Jeremy Steere was tasked to build the entrance to an industrial zone in Richard’s Bay. The brief was to build a landmark gateway into the industrial estate that was both environmentally sensitive and architecturally bold. Jeremy is one of the seven finalists in the sustainable architecture of the AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture and Innovation. The winners will be announced in Cape Town on 26 October. We asked Jeremy a few questions about his building.

How did you get this job? By winning a public competition.

In your words, describe the building, and its function. It houses customs officials, SARS, and security. The brief required a landmark gateway into the industrial estate as a bold statement of arrival by the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone. The gateway needed to be both environmentally sensitive and architecturally bold. The fluid concrete form is a not-so-subtle reference to the fish eagle, the municipality’s emblem with its wings wide open, gliding towards its next meal. The fluid concrete form could also perhaps be interpreted as a subconscious reference to the ocean 1km away on which ships sail into the port bringing raw products, like bauxite, for processing in the industrial estate and leaving with processed and formed aluminum. The building’s form is a counterpoint to the rigid, orthogonal geometry of the typical industrial steel shed typology, which will be the predominant form within the estate.

Tell me about the industrial zone. It’s a fully serviced, new industrial park at the port of Richards Bay. It’s aim is to promote beneficiation of raw products.

How long did your gate take to build? Was the process of building this any different to other buildings? Eighteen months. We didn’t use any new processes, just skilled artisans who understand concrete and how to create organic, curved shutters.

Describe the sustainable design elements included in the building. Raised off ground for ventilation. Internal courtyard acts as a chimney for release of heat. Solar panel carports provide power to the centre. Rainwater collected off main roof into retention pond, filtered through natural wetland, into underground water tanks, to feed toilets and for watering of trees. We planted a100 trees on the site. All materials sourced locally, built-in cupboards local, aluminium shop fronts and raw product produced at local smelter in Richards Bay

Did you apply any (sustainable) techniques and methods for the first time that you hadn’t used previously in your work? Yes, underfloor ventilation system.

How do you lighten your own carbon footprint in your personal life? Ride a bicycle or motorbike to shop for organic vegetables and sourdough bread, fly as little as possible, buy local. Eat local food and avoid industrialized food where possible.

 What building do you love most in the world? A Greek monastery building on Kythira Island.

 What’s on your bedside table? One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marques and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

 New on your playlist? Ed Sheeran

The winners will be announced at an awards event in Cape Town on 26 October. Read about other AfriSam-SAIA Awards finalists here.