Integrated plant for leading German medical device and pharmaceutical company

Integrated plant for leading German medical device and pharmaceutical company

By Paragon Architects, edited by Rory Macnamara, technical input by Trinesh Chanka, Wet Service, IZAZI Consulting Engineers

When German multinational B. Braun decided to establish a new integrated pharmaceutical plant in Longlake, 20 Business Park in Johannesburg, property developer Zenprop turned to Paragon Architects South Africa (PASA), part of the Paragon Group.

Representing one of the most significant industrial investments in South Africa in recent times, the project included office, laboratory, warehousing, and production spaces, with a total gross area of 6 435m2.

Situated on a highly visible Greenfield site along the busy Longmeadow Boulevard, the facility also overlooks the picturesque Modderfontein reserve.

PASA Architect Benjamin Chihota points out that industrial buildings tend to be large monolithic structures, and that the intention on this project was to humanise the scale of the facility while maintaining a simple and coherent architectural language.

The best means to achieve this was by using dynamic forms to reduce the overall scale. For example, breaking up large masses into smaller forms resulting in fragmented roof and façade forms and heights. This de-emphasises the scale of the facility within a largely under-developed landscape, while making use of high-quality and robust materials that are easy to maintain.

“The brief for an integrated pharmaceutical plant made for a complex typology because there are so many layers before you even get to the architectural design itself,” comments Chihota. Instead of a typical industrial facility, PASA was determined that the result be a signature project that not only complements the surrounding business park aesthetic, but which also expresses the corporate identity of B. Braun itself.

“As a multinational, there is obviously an existing brand image that we needed to maintain. This meant developing a specific design language for the exterior, interior and the landscaping, but obviously keeping within a South African context. Being one of the few new projects of this type and size built in South Africa to-date, it really gave us an opportunity to showcase what we are capable of in the industrial sector,” elaborates Chihota.

The design process began in 2018, based on extensive consultation with the client and tenant. Construction commenced on-site in January 2019, with practical completion achieved in April and works completion in November 2020. Despite a delay due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, PASA saw the project through to its successful conclusion.

pasa architect benjamin chihotaPASA architect Benjamin Chikota. iamge credit: ParagonParagon

Planning and coordinating the functionality of the facility was perhaps the biggest challenge. Apart from the office and laboratory component, there is also warehousing space for incoming raw materials and outgoing products. Changerooms for workers to change in was also critical, in addition to the production component itself, which is the heart of the facility.

“In terms of the actual architecture, firstly we had to keep the client in mind and the highly specialised nature of this facility and its specific requirements. We also had to adhere to the development guidelines of the business park itself, while at the same time staying true to the design ethos of PASA and what makes us unique as a practice,” highlights Chihota.

The design process involved fragmenting the vertical and horizontal extents of the facility to reduce its scale. To give depth to the building mass, elements of the roof and façade were pulled out. To give the building envelope a rhythmic pattern, the roof sheeting and façade cladding’s contrasting colours stepped-in sections allowed for fluid connectivity that merged with the walls and wrapped around the windows. “That comes across in different ways in both the office and the warehouse. With most projects, you start out with an initial idea that invariably goes through different iterations, but ultimately it is a concept you stay true to right up to the final design,” stresses Chihota.

The major engineering challenge was coordinating the different services. Most projects require standard wet, electrical, fire and HVAC services.

Plumbing Africa spoke to Trinesh Chanka of IZAZI Consulting Engineers regarding the Wet Services.

“It was an exciting and challenging project as it was complex due to the nature of the requirements.

The drainage was a combination. There were portions running stainless steel and some running Geberit HDPE. What determined which material was used was the type of chemical being used. Depending on the highly corrosive nature of the chemicals, stainless steel was used. The HDPE for the standard plumbing drainage was a straightforward installation. The manufacturing side was another matter as the drainage had to cater for three different situations.

We categorised them as Red, Grey, and Green.

Red catered for particularly harsh, corrosive chemicals that were not allowed to go into the municipal system. These were piped and plumbed underground in stainless steel to a set of holding tanks. The removal of this waste would be the responsibility of a waste management company who would remove the contents and dispose of them in the appropriate and safe manner.

The Grey system handled the slightly less corrosive and harmful chemicals than in the red system but still contained acidic and such that could not be sent directly into the municipal system. However, the nature of the chemicals in the grey system could be diluted with harmless sewage and the grey system had a set of holding tanks and then the green system waste i.e., normal waste the grey waste would be diluted from the green system allowing the discharge to enter the municipal system safely and legally.

As one can see the drainage was complex, but this is what made the project exciting as it was not a ‘run of the mill’ design and installation. “Sort of not an everyday job.” Said Trinesh.

The nature of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant is there must be pure water and pure steam. Whilst this aspect was not part of the plumbing per se the plumber had to provide a valved pressure regulated supply to the calorifier and then the client took over with the sophisticated water conditioning required.

The energy saving adopted was relatively small, but we nevertheless used heat pumps from normal Kwikot geysers. The biggest aspect of sustainability for the wet services was ensuring the municipal system did not have highly corrosive chemicals entering and the less acidic needed diluting as explained earlier.

The one innovation of note was what is called a sewage flue on the outgoing sewer which is like a water meter but on the sewer line. As one is charged for sewage by council in relation to water usage and the nature of the manufacturing operation requiring water, the gain was not only monetary but tracking the outgoing water.”

However, B. Braun had hi-tech pharmaceutical process equipment with very specific functional requirements thrown into the mix. “We really worked together well as a professional team in overcoming all of these different challenges,” notes Chihota. “The developer was very open to our ideas and willing to take them onboard. While we have a longstanding relationship with Zenprop that we are continually nurturing, it is equally important that we establish close ties with other consultants as well.”

Professional Team




 B. Braun

 Project Manager

 Capex Projects


 Paragon Architects South Africa (Project Director Thulani Sibande, Project Leader

 Benjamin Chihota and team members Suvaniya Pillay and Kirti Mistry)

 Quantity Surveyor

 Schoombie Hartmann

 Civil and structural engineer

 DG Consulting Engineers

 Mechanical Engineers


 Electrical Engineer

 Topack Consulting Electrical Engineer

 Fire Consultant

 Chimera Fire Protection Consultants

 Wet Services Engineer

 Izazi Consulting Engineers


 JLM Plumbing‑

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