By Rory Macnamara
An initiative by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to start the discussion on using timber in construction is to be welcomed. South Africa has a huge housing shortage and whilst much work is going on in the affordable housing space in bricks and mortar, steel timber must be seen as another material to resolve the shortage.
Of course, there are downsides as there are with any material, but these should not confuse us as to the options we have to build and supply housing to our people. We focus on timber in this issue and look at the advantages of timber as a home.
While there are a number of SABS standards for timber as well as the treatment of timber, providing sufficient controls to build in timber, as Rudolf Opperman of the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) stated, to provide comfort to the Building Control and Fire Chiefs, a Mass Housing Standard is required.
As Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and many other countries have been building timber houses for centuries, getting such a standard should be quite simple.
So together with DTIC and DHS talking to each other and with SABS being part of the DTIC such a standard should be in the making now!
There are very capable bodies in this country that can provide guidance: such as the Institute for Timber Construction, SA Wood Preservers Association and more. The Universities of Stellenbosch, Pretoria and Natal are also highly active in much research in this field.
The DTIC Timber in Construction group has good and vibrant discussions, indicating the need and knowledge around to make timber a main line building material.
“The Minister of Human Settlements (DHS), Lindiwe Sisulu, spoke recently on this subject, showing full support for timber in construction.”