South Africans have become so comfortable working in buildings made of brick and mortar that the eco-friendly and sustainable traits options of a wood structure are not always the natural choice.
This is the view of Peggy Sithole of Workplace and Entrepreneurship Talent Solutions South Africa.
“South Africa is a developing country and should be very progressive within a growing democracy. We should be a country that truly embraces evolution, breeding innovation and getting on with the latest trends in the pursuit of growing the economy. We need to embrace change with diversity and exploring untapped territories in the building and construction industry,” says Sithole.
She quotes United Kingdom architect, Andrew Waugh who stated, “The 17th century was the age of stone. The 18th century was the peak of brick. The 19th century was the era of iron. The 20th century was the century of concrete. The 21st century will be the time of timber!”
Sithole says wood should be taking over from steel and concrete as the “architectural wonder material of the 21st century”, with architects praising its sustainability, quality and speed of construction.
So, why the delay in seeing more structures from wood, despite the growing international trend in using the material?
Sithole says South African architects should be taking a more proactive approach to showcasing wood as the alternative to conventional building materials.
Internationally, architects are proving to be the biggest drivers of this material. A sound example is Canadian Michael Green, who has urged built environment professionals to use more of the material. Noticeably, is strong motivation for the material in the 2012 edition of his title in an article entitled The Case for Tall Wood.
Noticeably, is the “green” building movement in the country that continues to drive more sustainable thinking around the embodied energy of structures.
Richard Stretton, founder of Koop Design Architects, has built, designed and manufactured using timber throughout is professional life.
He says in the last decade, technological advances have allowed for tall – all timber – structures to be designed and built.
Stretton agrees that timber can play a critical role in helping the building environment achieving carbon neutrality. “Buildings can provide warm comfortable environments with modern amenity and the integrity to achieve very tall structures,” he says.
However, he notes that one of the biggest challenges is achieving a co-oridinated effort from end users to ensure legislative change and support for fire protection of these buildings.
Werner Slabbert of Rustic Homes concurs.
He says timber has the lowest embodied energy and grows in sustainably managed plantations. It is also a renewable building material.
It is 100% recyclable and has a low carbon footprint. A cubic metre of timber contains a ton of embodied carbon, while the timber frame has the ability to achieve the mandatory R values.
In addition, it provides a sound thermal performance. Softwood’s thermal value is R0,03 per millimetre, while a typical log cladded home of is R1,5 per millimetre.
This can be attributed to the material being warmer in winter and cooler in summer resulting in lower heating or cooling costs. Meanwhile, timber frame systems allow for greater flexibility in the use of insulating material.
There are already sound examples of building with the material in the country. Noticeably, they employ the Novatop system comprising large panels made from cross-laminated timber.
These components are manufactured from dried spruce slats that have been put together in layers. The layers form an angle of 90 degrees, with the number of layers differing and determining the final thickness of the panel.
The timber is dried to a moisture content of about eight percent. This ensures high stability of components and prevents them from cracking. The slats are glued to each other on all faces in the production process. Polyurethane adhesives are used for the manufacture of wooden load-bearing internal and external building components.