Light-steel frame construction is relatively new to South Africa, but it is rapidly gaining acceptance in the market, primarily because of the speed of construction and the precision with which homes using this alternative building method can be completed.

Recently, Saint-Gobain started its own case study to demonstrate the benefits of this construction method. The case study, known as Stand 47, is based on erecting a contemporary, modern and architecturally engaging home that demonstrates the concepts of adaptability, innovation and energy-efficiency using a range of Saint-Gobain products.

The home’s main structure is built using a light-steel frame structure, and sets out to showcase how best to design and specify products and systems for contemporary homes using innovative and sustainable building materials.

There are a number of myths surrounding the use of light-steel frame construction, and the Stand 47 project aims to debunk these myths by proving that this method of building provides reliability, quality, efficiency, rapidity, functionality and value for money.

The system itself allows people to build better homes with far greater engineering precision, using designs and materials that are aligned to allow for contemporary architectural solutions that are based on available technologies.

When the building plans were submitted for approval to the Tshwane Plans Control Department, the approvals team took an active interest in the light-steel frame construction building technology. They even asked if they could be allowed to attend a training session at Saint-Gobain to familiarise themselves with the technical aspects of the light-steel frame building system and the correct use of materials specified for this project.

Eight officials from the council attended this course along with a building inspector for Monaghan Farm. It was facilitated by John Barnard from the Southern African Light-Steel Frame Building Association and Farayi Muhamba, Saint-Gobain’s building systems specialist.

What are the direct benefits of this system?

Steel is resistant to moisture, fire, corrosion, storms, termites and other pests. It is an extremely durable material and with effective galvanisation, light-gauge steel profiles demonstrate the material’s durability. Steel frame structures will last for decades under a variety of different environmental conditions.

The advantage of steel is that it is at least 21 times more flexible than timber and ten times more flexible than reinforced concrete. In addition, steel offers better fire-resistance and improved safety profiles. When combined with high-quality thermal insulation, its energy-efficiency is higher than that of conventional brick and mortar buildings and results in lower energy costs over a sustained period.

Steel is a practical and flexible building material. The light-steel frame construction method creates a rapid construction system that provides short lead times, minimum on-site erection time and rapid and practical assembly using semi-skilled labour. It does not require specialised equipment during construction.

The “light” construction and installation process means that the building has less of a direct impact on the local environment, leading to lower levels of disruptions over a shorter period. Given its adaptability, horizontal and vertical additions can be changed easily when required.

As a material, steel has proven to be reliable and efficient. The construction duration for a building is short, and it is not affected by seasonal or climatic factors. Some studies show that the light-steel frame construction methods can save up to 30% of the construction time when compared with traditional building methods.

The use of a steel frame reduces building errors as all junctions are precision-engineered to exactly 90 degrees, meaning that the walls are not only straight but are plumb as well. Its light weight means that there are significant savings in overall construction and transportation costs when compared with a conventional double-skin brick and mortar building.

Steel is an ecologically degradable material, which can be recycled, so the consumption of natural resources is reduced. Dismantling and portability of the material contributes to the ecology of construction because wastages are reduced. Steel is not harmful to the environment and has been shown to be free from toxicological contaminants that can lead to allergic reactions in people.

Stand 47 is currently under construction and the entire process is being documented through a visual diary. Anyone can visit the Saint-Gobain diary at www.stand47.co.za, where they will see a step-by-step overview of the case study.

The website provides details of all the Saint-Gobain products which are being used to erect this contemporary home, and provides information about the building’s acoustic and thermal performance. It is an aesthetically pleasing home that proves how best to use innovative construction materials and erection methods to quickly and efficiently build a new home.

Saint-Gobain Gyproc
Tel: (011) 345 5300
Website: www.gyproc.co.za