Stellenbosch University's Huis ten Bosch (HtB), which was damaged by a fire in 2019, has officially reopened.
The student residence was transformed into a modern, fit-for-purpose residence, which will welcome 146 Matie students this year, 52 of them being seniors and 94 newcomers.
HtB Residence Head Karen Swart says that although many improvements have been made, the essence of the original building is still present.
Charin Skeen, project manager at Facilities Management for the repair and refurbishment of HtB, says the dining and entertainment room's timber floor was at the end of its lifetime and it has now been replaced with a new timber floor. “During the project it was revealed that the two original HtB staircases still retained their timber treads which had been hidden under a layer of vinyl sheeting. These timber treads have now been refurbished and are proudly displayed as part of the original fabric of the building," says Skeen.
“The improvements are all student-centered and aimed at enhancing each resident's living experience during their time at Huis ten Bosch. I hope the students can make the new and improved space their own and enjoy the various upgrades," says Swart.
The devastating fire that ripped through the women's residence on 12 August 2019, left the residence extensively damaged and destroyed the roof above eight rooms on the third floor.
At the time SU management, staff, students, community members and alumni showed tremendous support towards all 164 Huis ten Bosch residents. The students were also provided with alternative accommodation, laptops and other resources.
The repair and construction work began at the beginning of September 2019 and the upgrades and repair work amounted to around R62,5 million.
The refurbished HtB now complies with the most recent municipal fire regulations, are equipped with modern kitchenettes for students on every floor and the electrical and electronic installations have been completely refurbished. The whole roof has been replaced and all student bedrooms, stairwells and passages have been fitted with fire doors as required per regulation. The residence has also been fitted with a brand new fire detection and public address system.
According to Skeen, the residence has been upgraded with a view to serve students well for another 30 years and now includes facilities for persons with disabilities making it universally accessible.
According to Stellenbosch University Chief Operating Officer Prof Stan du Plessis, HtB is one of many ongoing projects under the current campus renewal programme, which is in place to ensure that students and staff live, work and study in a place which is safe, equipped with modern technology and accessible to all. “In the immediate aftermath of the fire, I said I had full confidence that we will deliver a better Huis ten Bosch and I am proud to say that we did it," said Du Plessis.