Potential of timber construction top of mind at annual Wood Conference

Potential of timber construction top of mind at annual Wood Conference

The 8th annual Wood Conference, well-respected knowledge platform for architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and timber experts, took place in February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. With attendance having grown tenfold since its inception in 2011, this year’s event, themed ‘Fascination Wood’, brought local and international experts together to share insights into the extensive possibilities of timber in design and construction.

Hosted for the first time in partnership with Forum Holzbau, leading platform for world-class specialist conferences in wood architecture and design, the Wood Conference played host to timber and related industry professionals and delegates from South Africa and abroad.

Werner Slabbert Jnr, Managing Director of Eco Log Homes, participated in this year’s Wood Conference and argued that timber construction has excellent potential to be a frontrunner not only in lowering the carbon footprint of public and private buildings, but in sequestering carbon during its ‘manufacturing’ stage

The conference covered a range of topics from the state of the local forestry sector to the benefits of marrying BIM, or Building Information Modelling/Management, with timber for better work-flow, efficiency and engineering. The takeaways from the range of talks were clear: we need to use more timber in design and construction; digital design and timber make a formidable combination in creatively solving a host of design and architectural challenges; and in addition to being well positioned to play a role in housing, design work, global green economies and more, used more in these and other spheres, timber can also play a significant role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions the world over.

Werner Slabbert Jnr, Managing Director of Eco Log Homes, participated in this year’s Wood Conference, delivering a talk focusing on local and global issues of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the push to lower and mitigate these by way of various carbon tax laws. He argued that timber construction, which it is estimated accounts for around 70% of all housing stock across developed countries, has excellent potential to be a frontrunner, not only in lowering the carbon footprint of public and private buildings, but in sequestering carbon during its ‘manufacturing’ stage.

With attendance having grown tenfold since its inception in 2011, the Wood Conference brought local and international experts together to share insights into the extensive possibilities of timber in design and construction

Slabbert concluded that continuously educating both the trade and consumer for a general shift in mindset and perception is key to growing the market for timber frame building locally. What better way, he asserted, than to reach ordinary South Africans through public infrastructure buildings built of wood, and for representatives in the sector to act as ambassadors not only for their own brands, but for the timber construction sector at large.

“The Wood Conference 2018 was once again a fantastic opportunity for industry professionals, students and even the public interested in timber as a design or construction material to learn more about the incredible properties of this green material and the innovations springing from South Africa and overseas to harness its potential for creative solutions to human challenges across the world,” says Slabbert, concluding, “Heartiest thanks to the organisers for another well-organised conference that continues to put timber in the spotlight at a time when green building and sustainability are increasingly vital to mankind’s well-being and survival.”

 

Eco Log Homes is a multiple award-winning construction company based in Johannesburg. With a wealth of experience and attention to detail, it has been delivering beautifully hand-crafted timber homes to both national and international markets for over 15 years. Eco Log Homes specialises in turnkey developments, hotels, B&Bs, game lodges, residential and holiday homes.

Timber roof trusses and fire regulations

Timber roof trusses and fire regulations

While there are a few misconceptions around the fire performance of timber, structural timber for roofing is both commonplace and performs well under fire conditions. As with every aspect of building, timber roof trusses must be manufactured and erected in line with the National Building Regulations and SANS 10400, which provide for fire safety.

Building regulations, set in place by bodies such as the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) after extensive research and consultation with industry experts, consider all aspects of a given building material’s composition and properties to ensure that it meets the same safety and performance standard as any other building material in the same application.

Fire regulations relating to timber roof trusses state the following:

  • Each independent dwelling unit situated on either side of a fire wall must have its own bracing system within its roof structure, regardless of the fire wall projecting above the roof covering or not.

  • The fire regulations do not state the size of a permissible gap between timber members bearing on either side of the fire wall. However, trusses passing through a fire wall must be split into separate trusses.

  • The regulation states that “No part of the roof assembly, made of wood or any other combustible material, shall pass through the separating wall.”

  • No tile underlay or insulation may pass over the fire wall.

The Department of Public Works’ revised Guide to Architects on the subject of fire safety (1998: pp. 3), addresses the matter of fire walls in roof spaces as follows:

Fire walls, where required, shall be carried up tightly against the underside of the floor except that combustible minor structural members, such as battens, to which roofing material is directly fastened, may be permitted. Purlins must not penetrate a fire wall for a distance greater than 80 mm, but if they penetrate from both sides of the wall, at least 80 mm of non-combustible material must separate them.”

While the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA) does not make the regulations governing timber construction in South Africa, as part of its endeavours to promote and protect the industry, its players and the general public, it interprets and disseminates them. It is the responsibility of all players, from the manufacture to erection and inspection of timber roof trusses to enforce the regulations; even engineers who sign off on a non-compliant roof structure could well be put to task by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

Professor Walter Burdzik of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Pretoria confirms, “Any failure of a truss plant or roof inspector to insist on the separation of roofs per fire regulations needs to be reported to the ITC-SA. The same principle applies to low-cost housing; just because a roof is over a low-cost house does not justify deviating from National Building Regulations.”

The Institute thus urges all responsible along the timber roof truss value chain to play their part and act in accordance with both the National Building Regulations SANS 10400 and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977.

Reference:

Fire Security; A Guide to Architects. Department of Public Works. Revised: January 1998. http://www.publicworks.gov.za/PDFs/consultants_docs/FPOG613E1998.PDF Accessed: 24 May 2017.