Shop ‘til you drop at Africa’s biggest mall

By Fiona Ingham

The long‑awaited Mall of Africa is here with more than 300 stores — enough to make even the most hardened shopaholic giddy. The 131 000m² mall, billed as the continent’s biggest mall built in a single phase, has a final value of R4.5‑billion. Property fund Attacq owns 80% and Atterbury holds the remaining 20%. Shopping centres in excess of 100 000m² are classified as “super regional”, allowing the Mall of Africa to fit into the category easily.

The mall is set to achieve R1.4‑billion in turnover in its first year. Marijke Arran, Mall of Africa spokesperson, says the mall has reported that it expects to exceed this.

The shopping mecca offers a mix of local and international brands, such as Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, L’Occitane, Krispy Kreme, and anchors such as Checkers Hyper, Woolworths and Game.

Ambitious plumbing project

“CKR Consulting Engineers was employed by MDS Architects to design and document the general plumbing, waste and harvested rainwater reticulation. Aurecon employed us to design the siphonic stormwater drainage,” says Steve Franklin, head of Wet Services at CKR Consulting Engineers. MDS also provided the co‑ordination of these services.”

“CKR didn’t have full status on the project as a client‑appointed consultant, although this of course didn’t detract from our responsibilities. The piping reticulation was shown on CKR drawings and MDS then took the information and inserted it onto their own drawings, which we then checked. The siphonic drainage drawings were supplied by CKR, and Aurecon issued these drawings,” he says.

As of late June, CKR was continuing with the handover and snagging process and “this is expected to continue for a while,” he explains.

Siphonic drainage system

Unlike traditional roof drainage, a siphonic drainage system is designed with the piping completely charged with water during a heavy rainstorm.

“Siphonic rainwater drainage is designed to work under negative pressures at full‑bore pipe conditions,” he says.

“Special roof outlets are required for this purpose. A great advantage is that siphonic rainwater drainage pipes may be installed level.”

Siphonic drainage has many challenges, notwithstanding the challenge of making the installation as cost‑effective as possible. “We were faced with the physical demands of the building and the huge roof area. The bigger the roof, the more the rainwater!” says Franklin.

“A major challenge is to design a stormwater drainage system to handle a storm that happens once every 100 years. The weather bureau has the statistics to show that once every 100 years, we have a storm that can gather, say, roughly 300mm of rain in an hour for a duration of five minutes. You have to gauge the roof area and the volume of rain to design the system.” Franklin says that a 315mm pipe was the maximum diameter pipe used on the project.

Valsir‑Uneeq was the successful supplier for the installation — they provided the computer software that enabled CKR to design the installation. CKR attended to the co‑ordination aspects, of which there were many. “CKR had to ensure that the pipes installed didn’t clash with the structure and to meet the requirements in terms of clearances, ceiling heights and so on,” he says.

One of the challenges with the system is that you have to either keep the pipe system level or drop it down, but it can’t go upwards. It was an extremely complex piping installation and is one of the biggest siphonic drainage systems ever completed is South Africa.

CKR Consulting Engineers was not responsible for the tenant installations. Some of the tenants worked with Brencon and others worked with Jazzman as they were on site, but many worked with their own smaller plumbers. In these cases, the tenants were naturally responsible for their own submissions and approvals.

Rainplus sofware

Valsir designed the computer program Rainplus for the rainwater pipework installation. CKR then provided the initial designs with Valsir’s help. Neve’s Plumbing was responsible for installing the rainwater system. The mall uses the recycled rainwater for toilet and urinal flushing. The storage tanks are very large and can last five to ten days. In times of low rainfall, such as in winter, this has to be supplemented with groundwater and then municipal supply.

“The Rainplus software is software available for thedesign of siphonic rainwater drainage systems. By simply importing the routing from an AutoCAD or Revit drawing; tracingover the routing in the Rainplus software; and specifying the requiredtypes of outlets and their flow rates, the Rainplus softwareauto sizes and simulates the real flow rates of the designed system,” says Leonardo Steffano, commercial director at Valsir‑Uneeq.

“With the Rainplus software, the designer is given full access to allthe calculation data and can change the pipe size andpipe type of each individual section manually, to achieve the desiredresult. Once the design is complete and calculated, the designercan then check if there is sufficient space for all fittings andeven generate a complete bill of materials with minimal effort,” he continues.

Steffano says the Rainplus software is also able to export the completeddesign into Revit as a to‑scale fully 3D model that shows allthe realistic detail of the system, such as the Rainplusoutlets, all the various fittings, the bracketing andelectro welds at the correct spacing and based on the standard.

Although the rainwater used for flushing doesn’t have to be potable, it can become contaminated with bird droppings and leaves. It does need to look clean, and so it is treated at the large treatment plant. It undergoes filtration, which is followed by ultraviolet water purification and chlorination to present “clean” water. It is reticulated to a holding tank and is then pumped to the public toilet blocks. None of the tenants, however, is using this water.

