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John Barnard, retiring after an exceptional career of almost five decades

by Madelein
John Barnard, retiring after an exceptional career of almost five decades

Main image: John Barnard – taken during a training course in Cape Town

John Barnard joined the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction in 2006 and was appointed as director of the newly formed Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Association (SASFA), with the mission to develop and establish the light steel frame building industry in Southern Africa. After nearly 5 decades serving the steel industry, John retired at the end of  March 2022.

Who is John Barnard?

John studied B. Eng. (Civ.) at the University of Pretoria and then did his honours degree in structural engineering. A few years later, he obtained a marketing management diploma at Unisa. He started his career at Iscor in the marketing department, and was instrumental in starting the market and product development function at Iscor and introduced new products such as Chromadek, IPEs I-profile Euronorm, PFCs (parallel flange channels), electro-galvanised sheet, Roq-tuf, Roq-last and Cor-ten. He represented Iscor on several international committees.

John also served as chairman of the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction and the Downstream Development Committee. His career at Iscor developed in the sales and marketing field, and he was appointed in various management functions. He left Arcelor Mittal in 2006 as marketing manager.

Remembering his most interesting occurrence in his career

John says that he has been fortunate to have had an interesting and varied career over the past 48 years, with the last 16 years focused on light steel framing. He was involved in the establishment of SASFA and as it was a new industry in Southern Africa, most experiences were exciting and pioneering in nature.

Career highlights

John says that from the outset it was realised that light steel framing was a disruptive technology and that a reaction was to be expected from the threatened established industries. Early in the development of the light steel framing industry, their ethics and motivations were publicly questioned by the masonry industry during a national building exhibition. When John shared this information with the Australian sister association, they commented: “You must be doing something right!”

Curved façade walls of the 12 storey Assupol building were executed in LSF

SASFA members captured some interesting projects in light steel framing, such as the enormous Mall of Africa in Midrand, The Gateway in Midrand, the twelve-storey Assupol building near Menlyn in Pretoria, the Deloitte offices in Garsfontein and more recently a six-storey office building in Woodstock in Cape Town. 

John’s greatest leadership lessons

The truth hides in the numbers – always challenge, remain inquisitive and learn to follow before trying to lead.

Opportunities in the South African industry

Light steel frame (LSF) building has huge potential in South Africa. When measured in steel demand, we achieved 25 000t per year prior to the disruption of the building industry due to Covid-19.

Since 2010, the LSF industry has used some 140 000t of high-strength galvanised steel sheet, 7 million square metres of plasterboard, 3 million square metres of fibre-cement board and 5 million square metres of glass-wool insulation.

Based on the American demand for light steel framing, the LSF industry could reach 150 000t per year of thin gauge (typically 0,8mm thickness) high-strength galvanised steel sheet. The challenge is to overcome the masonry building mentality still prevalent in South Africa and grow frame building.

Bon voyage

John says he will miss the dynamic nature of this new industry and the people in it. He would like to thank his ex-colleagues at the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction, Arcelor Mittal and the membership of SASFA for the support and encouragement that he received on his journey. He will fondly remember many interesting and rewarding experiences.

Quickfire: Get to know John

  1. Most important personal achievement: Getting my wife, Denise, to say yes. It is now 42 years and three children later.
  2. Favourite tipple: Dry red wine.
  3. First job: Site engineer, Sishen iron ore mine.
  4. Most used app: WhatsApp.
  5. Favourite cheat meal: Pizza.
  6. Three words to describe success: Veni Vidi vici.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to John Barnard for this interview.

Ed’s note: John, thank you for your tireless service and bringing such passion and excitement to the industry. We wish you the very best on your next quest. Marlene

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