High-end polycarbonate design in Future Africa Innovation Campus

Posted in Construction & Architecture
High-end polycarbonate design in Future Africa Innovation Campus
By Tamir Horesh

The University of Pretoria is one of South Africa’s multi-campus public research universities.

In 2018, it opened a new division in the Future Africa Innovation Campus, consisting of an administrative main building, student apartments, dining hall and study center, to accommodate postgraduate foreign students from all over Africa. The three-story building was to be covered with semi-transparent glazing that will thermally insulate, deliver a good solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), and perform well with wind loads.

The project’s designer, Andrè Eksteen of EarthWorld Architects, endeavoured to make use of South Africa’s abundance of light to spread throughout the building, saving on artificial lighting. He considered various material alternatives, including double glass glazing, but was deterred by the weight, the complexity of the system, and its economic impact on the project.

ASTRA Group, a South Africa based designer-installer and a long-time partner of Palram, was in contact with the architect’s office from the project’s initial stages. It took more than two years to finalize the design concept. The thermal properties, weight, cost and safety concerns turned the tide towards Palram’s SUNPAL multiwall polycarbonate standing seam architectural system and SUNLITE multiwall polycarbonate sheets, interlocked with Low E Glass.

SUNPAL 18mm Solar Control was installed on the building’s southern side, clear SUNLITE 10mm was used for the interior windows, and 20mm Solar Control SUNLITE placed in aluminium shopfront frames was used as interior partitioning, allowing the light from outside to flood the entire building.

Solar Control is one of the special tints used in SolarSmart technology, which admits high levels of natural daylight while reflecting outwards infrared radiation that creates heat.

SUNPAL Solar Control, for example, has SHGC of 0.25, while SUNPAL clear has SHGC of 0.54.

“ASTRA was involved in this project from the very start. We like working with SUNPAL and SUNLITE and its simple installation method made it easy to get a lot of work done in one day”, says Anton Coetzee of ASTRA Group. “We assisted the designer with SHGC and wind load specifications. Later on we developed connecting flashing systems and a new aluminium joiner especially for this project, and of course, we carried out the installation. SUNPAL multiwall system proved much more cost effective than double glass glazing. Its light weight, ease of installation, thermal insulation properties and physical performance make it an aesthetic and practical glazing option that is a great alternative to traditional glass.” Anton adds that as the curtain wall stretched from the floor upwards, project designers were concerned that people may feel uncomfortable and unsafe at the second floor and above.  Semi-translucent cellular polycarbonate sheets, installed from the floor up to one meter, provided a better feeling of security with their balustrade like appearance. “The architect visualized a crystal effect as light passes through the glazing, and he attained it with SUNPAL’s internal prismatic structure, and enhanced the effect with the use of Solar Control features”, Anton summarises.

EarthWorld Architects won Pretoria Institute of Architects awards for best project of 2018 for the dining hall and for the housing units.

Architect: Andre Eksteen, EarthWorld Architects

Installation: ASTRA Group


  • SUNPAL 18 mm Solar Control, 300 sqm, dining hall façade
  • SUNLITE 10 mm Clear, campus internal partitions, 450 sqm.
  • SUNLITE 20 mm Solar Control, internal partitions and external curtain walls, 1300 sqm

Learn more about Palram’s project support centre