Light Steel Frame Hospitals In Support Of The Fight Against The Coronavirus

By John Barnard, Director, SASFA

A total of eight projects, 39 000m2 floor area, using 1000 tons of LSF

It is easy to forget the anxiety that prevailed some six months ago when the Covid-19 infections ran rife. It was during this time that it was decided to urgently add hospital beds to existing capacities to cater for the expected exponential growth in demand for hospital facilities. The core requirement was that construction had to take place at a rate faster than what could be supplied by masonry construction. Accordingly, innovative building systems had to be considered, and light steel framing stood out as the most viable alternative.

A number of smaller hospital projects, not all related to Covid-19, was completed using light steel frame (LSF) during the first half of the year, viz

  • Niemeyer Hospital: Utrecht, KZN, client: DOH, Covid-19 related, scope: roof only, May to Aug 2020 (LSF contractor: Lakeshore Trading)
  • Sonstraal Hospital: Western Cape, client: DOH, scope: walls and roof, 1300m2 and 43t, July to Sept 2020 (LSF Contractor: Steel Modular Construction, Africa)
  • Dorris Goodwin Hospital: Client: DOH, 80m2, 1,5t, April 2020 (LSF contractor: Shospec)
  • Town Hill Hospital: Roof only, 2500m2 and 19t, Apr to Sept 2020 (LSF contractor: Shospec).
  • George Mukhari Hospital: Garankuwa, 746m2 floor area – floor joists, walls and roof. 22t of LSF used in a premanufactured panel system –10 blocks of 1 140m2 = > 63t of LSF
  • In Cape Town, LSFCo is busy with Sonstraal hospital in Paarl – 1 400m2, requiring about 47t LSF.


The two mega projects aimed at providing for the expected threat of Covid infections were the Jubilee field hospital in Hammanskraal (north of Pretoria), and the Baragwanath Hospital (near Soweto).

Project name: Jubilee field hospital, Hammanskraal (North of Pretoria)

Concor was the main contractor for the Jubilee Field Hospital. Futurecon was awarded the contract for the supply and erection of the LSF for the internal and external walls and roofs, clad, lined and insulated with windows installed. From 27 July 2020 they had to complete the project in 10 weeks on 27 September 2020.

The project entailed the supply of 10 000m2 of hospital wards and associated buildings, housing beds in general wards, and in high and intensive care. The foundations were supplied by Concor.

Futurecon had to hand over 1 000m2 of hospital buildings per week. And they kept to the programme, barring two weeks when they were not allowed onto the site due to disturbance caused by the local communities.

They used fibre cement external cladding, supplied by Etex Group (Marley Building Systems). OSB timber strips were used as thermal break between the external cladding and the LSF. A vapour permeable membrane was installed around the outside of the wall frames to waterproof and draughtproof the buildings, while allowing any vapour in the wall cavities to escape outwards. 102mm thick Cavity Bat glass wool insulation was installed in the wall cavities, with 15mm fireproof gypsum board on the inside, to provide a 1-hour fire rating.

The installers of the services found installation in the LSF walls very easy and quick, as there was no cutting and chasing of masonry walls required. They were able to carry out their work in tandem with the LSF project teams, speeding up the completion of the final project.

Even before this project was finished, enquiries were received to upgrade the existing Jubilee hospital, and to supply hospital buildings in sub-Saharan Africa.

Project name: Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto

The Gauteng Department of Infrastructural Development issued a project to add 500 ICU beds to Baragwanath Hospital to supply additional ICU capacity for Covid-19 patients, and thereafter to serve as a permanent extension of the hospital.

The floor area of the 20-ward expansion is 23000 m2 which includes passageways and ancillary buildings. Approximately 470 tons of LSF (20kg / m2) was supplied for the single storey extension with roof trusses spanning 27m between external walls.

Trumod was appointed as a subcontractor to Bambanani Construction, who in turn were contracted to Enza Construction for the building of the 500-bed ICU facility at Baragwanath Hospital.

Rolling and assembly of the LSF wall panels and roof strusses by Trumod started on 7 August 2020, and was essentially completed by mid-October 2020, on time, eight weeks from start – which meant delivery of LSF for 2 000m2 of floor area per week.

Trumod rolled the LSF, and assembled wall panels and trusses at their factory in Springs before delivery to site. Most of the internal walls consist of standard drywall construction, ie 63mm wide non-loadbearing drywall studs, clad with gypsum board. Trumod also supplied the profiled roof sheet for the entire project.

The Baragwanath project has been a great example of all the benefits that LSF has to offer – speed of construction, off-site fabrication which reduced the number of workers on site, accuracy, good insulation and neat finishes. Whilst the start of the project was delayed due to architectural and engineering issues, once the green light was given, Trumod managed to claw back on lost time and the project is shortly due for completion.



Posted in Construction equipment, Covid-19.

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