Statistical analysis of water use

The brief was to provide every shop and every water user in the entire mall with a water meter, explains Franklin. The client also requested water meters on hose taps and every water user point, so they can run a full statistical analysis on the precise water use throughout the facility.

The building harvests rainwater and uses plenty of natural light. The spirit of both energy and water saving was foremost in the mind of the designers of the building, but it doesn’t have ‘green’ building credentials. All SANS standards and requirements were adhered to.

The fire reticulation feeds the hose reels and the hydrants and has to supply the mall’s huge sprinkler system to cover the enormous floor space.

“The Mall of Africa uses submersible groundwater pumps, lift pit and escalator pit pumps, open volute pumps and booster pumps, harvest rainwater pumps and cold water booster pumps,” he says.

The cold‑water reticulation was installed in galvanised mild steel grooved pipework with Klambon grooved, bolted couplings. The smaller diameter cold‑water reticulation was installed in class 0 copper tube with capillary soldered joints. In CKR’s experience, the water pipework in retail outlets is subject to change: hairdressers might move in or they want to change the position of the basins. “The tenants tend to work with smaller plumbers who do not have the skills or tools to work with modern piping systems such as multi‑layer or PEX. “They can’t be expected to drive around with the tools to repair ten types of equipment, so for this reason we tend to use copper as the fittings are universal,” says Franklin.

Plumbing in three sections

Because of the very size of the construction, the plumbing was divided into three sections: Jazzman Plumbers was responsible for the central core, whereas Brencon Plumbing was involved with the eastern and western cores.

“Pentacon did all the underground works and civils, and the two plumbing contractors did all the above groundwork,” says Leon Tobias, a member of Jazzman Plumbers.

“We became involved in November 2014 and the challenge was simply the size of project itself; although it is not the biggest project we’ve done, not by a long shot. Our biggest is Sasol.”

The Jazzman Plumbers area of responsibility began in the truck tunnel and included the restaurants, the food court, Town Square (which is the outside entertainment and restaurant area that overlooks the PwC building), Ster‑Kinekor and its toilets, and Truworths. Jazzman was also responsible for all the plumbing work for the car wash.

In parking level 3, about 90% of the enormous piping reticulation is for the Checkers Hyper, according to Tobias. “This is because Checkers has so many plumbing needs,” he says. “They have condensate fridges which need waste pipes and they have their own toilets. They have basins in the fish shop, the butchery, the bakery, the coffee shop and the cheese shop, and scrubbing basins for the fruit and vegetable section and in the pharmacy. This is a massive amount of plumbing work.”

Wastewater is picked up from basins and sinks and reticulates to the grease traps. Waste from the urinals and toilets is picked up by the drainage pipes, which goes to the sewage pumps distilling chambers.

The submersible sewage sump pumps are of the open volute type. The discharge pumps empties into stilling chambers from where they gravitate to the underground drain. Air conditioning condensate discharges to specific trapped floor drains.

“The most difficult thing about this project is how spread out it is, and the timeframes were so tight. It’s not that we were brought in too late, it’s just that all trades work at the same time and you have to be at 20 places at once! It’s very stressful. Another thing that makes it stressful is that tenants come in late and their requirements change a lot.”

“Theft was one of the biggest challenges. Before electricity was installed, we were working in the dark, so we would install a pipe in the morning and it would be gone by midday. We’d reinstall it and by the evening, it would have gone, again. Theft of building material was also a problem,” explains Tobias.

According to Atterbury Group, 10.4 million hours were worked to complete the mall. “It is an amazing adrenalin rush to be on site and to see so many trucks, cranes, bricklayers, plasterers, scaffolds and scissors lifts, ceiling contractors and workers all at the same place and at the same time. But then managing people across such a vast area is tricky,” Tobias says.

“Shopping malls are hard to work on as we are dealing with the public who uses the facilities — and they are hard on them. One of the tenants had an underwear item stuck in the toilet! In an office block, you have employees who have a different attitude.”

“We stayed up through the night at the opening. It was amazing to see busloads of cleaners arrive and transform what was once a building site into a shopping mall in 24 hours. At first light, the place had been completely transformed.”




Attacq (80%)

Atterbury Property Development (20%)



Atterbury Property Development



MDS Architects

Mechanical engineers


Rawlins Wales & Partners

Structural and civil engineers



Electrical engineers


Graeme Page Electrical Engineers

Quantity surveyor


Norval Wentzel Steinberg

Project manager


GHC Africa

Fire protection


Specialised Fire Technology

Wet services


CKR Consulting Engineers

Main contractors


Mall of Africa JV



Brencon Plumbing and Jazzman Plumbers

Rainwater reticulation installer


Neve’s Plumbing

Rainwater treatment plant




Water tanks

Abeco Tanks


Solar geysers



Pump sets

JKJ Pumps


Sump pump



Isolating valves

Cobra / EPNS



Flintstone Marble and Vanities



Duravit, Geberit, Hansgrohe, Grohe, Cobra, Vaal






Valsir‑Uneeq (HDPE Pipework)


Tank inletvalves

Fraser Valves



DPI Piping (Coprax)

Copper: Maksal and CTA



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