Efforts at promoting timber as an economical and sustainable building material in South Africa, are gaining momentum, and universities in the country are playing a leading role.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition’s (dtic) renewed drive to create demand for timber as a viable building material comes at the perfect time for the construction sector in South Africa. With a huge backlog of housing in South Africa, timber has the potential to play a critical role as construction material in tandem with traditional bricks and mortar. That does not mean that timber should only be used as roof trusses or window frames though.
With international trends and technology like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), timber should be recognised as a primary construction material on par with steel, concrete and cement. Moreover, its use should not be limited to affordable housing. CLT, LVL and other timber products are used across the world in amazing designs and even in multi-storey buildings, and there is no reason it should not happen in South Africa.
Although government’s recent drive to create demand is laudable, Universities in South Africa have been researching, and promoting the benefits and applications of timber in construction for many years. The University of Stellenbosch (US) has produced world-class scientific papers, focused specifically on forestry and timber, over the years. More recently the University of Pretoria (UP) has done some sterling work regarding timber in engineering, while the University of Limpopo (UL), the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the University of South Africa (UNISA) have all introduced a multi-disciplinary approach to make timber part of their engineering faculties.