Terra Strata celebrates eight years in business with a CIDB Grade Eight

Terra Strata Construction began operating from founder Shaun Nell’s dining room table at the beginning of 2011, effectively launching the new company into an economic climate that was not deemed conducive to growth. Eight years later, in a competitive geotechnical and marine construction field, Terra Strata has progressed to achieve Construction Industry Development Board gradings of 8CE, 8SC and 7SJ for its various disciplines.

It has, since April 2011, operated out of premises in Modderfontein. The company employees are technically strong and experienced; it owns a fleet of specialist equipment and plant; and its highest annual turnover to date has been R260-million.

A significant portion of Terra Strata’s work is design and construct and it prioritises the impact of existing services, neighbouring structures and access requirements, etc. when tendering to minimize disruptions to the construction programme. The company’s tender philosophy is not to submit a tender unless it is confident that the correct resources – that will enable it to complete and deliver high standards of workmanship in line with its clients’ requirements – will be available at the right time.

“As an organisation we have consistently aimed to complete on, or ahead of time, and plan accordingly,” says managing director Shaun Nell. Some examples of the company’s significant projects, that have been completed ahead of time, include a marine infrastructure project at the Port of East London four months ahead of time; the completion of a 22,5-metre deep basement at 92 Rivonia three weeks ahead of time; and the completion of lateral support (470 000m3) for Sun International’s Times Square Basement two weeks ahead of time.

In addition to its no-nonsense approach Nell believes that the company has built its reputation on its ability to quickly convert problems into solutions and that it will approach clients with options before the timeline is affected.

A number of Terra Strata’s milestone projects, that are testament to the company’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, include:

Port of East London

Terra Strata tendered for TRANSNET’s Port of East London by putting forward a land-based solution for this marine infrastructure project. “We price on what we think is the best solution for the site,” says Nell, “and we identified that we could undertake the full project scope from land, thereby saving the client the cost and complications of bringing in a barge.” TRANSNET’s contract included the removal of an existing 101-metre long capping beam, excavating to a lower platform, as well as the installation of new infrastructure including installing micro piles, tubular piles, sheet piles and ancillary works. This was Terra Strata’s first marine infrastructure project, commenced in June 2015 and was completed four months ahead of programme in January 2018.

Underpinning for the redevelopment of Eastgate Shopping Mall

The additional loading that would be imposed via the construction of new cinemas on top of the existing structure at the Eastgate Shopping Mall meant that the existing piled foundations needed to be strengthened by underpinning. The project included the excavation of two eight metre deep pits in order to access the area beneath the mall, where the underpinning works were to be undertaken. A total of 27 000m3 of material was excavated by means of a remote controlled skid-steer in an area with limited headroom (between 1,4 to 1,8 metres high). This methodology was proposed by Terra Strata at tender stage, and completed using its own equipment that had been adapted in-house.

When the poor conditions at depth became apparent the original plan to drill piles was replaced with the installation of 74 precast 300kN piles using a hydraulic jacking system. The hydraulic jacking system was electronically controlled to record and ensure that uneven forces were not imposed on the existing foundations, which were used to support the jacking.

Time Square

Terra Strata completed the lateral support to Phases 1 and 2 for Sun International’s Time Square in Menlyn. This has been the largest basement contract the company has been involved in to date, with a contract value of R150-million. The scope of work included 471 101m3of bulk excavations; the drilling and installation of 38 555 metres of soil nails; and spraying a 200mm thick, 9 600m2permanent gunite wall. Terra Strata was able to give access to the main contractor on Phase 1 one month early and also completed Phase 2 a few weeks ahead of schedule.

92 Rivonia Road

The 22,5-metre deep basement at 92 Rivonia Road, where Terra Strata installed the lateral support and piling to the basement, is, to date, the deepest basement project undertaken by the contractor. The original design had to be adapted at approximately twelve metres deep when the ground conditions differed from the anticipated tendered conditions. The project was delivered three weeks ahead of time.

Piling at Menlyn Reconfiguration

Terra Strata was contracted to install 1 250 auger piles for the Menlyn Shopping Centre Reconfiguration project. Piles varied from 600 1 200 in diameter. The project was completed within programme and budget, even though access was shared with the main contractor.

Katherine Street – Bus Rapid Transit Bridge

Terra Strata installed the piling for the Katherine Street Bus Rapid Transit bridge where it crosses the M1 highway. Pile testing successfully conducted on this project included a 16 000kN load test, which is approximately the weight of three loaded Airbus A380s. “To our knowledge, this is the biggest pile test conducted in South Africa to date,” says Nell.

During a recession it is difficult to remain a preferred contractor or stand out from the competing contractors when everyone is doing their best to win tenders or negotiate contracts by offering lower prices. “One can be more aggressive when tendering and take more risk to be more competitive, however, you cannot change your basics,” says Nell. “Although current times are trying, we’ve remained positive and resolved at Terra Strata, and apply our common sense – it is much easier to contribute to the industry and the country if you are positive.”

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