Water Wise: Innovative Rainwater-harvesting Panels by Aquatecture


WORDS Robyn Alexander PHOTOS Angeline Swinkels, Yazeed Hothe

The Aquatecture rainwater-harvesting panels, installed close to Oranjezicht City Farm Market in Cape Town, are a laudable innovation by South African-born designer Shaakira Jassat.

It was South African-born designer Shaakira Jassat’s experience with Day Zero during a visit to Cape Town in 2018 that inspired her to create the Aquatecture rain-harvesting panels at the V&A Waterfront’s Granger Bay parking garage. Shaakira is based in the Netherlands (where she also studied), and her cleverly perforated panels divert raindrops into JoJo tanks.

The panels, installed at the car park near the market, have been dubbed “the cheese grater” because they resemble the kitchen utensil – but Shaakira’s inspiration was the world of fauna and flora. “The cheese grater never crossed my mind during the concept phase,” she says. “I was more in the realm of Namib desert beetles and tillandsia plant species.”

Water Wise: Innovative Rainwater-harvesting Panels by Aquatecture

The design of the perforations took in-depth research, with various patterns tested to see which collected water most efficiently. After observing how the water flowed over the surfaces and into the openings, Shaakira could rework the chosen pattern to optimise it for efficient harvesting. “The most difficult part was combining an aesthetically pleasing product suited to urban architectural language with high functionality,” she says. “Sometimes, the value of design is overlooked in the process because we tend to focus mainly on the result.”

The integration of tanks by JoJo – the well-known South African water-solutions company – is fitting and necessary, given its pioneering and innovative work in water harvesting, storage and (now) filtration. “To be a part of this project is a perfect fit with JoJo’s abiding philosophy of not only providing water solutions, but also elevating the awareness of water security in South Africa and intensifying the conversation around it,” says JoJo MD Grant Neser.

“Aquatecture is designed as a façade panel, and can be easily installed on open structures such as the car-park framework,” explains Shaakira. “We study the direction of the rainfall at the site to determine optimal placement.” The pilot in Cape Town was completed in 2020, and both this facility and the upcoming Aquatecture installation planned for Eindhoven in the Netherlands will be used to further test the efficiency of the collection process.

“A volunteer team from Engineers Without Borders South Africa will assist me with the research at UCT, with Jo Anderson of Green Building Council South Africa acting as facilitator,” says Shaakira. “Data will be collected and studied, and can be shared after the research term, once the project has been further developed.

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