Timber iQ took a trip down memory lane and spoke to Melanie and Hannu Garny, who own a home built from large scale cross-laminated timber (CLT ).

By Dineo Phoshoko
All images by Melanie and Hannu Garny

The house, commonly known as House Pinotage, was completed in 2015 and was the first of its kind in South Africa.


House Pinotage was the first house to be constructed using large scale cross-laminated timber.

House Pinotage was the first house to be constructed using large scale cross-laminated timber.

The Garnys say living that in the house for the past four years has been a great experience and they have no regrets about it. “Despite the wide-open spaces that we have been able to design with the CLT house, it still provides a cosy and warm atmosphere in winter and keeps nice and cool in summer. I would even go as far as to say it is good for your soul too and it just brings you this much closer to nature,” the couple enthuse.

Maintenance of any home is important to ensure that it remains in a good condition for many years. The Garnys say that a timber home doesn’t have any special maintenance requirements. However, they emphasise that it is important to control the humidity slightly, not only for the house, but also for the health and wellbeing of people living in any kind of house. “More important than ongoing maintenance is proper planning, design and solutions of technical details as well as construction work done by professional teams.”

While timber construction has a relatively small footprint in South Africa, with its host of environmental and performance benefits, the building material is enjoying increasing popularity and interest among the general public and trade alike. Even so, misconceptions about timber as a construction material are still commonplace, limiting potential users from enjoying the manifold benefits of this unique, renewable building material. Many people still prefer to use the conventional brick and mortar to build their homes. “While common misconceptions about timber construction play a role in preventing both the consumer and the trade from harnessing its manifold benefits in the construction arena, there are positive signs that the general public and the trade are showing increasing confidence in the material,” says Amanda Obbes, general manager of the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA).

The couple explains that most people believe that using timber to build is a cheap way of building and is of low quality – which is not true. “Living in a CLT house doesn’t restrict you in any way. And the high-quality standard we received from HWZ International’s products actually improves the overall quality of the house,” they add. HWZ International South Africa, together with other local and international stakeholders, work towards promoting wood construction and green building in South Africa.


Timber buildings are often aesthetically pleasing with their mind-blowing designs. In addition to looking beautiful, timber buildings also have other advantages. Melanie and Hannu mention that the insulation and noise reduction properties of a timber house add to the comfort of a timber home. The benefit of the insulation value keeps the temperature inside the house constant in both summer and in winter. With noise reduction, once all the double-glazed windows are closed, the nasty southeaster blowing in Cape Town remain outside.

Although House Pinotage is located in a coastal area, the couple say that a CLT house is suitable for the Western Cape area and many other areas in South Africa. They add that it is important that more research is done on the eastern coast to verify that kiln drying protects the timber against termites or to find a treatment solution which will protect the house and be eco-friendly at the same time. “But in general, every project location is unique and the use of specific materials (not only timber) should be evaluated properly according to the special features of the location and the composition of the wall as well as all materials should be selected according to the location.” It is therefore important that people deciding to build a timber structure must use contractors who are aware of, and will adhere to, the standards set for timber construction in South Africa. “Members of the general public and the trade are encouraged to call on the ITC-SA and South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA) for information, advice and support in their quest for a better built environment,” adds Obbes.

In terms of the determining factors when deciding on a timber home, the Garnys mention that emotions play an important role. “There are many advantages like construction speed, pleasant indoor climate, low carbon footprint and many other ecological aspects, but in the end, you should mainly like it and appreciate the beauty of visible quality timber in the interior,” they explain. With timber, there are also building technologies that have improved the timber construction industry.

One of the technologies is the Novatop system, which was used to build House Pinotage. Novatop is a complete building system with components made of large-scale crosslaminated solid wood (CLT – Cross laminated timber). Individual components are characterised by high strength and stability in the compressive stress and tension and exceptional static strength, it can be applied to walls, ceilings and roofs, and the result is a really safe all-wood construction. All Novatop components are variable as far as width, length, thickness and height, and atypical shapes can be manufactured as well.

Insulation and noise reduction properties of a timber house add to the comfort of a timber home.

Insulation and noise reduction properties of a timber house add to the comfort of a timber home.


House Pinotage is a perfect example of what can be achieved through timber construction. Other case studies similar to House Pinotage will be discussed at the upcoming Wood Conference taking place in 26 February 2020 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CICC).

The first-ever Wood Conference was hosted nine years ago in 2010. February 2020 will see the event being hosted for the 10th year since its inception. The conference brings together people from different disciplines where speakers give presentations focusing on sustainable, green and energyefficient building using wood. For the Garnys, the past four years in the timber home has been nothing less than rewarding. They don’t see themselves living in a house that is not constructed from timber. “If I had to move, I would definitely build another CLT house again,” they conclude.