Hillensberg – Apartments Renovations and Additions

Nadine Engelbrecht
Pretoria, South Africa
Universal Plywoods & Lunawood
Renovations 2022

The buildings of Hillensberg apartments, originally constructed in 1973,  experienced a well-executed transformation when the project was brought to the present day by architect Nadine Engelbrecht. The project required an easy-to-maintain and weather-resistant facade materials, which is why Lunawood was selected for the sun screens.

The original buildings of Hillensberg apartments were constructed in 1973 by architects Ivan Sive and May von Langenau. The apartments consisted of two rows of 36 three bedroom units with two rows of lockable garages in between. The urban densification of Pretoria created a need for higher density residential units. The site is situated in the settled residential suburb of Lynnwood which has evolved into a new sought after higher residential area. The client wanted to maximise the potential of site to meet the need of the current market whilst maintaining the character, privacy and greenery which originally drew him to the apartments.

In order to keep the most of the site’s natural quality the 27 new two bedroom apartments were built in two rows on top of the existing garages and in between the two existing rows of building.  In doing so the new additions does not add to the footprint of the original buildings but merely extends upwards.

The design of the existing buildings were kept in tact with changes only made to the interiors and tidying of the facades. Internal walls were removed to alter the dark cubicle kitchen, dining and lounge to spacious opened plan living spaces which allow more light to flow into the units, increase connectivity and optimise circulation. Open electrical geysers were replaced with more climate sensitive gas geysers. All services and fittings were replaced but the existing parquet floors and full height steel doors were only restored to reveal their original beauty.

The structural integrity of the existing buildings were assessed and new structural supports added to increase the lifespan. The undercover parking beneath the building did not meet the current height restrictions and the surface bed was lowered. Similarly the building was brought to meet today’s standards of insultation, safety glass and fire compliance.

Lunawood's SHP 19x117 battens are used in the solar screens. Lunawood Battens in Hillensberg – Apartments Renovations and Additions. Architect: Nadine Engelbrecht. Pretoria, South Africa.

Reconciling the old and the new
– Low-maintenance solution for sun screens by Lunawood


In designing the new units the main challenge was to reconcile the old and the new. The old building has a defining yellow face brick. These bricks are not available today and can not be reproduced due to the closure of the quarry that supplied the sand. It was elected to use a black brick to keep the character but subtly contrast the old facades. Similarly steel roof sheeting as vertical cladding on the top floor reflects the shingled sides of the existing. The quality of the existing was also continuously reflected in the interiors with high ceilings and full height aluminium and glass sliding doors.

With densification comes the problem of creating privacy whilst maintaining the views provided by the location of the site on a hill. Timber sliding screens and large trees were carefully placed to increase privacy and maintain the suburban feel of the original development.

It was important to the client that the new building should be low maintenance similar to the existing. All materials was selected with this in mind. Lunawood provided a low maintenance organic material ideal for privacy and sun screens. The timber colour created a balance with the new black brick façade, adding the sandy brown palette of the existing face bricks.

Structural stabilityquality and resistance to hot climate are all very important factors when selecting wooden materials for South Africa. Therefore thermally modified Lunawood is perfect for South Africa, as it offers a long-lasting solution even in hot and humid climates. Lunawood does not require surface treatment at all, if the natural graying of the wood is accepted. Thanks to its dimensional stability, offered by its low moisture content, it also retains its original shape for decades.

The Lunawood Collection contains several ready-made batten products that are well suited for sun screens and decorative wood surfaces.

Lunawood's SHP 19x117 battens are used in the solar screens



Lead Architect:     Nadine Engelbrecht
Interior Designer:    Lucy le Roux, Illuminate
Client:   Botriver Hills
Structural Engineer:  W.R. Van As, SCIP Engineering Group
Main Contractor:   GD Irons

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