According to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition’s (dtic’s) document titled ‘Promotion of timber construction – from strategy to implementation’, fewer than 1% of South African buildings are built from wood.

South Africans are still hesitant to invest in timber-only houses. Image credit: T&B log homes

South Africans are still hesitant to invest in timber-only houses. Image credit: T&B log homes

Despite the fact that wood is useful and a historically reliable and available product in the country “it has not been positively exploited to the benefit of the population at large.”

Some myths about wood:

Part of the barriers which prevent the use of wood are trivial and are not true. These include, amongst others:

  • Fear of fire: wood is easily combustible and therefore is easily prone to fire;
  • Propensity to rotting: wood is likely to rot over time;
  • Lack of structural integrity: wood is lacking structural strength and therefore it is weak as a building material;
  • Timber house is a ‘Wendy House’: wooden houses are substandard as they have been predominantly used as a “Wendy House” or storage house; and wooden Wendy houses are for poor communities;
  • More expensive to build and maintain: wooden houses are more expensive to build and maintain;
  • Not thermally efficient: wooden houses are too cold in winter and too hot in summer. Thermally inefficient houses contribute to households spending more on energy to cool and heat. They are also prone to prevalence of respiratory related sicknesses.
  • Timber construction is deforestation: use of wood for building will lead to deforestation;
  • Brick and mortar is better than wood: societal beliefs in South Africa consider a brick and mortar house to be better than wooden homes and therefore they are going with what is known.

Despite all these negative perceptions, wood is a historically reliable building material that has many excellent advantages that can resolve South African problems to bridge the challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.