Covid-19 has amplified the challenges of our time. Way before the coronavirus inserted its probing tentacles into the fibre of human society, there were cracks in its foundations, writes Leon Louw.

Timber is an environmentally friendly and efficient material to build with. Image credit:Leon Louw

Timber is an environmentally friendly and efficient material to build with. Image credit: Leon Louw

The cement and plaster that bound and covered seemingly flawed systems, beliefs, and ideologies, are peeling off in layers like a rotting onion. This voracious onslaught, targeting the bricks and mortar of traditional beliefs, is orchestrated by a new world order. Problems like inequality, poverty, rapid urbanisation, and climate change have given rise to alternative ways of thinking and problem solving.

Leading the transformation into a more responsible world, where humans become part of the natural cycle and do not preside over nature, are the millennials and Generation Zs – those ubiquitous groups of increasingly influential moulders, builders, and carpenters.

Millennials are changing trade patterns, buying behaviour, political and economic systems, and the way we live, work, and spend our free time. Generation Zs will soon be breaking down brick walls. Climate change and social justice are spurring their mobilisation. These are the battlegrounds which define the younger generations, and the outcome will be how history judges them, and the generations before them.

The timber and construction sectors are key in these battles and in the transition to a new way of living. Building with timber reduces the carbon footprint and ensures a healthier lifestyle. Living in a timber building is an all-round, better experience than being stuck in a stark, solid, brick-and-concrete building. In Europe, America and other parts of the world that are regarded as developed, timber has, for many years, been the construction material of choice for houses and even for multi-storey buildings.

In Scandinavian countries, forests and wood enjoy cultural significance and form an important link in the bioecology of a region. South Africans lags behind in using timber as a construction material, and in acknowledging the importance of nature. Moreover, South Africa is not giving voice to our millennials, nor embracing their ideas and hopes for a better future, even though they constitute the majority of the population. In a country that has a clear deficit in terms of low-cost housing, and where there is a desperate need to build better quality houses at a reduced cost and as quickly as possible, timber is the obvious answer.

Therefore, the Department of Trade of Industry and Competition’s (dtic) efforts to promote the use of timber as a construction material should be lauded. It is extremely difficult to change the culture and the way people think and act, and it will take an immense effort by a dedicated few to bring about the necessary change.

South Africa, unfortunately, is a brick-and-mortar country, notwithstanding the fact that we have more than enough wood to sustain a vibrant timber sector. It is, however, inspiring that there are a growing group of people in South Africa (including the dtic), who are passionate about forestry, wood, and timber, and are using this versatile material to design amazing buildings and build basic houses.

This group of outstanding individuals include, amongst others, engineers, academics, architects, carpenters, designers, and developers. Timber iQ is proud to be a member of this growing movement and to announce that it will collaborate with them and the dtic, in promoting the use of timber as a viable, and sustainable, building material in South Africa. In this effort, we cannot ignore the voices of the younger generations, so if you read Timber iQ and regard yourself as a millennial or as a representative of Generation Z, please make your voice heard and contact us.

Leon Louw