45 years of product development
The company was founded by Holger Rust in Cape Town in early 1978
It takes certain kind foresight and insight to grab hold of a promising idea, and it takes even more courage and perseverance to take this idea to its deserved heights. And that is precisely what Holger Rust, founder and director of Cape Town based company Terraforce, managed to achieve over the past 45 years.
By the 1990s Terraforce blocks were well established in South Africa, with nine licensees producing in all major centres. Today Terraforce blocks are available in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, United Arab Emirates, India, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, Morocco and recently Egypt, while block sales now reach into the millions.
Terraforce designed the original interlocking and reversible hollow core earth retaining blocks almost 40 years ago. They are incredibly versatile, but the most significant aspect of the blocks is that, by being fully permeable, reversible and plantable, they offer a sustainable solution to anyone who needs to consider landscaping or erosion control on site, as an alternative to impermeable (and often unsightly) solid concrete methods.
Not only has this been part of our marketing approach from the beginning, but it goes beyond strategy. Holger Rust, Terraforce founder/MD, has always been passionate about sustainable living and green products and it is this passion that steered him into the direction of creating a product that allows a concrete retaining wall to blend into the surrounding, be it for environmental or aesthetic considerations, often forgotten aspects of maintaining a native balance in urban or rural environments.
The company’s motto is “go green, go clean”, wherever you can. In life and in business, it is the only truly sustainable option for our planets’ future.
Great ideas start “big”
In 1979 Terraforce began importing wire mesh gabions from Spain, later becoming involved in the construction of gabion retaining walls and erosion control measures. And it is during this time that inspiration struck, and Rust realised that a more cost-effective and practical method of earth retaining was needed in South Africa. After the first Terraforce S blocks (then still weighing in at 50kg) where produced on a small home built “egg layer” block machine, Terraforce has never looked back.
In 1984, when the first license agreements were signed, daily production reached 400 blocks and eventually combined Terraforce block sales, equalling over 6000sq.m per month, were achieved in Cape Town alone.
Terraforce continued to expand and mature, as Mr Rust strove to implement his strategy to up-date and improve feasibility/case studies, evaluation reports and design software frequently, as well as expanding the Terraforce product range to include lighter retaining blocks, an accessory block for stairs or seating and two erosion control or hard lawn paving blocks.
And it’s not just sales figures that tell a story of success. Terraforce installations have managed to secure numerous awards for the company in the last few years, most notably the coveted Bayer Trophy that is awarded biannually to top class projects in the construction industry by the CMA (Concrete Manufacturers Association) Awards for Excellence. In the category Concrete Retaining Walls, Terraforce was awarded the premier trophy no less than 6 times.
The company continues to develop customer satisfaction and reputation of service integrity. In 2004 a network of recommended installers and contractors was initiated, who undertake to guarantee their workmanship. In 2011 Terrasafe was founded, a professional design service for Terraforce retaining walls, and currently Maxiwall, a design software for Terraforce products is in the process of being upgraded. They have all proven to be successful and are contributing to the sound foundation on which the company rests.
This dedication to multi-functionality and sustainable development is part of the reason that Terraforce has been recognised and grown so much locally and overseas. Rust is satisfied with his decision of pursuing a sustainable business model, through extensive, and sometimes expensive, product testing and research in laboratories, here and overseas:
“I was warned that making too much information freely available on our web site would encourage the reverse engineers, the free riders of our times to jump on the band wagon. This has happened to some extent, with even a leading corporate citizen among the suspects, but overall, their activities are not long lasting and have not been able to hamper our sustained growth, even in the current recession.
For me that was the most rewarding confirmation, that a combination of innovation, quality and commitment, are the most powerful driver of a long-lasting business.”
"Fantastically versatile product that offers structural strength, aesthetic arrangement and provides a plantable living feature wall. Peter was extremely helpful and responsive in his communication and both deliveries arrived on time."
- Natasha Mikula, UK
"Happy to show anyone local what can be achieved with your great product, I love the wall!” This wall is in Rock, Cornwall, and was lovingly planted with 4000 plants."
- Carol Barkwell, Devon, UK
"Glad to see its taking off in the UK. We got ours 10 years ago – first delivery in Dorset and we built our wall. The blocks made our garden look amazing and so easy to install too!"
- Diana Kenney, Wiltshire, UK
"My husband has created an amazing wall with your Terraforce blocks. We live on a slant and we have built a retaining wall and built up from the bottom of the slant to the house level and have created an amazing pool area with views out over the area. The Terraforce wall is a highlight!!! I have attached a couple of before pictures also. We basically have used the Terraforce wall to build up and pop the pool into. Thanks for such an awesome product!!!"
- Simone Elwell, Perth, Australia
"Just last weekend we built some stairs in the wall with the blocks as we love it so much – it looks good (even though the blocks you guys use for stairs are rectangular and these are curved)…we plan to glue the caps for safety…It’s not completely done but nearly there — we now have the pool in and the 1 metre wall is doing well – we LOVE LOVE LOVE Terraforce!!!!"
- Katherine James, Perth, Australia
"Terraforce is a fantastic product. The longevity of the blocks is phenomenal and highly recommended as a solution to all applicable retaining requirements. Been using your product for many many years and very impressed."
- Kevin Bailey, Cape Town, South Africa
"Though I’ve never enjoyed trampolines in a landscape, you’ve done well. Particularly noteworthy is the open stem wall top. Though I’ve terraced with many materials, this is as a concrete block turned on its side: supportive, reinforces water conservation and slows spillage. For someone at the bottom of a hill, water distribution both retention and redistribution is important. Great job!"
- Brenda Miller of Florida
"The rock face blocks blend with the natural environment, their sandstone colour matching the surrounding soil. They are plantable and permeable, allowing the landscapers free reign."
- Hannes Bouwer of Bouwer Architects
"It is a very well known product, and we liked that the system is a design and supply item."
- Karien Visser, engineer with KLS Consulting Engineers
"Terraforce offers a user-friendly landscape remodelling method that is flexible, cost-effective and faster to install than off shutter concrete or bricks. The entire job can be done on site and the blocks fit in just about anywhere."
- Tobie Cilliers from Strata Civils
"I am thrilled with the ease of installation. All that is required is a level piece of ground with a matching diameter.” Packing the versatile blocks on a circle marked out around a central foundation hole is a breeze, although requiring some basic construction skills."
- Rudolf Eksteen of Moorreesburg
"Due to the four loops at each interchange being different the Client requested that each interchange design be unique. The challenge was to be creative, functional (for maintenance), keep aesthetic appeal and to maintain the structural integrity required. This kind of variation could not have been achieved with the precast walls originally proposed. As a result, the walls showcase the remarkable design flexibility that is possible with a Terraforce block, by alternating between a flush, round or rock face finish, varied setbacks for a featuresque appearance, integrated steps and good plant cover."
- Simon Knutton of Knutton Consulting
CMA AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
Since they were first staged in 1985, the Awards have become the undoubted highlight of the precast concrete industry’s calendar. The competition is based on recently completed projects in which technical and aesthetic excellence, among other aspects, are critically assessed by a panel of independent judges drawn from the professions.
Held biennially and open to all members, the event provides an excellent vehicle for Southern African designers and project developers to establish themselves as trendsetters across several disciplines, and in doing so, to gain national recognition.