Forestry in South Africa
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September : A South African case for mass timber

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22 September, 2020

A South African case for mass timber

A South African case for mass timberAn example of an off-site construction of a cross laminated timber (CLT) cabin

By Jamie Smily, owner of XLAM South Africa (Presented at the Wood Conference 2020)

The construction industry is in the midst of a paradigm shift, which promises to revolutionise the way we design, engineer and build.

When we consider timber construction in South Africa, the general public think of a ‘wendy house'. Perceptions are truly the biggest hindrance in the timber construction space. Is timber biosafe? Will it survive an insect attack? Surely it can burn down?

We need to be rethinking the way we use timber because it is no longer a material that is just suitable for small structures, or parts of a structure. It has already become material used in the entire structure and body of many buildings.

Timber in South Africa has been seen as an inferior material, but in fact it is a great material. We have an incredible forestry sector in South Africa, and we have very good institutions who are watching what is being built and how it's being built.

There is the South African Wood Preservers Association (SAWPA) who are looking at timber treatments. There is the South African Technical Auditing Services (SATAS) who are auditing companies to make sure that for example Glulam beams or structural timbers that you are buying are in fact what they are meant to be.

There is a whole range of South African National Standards (SANS) and some timber products used as alternative building technologies also fall under, and require, the Agremént certification. Timber is already part of our building regulations - it falls under SANS-10400 codes for structural timber and timber framed construction.

There is further, development of a standard for the manufacture and use of cross laminated timber (CLT) which is in its final stages of approval. This South African standard is quite an achievement for the industry as there are many other countries who still do not have their own manufacturing standards.

The other point often referred to has to do with sustainability - ‘how can timber be sustainable if you are cutting down the forests?' In this case it is important to use timber endorsed by groups such as the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and so on who check that timber materials are coming from sustainable resources.

Source: Timber iQ