business trends. Hence, we were able to manage, for example, that the public bus stops in greater Cape Town are furnished with the innovative curbstone system ‚Kassel Kerb‘; this was added by additional system components such as an orientation system for blind people through to bus stop shelters made of concrete. By the way, in this field we have been maintaining a successful cooperation with our German partner, Profilbeton, based in the Hessian city of Borken, for several years.“ Upon request of the BFT editorial staff, this was confirmed by Carsten Hasch, the CEO of Profilbeton, stating: „Actually, an extremely fruitful collaboration has developed in this field. In this way, the patented special ‚Kassel Kerb‘ curbstone could develop to an international success story and is not only produced by Cape Concrete in South Africa and by us in Borken, but also by the New Zealand manufacturer Busck under license.“ BFT International reported in issue 5/2013 about new equipment of the Profilbeton concrete production plant in Borken, including a BFS system and likewise new production boards of Wasa.

The considerable list of reference projects using the ‚Kassel Kerb‘ curbstone, which even found its way into the English-language edition of the Wikipedia encyclopedia (https://en.widipedia.org/wiki/Kassel_kerb), meanwhile reaches in Europe alone – exemplary in alphabetic order – from the Scottish Aberdeen via the German capital city of Berlin and the French Grenoble through to the Moravian Ostrava, the Spanish Valencia and the Dutch city of Zwolle.

Special elements complete the product portfolio

Apart from all the concrete products of the standard product rang mentioned at the beginning, many different special elements complete the extensive portfolio of Cape Concrete. For example, a lot of wineries in the nearby Winelands of the Western Cape region around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl are supplied with the special tanks featuring a volume of up to 2,500 liters.

In addition to that, indication signs and decoration elements showing street names as orientation aids are made to order, generally placed by public administrations of cities and municipalities; they are a supplementary product to the ordinary curbstones.

Another special product is a shielded waste container made of heavyweight concrete for nuclear waste; the high bulk density of this concrete of over 3,500 kg/m³ is due to a special hematite aggregate. As these aggregates show an inherently intensive reddish color shade, the concrete containers have a prominent appearance although no color pigments are used.

Last but not least, there are not either any problems with the production of lightweight concrete: Though mostly produced for their own use, for example, masonry blocks with bulk densities of maximum 1,400 kg/m³ are made for the erection of buildings on the factory premises.

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