Full steam ahead for Obz Square

28 November 2011

Boasting over 880 rooms, UCT's new Obz Square residence on Main Road in Observatory is a sizeable chunk of building, so understandably the neighbours have some questions and concerns.

Obz Square Obz Square

On 21 November, the university addressed some of those questions at a Community Information Day at the residence, where Observatory residents were shown around the building and given an opportunity to raise their concerns. (The week before, the university had also unveiled the residence - completed a full month ahead of schedule - to the media.)

Vice-chancellor Dr Max Price and his team of senior managers explained the need for building the residence - demand from students for on- or near-campus accommodation has swelled - and then detailed some of the building's state-of-the-art features (see side-bar).

Obz Square Obz Square

Among the community's concerns were the availability of parking space for visitors (no parking is allowed outside the residence), policies to address doubling-up or squatting (ie students allowing others to live in their rooms), and measures for dealing with misbehaving students, like those returning to the residence late at night. The residence's business space for retailers, the need for a gym where students can "vent their frustrations", the stops for the Jammie Shuttle, and how students would maintain the culture of the suburb also came up. (These issues are being looked into, promised Grant Willis, director of Student Housing & Residence Life, and John Critien, executive director of UCT Properties and Services.)

Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien explained that UCT intends to create a "living learning environment" in Obz Square, and called on Observatory residents both to hold the university accountable for this, and to be partners in the project.

"We would like to be good neighbours," he noted.

Things you didn't know about Obz Square

  • 15.5km of piping, 1 200 tons of steel, 13 000m3 of concrete, 58 000m2 of paint and 1.78 million man-hours went into the construction of Obz Square;
  • The building took four years from conception to completion;
  • The residence has a social area with soft seating and three pool tables;
  • The first room was completed in January 2011;
  • The last room was completed on 17 October 2011;
  • The final handover to UCT took place on 15 November;
  • The residence came in on budget at R415 million;
  • The management structure will include two wardens, two assistant wardens, a resident manager, three facilities officers, a maintenance co-ordinator and two artisans;
  • The building will feature 24-hour, on-site security, 58 security cameras and seven dedicated campus protection officers;
  • Further security monitoring in the area will be the joint responsibility of the Observatory Community Improvement District and the Groote Schuur Community Improvement District;
  • Students can use the laundry - 30 large-load washing machines and 30 tumble driers - free of charge; (They'll have to provide their own washing powder, of course.)
  • The residence has all of 92 kitchens, each equipped with a fridge, freezer, stove and microwave oven;
  • There are two well-equipped study rooms that can also be used for meetings;
  • There's a state-of-the-art computer lab on the ground floor;
  • All of the 880 single bedrooms have internet connections;
  • Each student will have a single room with en-suite bathroom;
  • The bathrooms were built as individual pods. After the option to have them produced in Johannesburg proved a logistical headache, over two years UCT invested R32 million in a dying company in the economically hard-hit Atlantis community. Just over 100 artisans from the community were employed to build the pods.
  • The building has been designed to allow in as much natural light as possible;
  • Rooms have motion-controlled lighting monitors to save energy;
  • The water-heating system uses up to 70% less energy than traditional systems;
  • Acoustical treatment was applied to the windows on the Main Road side of the building, so no traffic sounds to interfere with studies or sleep.

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