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CSIR research expert in health infrastructure wins esteemed 2011 JD Roberts Award

28 September 2011

The vast contribution by Geoff Abbott in the planning, design and management of health facilities in South Africa has won him the coveted annual JD Roberts Award. A research architect at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Abbott has furthermore provided valuable guidance in immovable asset management in the public sector for more than 30 years.

In recognition of his extensive research track record and the national impact of his work, Abbott received the 2011 JD Roberts Award at a function hosted by Murray & Roberts at the CSIR on Tuesday 27 September 2011.

Abbott plays a crucial role in a national project to provide new long-term accommodation for tuberculosis (TB) patients at nine hospitals. This will benefit more than 400 patients who suffer from multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. During 2010/2011, this contract project received more than R92 million from The Global Fund and in excess of R115 million from seven provincial Departments of Health where newly-designed TB facilities are being constructed.

The annual JD Roberts Award, sponsored by Murray & Roberts, is held in partnership with the CSIR. Instituted by Murray & Roberts in 1980 in remembrance of one of the group's founding fathers, Dr JD ‘Douglas' Roberts, the award recognises and promotes competitive and environmentally-sustainable solutions to human dilemmas and encourages scientific research into technology that will enhance the quality of life of all South Africans.

Douglas Roberts was a doyen of the construction industry in South Africa, well known for his innovation, entrepreneurial flair and passion for seeking and trying new techniques and ways of doing things. It is in this spirit that the JD Roberts Award is presented annually, recognising talent and research within the CSIR.

Award recipient Geoff Abbott furthermore leads an infrastructure unit systems support project that looks at serious problems with infrastructure in the public health sector. It aims to optimise the acquisition and management of South Africa's public health care infrastructure throughout the full life-cycle of such infrastructure.

The public health sector in South Africa is currently responsible for the health care of 85% of the people in South Africa and operates through close to 4 000 primary health care clinics, centres and hospitals. This infrastructure has a current replacement value estimated at over R180 billion. Particular challenges facing the sector are a legacy of facilities that often entrench inequity in service delivery; and facilities that are outdated, in poor condition and inadequately maintained. The public health care
sector is significantly under-resourced both in terms of funding and the availability of skilled planners and health facility designers.

One of the most significant strategic planning projects Abbott has been involved with was South Africa's first comprehensive survey and audit of public health care infrastructure in South Africa. The audit highlighted the extent of the health estate as well as the poor condition and often inappropriate nature of many of the hospitals. It thus provided the foundation and motivation for the development of the national hospital revitalisation programme.

Abbott has published extensively in national and international research journals. He has been an active member of the South African Federation of Hospital Engineering (SAFHE), the umbrella body for all professionals involved in the procurement, operation and management of health facilities for more than three decades. Abbott served terms as Chair of the Northern Branch of SAFHE and as National President of SAFHE. He was awarded honorary Life Membership in 2009 and has represented SAFHE at council meetings of the International Federation of Hospital Engineers.

Media enquiries:
Tendani Tsedu, CSIR Media Manager
Tel: 012 841 3417; Mobile: 082 945 1980; Email:
Hilda van Rooyen, CSIR Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Relations
Tel: 012 841 3638; Mobile: 082 976 7119; Email:

About the CSIR:
The CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) is one of the leading research and development, technology and innovation institutions in Africa, with a track record spanning over 65 years. Structured to manage the entire research and innovation value chain, the CSIR strives for excellence in all its endeavours in order to improve the quality of life of South Africa's people and to increase the global competitiveness of South African industry.
The CSIR - our future through science

About Murray & Roberts:
Murray & Roberts is South Africa's leading engineering, contracting and construction services company, with a primary focus on the resources-driven construction markets in industry and mining, oil and gas, and power and energy in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australasia, North and South America. The company offers civil, mechanical, electrical, mining and process engineering; general building and construction; materials supply and services to the construction industry; and management of concession operations.
More information is available at

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