Nexus: Renovating a 100-year old history

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Building and civil contractors, Nexus Construction Namibia have managed to tame one of Namibia’s oldest structures, the Old Power Station in Luderitz, right on the edges of the Atlantic.

The 1911 German colonial building could have easily been left to languish, but it is exactly a year since Outjo based Nexus contractor trucked in cranes and other massive building equipment to the site, and signs of life are now visible.

The renovation and upgrading of the Old Power Station building is part of the Luderitz Waterfront Development Company (LWDC). The building, when complete will house the first ever fully fledged satellite campus of the Polytechnic of Namibia, an indoor and out-door sports centre and a state of the art Maritime Museum.

Dealing with historic masonry always comes with some extreme caution, explains Manuel Fidalgo, Nexus Assistant Contract Manager who is overseeing the N$59m first phase of concrete works, structural steel works and waste water below surface beds.

“They have been new discoveries almost every month. We are dealing with 100 years of building on top of various concrete channels and concrete foundation, which has slightly interfered with our work and timeline.”

Nexus has demolished 1300 cubic yards of concrete blocks, a massive some which does not include the 5000m2 of brick and concrete walls.

For Fildago, “The biggest challenge of an existing building is access. Without access, we had to plan different for instance, by creating temporary support structure to cut out the old rusted steel and replace it with the new steel.”

Not all old steel is being replaced though, some are being mechanically crafted into the new design, to suit a marine environment, and according to Fildago, “What is encouraging is that much of the steel is still in good condition.”

The 27-month demolition, concrete works and structural steel process has allowed the multi-storey building whose entire structure was assembled in Germany and set-up in Namibia, 100 years ago, to re-emerge as an example of how historic buildings can be adapted for reuse, deploying novel concepts in space design and technology with its original brick and huge fir beams remaining a testament to the careful restoration.

“For example, a giant crane which was used then and weighs more than 2 tonnes will be moved 10metres to the side, where it will sit as if holding the basketball terraces,” explains Fildago.

The total upgrading and renovation of the Old Power Station Project comes with the price tag of N$ 230 Million and for Nexus, the new discoveries have not impacted on the timeline, as they still maintain that the building will have a new roof by February 2015.

“We also look at sustainability as providing for a high quality of life from an economic, environmental and social perspective now and for future generations,” says Nexus.

The old German Power Station is the single largest building under one roof in Namibia built in Germany and erected in Luderitz at the height of the town’s economic prosperity due to the diamonds that were mined at Kolmanskop.

The building has since changed four hands, first the German colonial Government transferred it to the CDM (now Namdeb); in 1935 when CDM moved to Oranjemund for bigger diamonds, the building was handed to the town council, and now it is now owned by the LWDC since 2010.

Gone are the dropped ceilings and interior walls that hid the beautiful architecture of the old warehouse. About a quarter of the basement is dedicated to large swimming pool, and large conference rooms and little hideaways, where work can be done individually or in groups.

There is also a very large event space that easily can accommodate 200 people.

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