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At 3300m above sea level & more than 150km round trip from the nearest hardware shop, it is no surprise that it is very difficult to build at Afriski ski & mountain resort! Add unskilled & non literate labour, four-seasons-a-day weather, temperatures as low as -20°C some winter nights & concrete freezing before it can set, and one starts to realise that the usual brick-and-mortar method is not going to work here.

Modul8 is designed to be a hybrid between cold rolled steel & Light Gauge Steel structures. It is light enough to be picked up by a crane mounted on a truck, strong enough to be picked up & placed on site, and flexible enough to withstand the trip to site. The design is flexible & can be repeated over and over, which makes it ideal to start small & add modules if and when the need requires. As the modules are movable, it is also ideal for re-site establishment.

St.Johann ski chalet is designed for an Alpine climate, thus incorporating proper insulation for the floor, walls & roof with no air breaks, as well as double glazing. Solar water heating with gas backup is utilised for under floor heating & domestic water heating.

The client needed a rental property at Afriski, where it is notoriously difficult to find accommodation during the skiing season as well as to build any time of the year. Their wishes were to design a low maintenance, low energy-use mountain retreat for two adults and 4 children, which could be extended to accommodate another family or two in a second phase. The two chalets should be able to function separately with separate parking & entrances, or together without being in each other’s space.

The solution was to design a pre-manufactured, modular building system, which could be built off site in a factory in Gauteng in stages. Phase one is a two bedroom, two bathroom unit with well-planned living area & entrance which doubles as wind break, mud room & future stair shaft. A second storey with separate entrance, but connected to each other via an internal staircase, will be easily added by placing more pre-manufactured modules on top of this chalet at a later stage.

Strey Architects has been involved at designing structures for these Alpine conditions nearly from the outset more than 10 years ago. In 2003 a portal frame system with Light Gauge Steel Frame (LGSF) walls, fibre cement shiplap exterior- & plywood interior cladding, double insulation & double glazing were tried for the first two residential building, long before most have heard of such a solution. In 2006 shipping containers with insulation board with a wood-glue-and-mud mixture to protected it from the harsh UV rays at this altitude. The next solution was to design 9 solid wood wall cabins, imported from Estonia, using the manufacturers building methods & details.

From the experience gained from all the work done at Afriski, Strey Architects developed a pre-manufactured, modular building system called Modul8. The building modules are manufactured in the controlled environment of a factory, and then trucked to site, complete with insulated cladding, working electricity & plumbing, and build-in furniture! The units utilises the best characteristics of each building methods & materials used, resulting in a hybrid pre-manufactured construction system.

The advantages of such a system are numerous! Speed: The modules can be built at the same time as plans are being approved and foundations are being put in place, resulting in a much reduced building period. Cost: There are very little P&Gs, no site establishment to speak of, a massive Time-Cost saving as no interim interest, stand tax, levies, builder’s water & electricity, etc. needs to be paid. The modules are ‘light’ compared to brick-and-mortar, so it needs lesser foundations, which in turn is quick & more cost-effective. Environmental: As the modules are designed around standard building material sizes, there is very little- to no waste & builder’s rubble as a result. Very little to no damage is caused to the site, as there are only a few days spent on site to prepare foundations & place/connect the modules. Security: No builders or materials are on site for months on end, which improves site security losses through theft inclement weather.