Neighbourhood News Update: 12 August 2022


Intended as a new food and beverage space, the Portswood Café is being built entirely from salvaged and upcycled waste materials from other construction projects at the V&A. Appropriately, it is  located at the Portswood District, one of the greenest precincts in the the V&A Waterfront and located within a community vegetable garden right alongside Cape Town’s newest 6-star Green Star awarded commercial building, The Ridge.

The Portswood Café is aiming to be a net zero embodied carbon structure, which means that it is being  designed and constructed with consideration to the environment to ensure that the carbon footprint of all materials used during construction (the production of the materials, the construction process and later demolition and disposal have minimal carbon emssions. The construction industry is a massive contributer to the global carbon output with materials such as concrete, aluminium, glass and steel being among the highest contributers. This is being achieved by constructing the building almost entirely out of waste products.

Helping us to turn the project from an idea into a possiblity is well-known Community Architect, Kevin Kimwelle. The 43-year-old Nairobi born social innovator who thrives on employing a different approach to design by incorporating elements of understanding and empathy.

Kimwelle is a Professional Associate with Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Gqeberha which allows him to conduct practice-based Research Development and Innovation (RDI) in real-life built environments. His findings are then incorporated into ongoing research globally.

Kevin Kimwelle – Community Architect

“It took us six months of going to different demolition and construction sites and taking things to our yard where we sorted it out,” he says. “We create a library of materials – glass, concrete, metal- and then making an informed decision on what materials to use where, because you only have a certain amount of one particular material.”

The process also involves cleaning up of the intended material for use, such as cutting off dead or broken edges from waste items that were previously damaged.

The team also audits the waste that is being repurposed for construction in the Kiosk. “We want to use it to showcase why this is one of the greenest buildings,” Kimwelle says. “So, we are auditing our carbon footprint, energy footprint, our water footprint, our waste.”

Facts about the Portswood Café :

  • What is its size and how will this be utilized?

It has a 115 square metre footprint and is 6 metres in height. The 90m2 ground floor includes a preparation kitchen and deli area as well as indoor restaurant seating space.  A concession area will provide external seating overlooking the gardens. The 25m2 mezzanine level houses an office for the tenant overlooking the restaurant area below as well as dry store shelving.

  • So, what is so special about it?

The Portswood cafe is a Net Zero Carbon structure which seeks to achieve Net Zero status in terms of both emissions and embodied carbon. Approximately 19% of carbon that is produced annually around the world is created by the construction industry. This is through the creation of cement and concrete, as well as all the steel and aluminium and glass and everything else that goes into the construction of a building. The Portswood cafe is being  built using only waste materials harvested from throughout the Waterfront precinct.

  • When did the construction process start?

The construction process started July 2021 with the mining of the materials, although the design and RDI process began long before that. On-site construction started in March 2022 and is set to be completed by end September and open for business in November.

  • So the kiosk does not contain any regular construction materials like cement or aluminum?

The alternative design has no new regular construction material (concrete, steel, aluminium etc), most is re-used, recyceld or broken or discarded from other construction sites. But no new, complete or whole construction materials. It is anticipated that the only “new” material will be waterproofing, glue, sealants, and paint.

  • What kind of waste are we talking about?

It uses waste gathered from within the V&A precinct and includes all manner of waste materials typically which was discarded during the demolition process. This includes doors, windows, rafters, roof sheets, bricks, timber flooring, electrical conduits and distribution boards. The building design also incorporates an architectural feature wall constructed from wine bottles sourced from restaurants at the V&A Waterfront and processed by the Waste Recovery Centre.

Slindokuhle creche in Joe Slovo Gqeberha

The Slindokuhle creche in Gqeberha, an example of an alternative build project by Kevin Kimwelle and his team. The creche was nominated at the 2017 Cape Town Design Indaba for Most Beautiful Objects in South Africa.

  • Is this the first of its kind?

This is a low-tech, low energy building and certainly the first of its kind in the Waterfront. The project team believes that this demonstration can highlight the role of alternative building methodologies for broader applications and sector development demonstrating circular economy thinking in practice.

An artists impression of the Portswood Café

“Construction industries that are looking to have positive impact on the environment usually aim for zero impact in terms of emissions and the operational aspects of a building, once it has been completed. What we’ve done with the Portswood café is to take things a step further by focusing on net zero carbon in terms of the embodied carbon in the materials used for construction by ensuring that we only use waste material recovered from other parts of the V&A precinct. Focusing on embodied carbon footprint is critical if we are to progress as an industry and thinking about waste differently will be a big step forward and a natural progression from our use of Eco-Bricks in the Ridge” Says Mark Noble, V&A Development Director.

What’s on in the neighbourhood:

  • Woof project – Adopt a Super star – running until 24 Sep 2022: Clock Tower
  • Live actions sports at the V&A – running until 27 Aug 2022: Amphitheatre
  • Emerging artists programme – running until 22 Aug: Centre court (outside H&M)
  • Red Bull dance battle – running until 20 Aug: Amphitheatre
  • Busker auditions – 25 -27 Aug 2022: Amphitheatre

Monthly footfall update

July traditionally benefits from school holidays and this year the impact was even greater having 2 weeks of the holidays in July compared with only 1 week in previous years. In addition, we continue to see benefits from stadium events particularly the SA vs Wales on 16 July drew in a capacity crowd that provided knock on benefits to the F&B tenants in particular. In addition, international visitor numbers recovery continues to climb to its best levels since flights reopened but we see a corresponding weakness on domestic travel.

We continue to show double-digit positive growth on 2021, up at 75% as we are comparing against the impact of Covid restrictions and stricter lockdown levels as well as the return on international visitors in comparison to the same period last year. The comparison against the “normal” 2019 is tracking down 12%.