UKZN masters students Mthokozisi Sibisi and Vahin Parmananda won the 14th International Saint-Gobain architecture competition.
Durban - Two University of KwaZulu-Natal architect masters students who came top in an international competition, said they are excited at the possibility of having some elements of their project used on actual buildings in Dubai.

Their project, titled Solar Creek Community, saw the two beat 68 other students in the national leg of the 14th International Saint-Gobain Multi Comfort House Students Contest in Johannesburg.

Vahin Parmananda and Mthokozisi Sibisi, who returned from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates this week with the trophy, as well as E1 500 (R22 160), were glad the hard work and sleepless nights paid off.

“The brief was to design sustainable housing, keeping in mind the heat in Dubai. And we wanted to relate it to the traditional architecture of the area. That was our unique approach to it,” said Parmananda. The pair, who competed against students from 28 countries, had to present their project to an international jury in Dubai, which included representatives from the Dubai municipality, architects and industry experts.

Parmananda, who is from Glenwood, said they had to find a unique approach to stand a chance, while meeting the criteria set out in the competition. “We studied Dubai’s green building regulations and tried to make our building meet those regulations.”

He said that in keeping with the traditional architecture of Dubai, their project included features such as wind towers, wind catchers as well as solar chimneys.

“We incorporated all of that into our design, keeping a modernistic look to our building and we also tried to use local and recycled materials as much as possible because that was also part of the requirements,” said Parmananda.

Sibisi, who is from uMlazi, said that the work started off as a group project in the research stage and then he and Parmananda started developing the project with very little time to spare.

“We presented it to the class a number of times, getting feedback and going back to rework and start all over again, but in the end, we pulled through and did it.

“After we won nationals, we believed we had chance at the big prize but it was difficult because participants had strong projects in Dubai. We were confident in what we did but really had no idea where we stood,” said Sibisi.

While other international universities had six months to prepare their projects, Parmananda and Sibisi only had six weeks.

“Winning is recognition for the work that we have done and obviously there will be opportunities that arise from it. It feels good to be recognised for the hard work we put in,” said Sibisi.

The projects in the competition were for a specific site in Dubai owned by the Dubai Property Group.

“They can take elements from all the contestants and use them to build actual buildings. So we might have elements of our design used and we will get credit for it,” he added.

The Independent on Saturday