Tag: timber homes south africa

Many people have asked why it is that I prefer to design timber frame homes, and more specifically, what the advantages of a timber frame home are. Here are 10 good reasons to build your new house using timber frame.

 

1. Touch the Earth Lightly

The choice of a timber frame home is going to substantially lower your carbon footprint. Trees absorb carbon as they grow and this carbon is locked away when the timber is used for construction – so the more timber you use instead of more energy and carbon costly materials such as masonry and concrete, the lower the carbon footprint of your home. Timber is also a totally renewable building material. In addition, because of the relatively light weight of timber frame materials, less energy is consumed by the transport of materials.

From a purely ecological perspective, a lot less damage is done to the site immediately surrounding a building project when building with timber frame. This is because the work predominantly consists of ‘dry’ trades where products are ‘fixed’ and installed as opposed to ‘wet’ trades where products are mixed and applied on site. Meaning, quite simply, less mess.

2. Keep Cool

The structure of a timber frame wall is essentially a hollow cavity with evenly spaced structural timber studs. It is the nature of this cavity, along with the fact that the high insulating properties of timber prevent ‘thermal bridging’, that allow the wall to be easily filled with as much insulation as is required to produce a thermally efficient home – as long as it is designed correctly in terms of optimal orientation and positioning of glazing of course. The amount of insulation required for optimal efficiency, as well as to comply with the recent SANS 10400 Part XA Energy Efficiency regulations, differs depending on the climatic zone in which you are building.

3. Keep your options open

Despite it’s history as a traditional building material; as the trend towards the use of sustainable materials increases, timber is also gaining popularity with designers and architects as a material in contemporary architecture. Technological advances in design software and fabrication technologies are now starting to allow timber to be cut and fashioned to any shape you desire. So thanks to the extreme versatility of timber, your timber home could be anything from a humble log cabin, to a grand Cape Cod style beach house, a sleek glazed all round clad post & beam pad enclosable by sliding shutters, or a digitally crafted open plan contemporary house with a freeform double curved roof. The choice is yours.

4. Change is inevitable

Families get bigger and families get smaller. Children move out, older parents move in. You accumulate more stuff, occasional edit, but mostly accumulate still more stuff. Over the lifespan of a typical house countless changes occur with regards its spatial requirements. And you can be sure that this will at some stage involve building new walls, or breaking old ones down, expanding outwards or upwards or opening up.

Whatever your future change requirements, they will be easier, quicker, less intrusive, and usually a lot less messy with a timber home than attempting to make changes to a conventional brick and mortar home.

5. Less is more

The first question many people ask when enquiring as to the estimated cost of a house is ‘how much is it going to cost per square meter?’. As there are so many variables, for example finishes, proportion of windows and doors to blank walls (windows are more expensive than the equivalent area of wall), and the complexity of the design, that unless the design and finishes have been decided on, the question is not that far off the ‘how long is a piece of string’ question.

A more interesting question to consider may be, ‘how many square meters of internal floor area you getting as a proportion of building area? Did you know that, because timber frame walls are so much less bulky than brick walls, you gain approximately 1 sq.m of internal floor area for every 7 running meter of external wall length? The maths is like this; typical cavity brick wall at 300mm (including plaster) less typical timber frame external wall at 150mm (including lining & cladding) equals 0.15 sq.m of floor area saved per metre of wall; multiply by 7 RM and you get 1.05 sq.m.

So next time you are comparing ‘sq.m rates’, don’t forget to factor this in to your sums.

6. Time is money

Literally, when it comes to building – assuming you own or are paying to live where you do while building. If you have just sold your house in order to build a new one you will presumably be paying occupational rent. If you are wanting to sell on completion of the new build the sooner you can do this the better. Renting speaks for itself. If you are building a guesthouse or lodge the sooner you can get bums in beds the better for your positive cashflow.

Whichever way you look at it, a longer time spent building costs you more. Now consider the fact that a timber frame home typically takes half to three quarters of the time to build than a conventional brick and mortar home.

7. Rest Assured

Besides the knowledge that you are making a positive contribution to global sustainability, you can also have complete peace of mind about the sustainability of your investment. Timber frame homes are included in the South African National Building Regulations standards, in SANS 10082, Timber Buildings. When built to these standards they also automatically achieve the standard required for registration with the National Home Builder Registration Council (NHBRC). They are also easily designed to meet the requirements of the new Energy Efficiency regulations SANS 10400 Part XA.

Build using a builder who is member of the Institute of Timber Frame Builders and you will also have the backing of an organization with a 29 year tack record of promoting and maintaining acceptable standards in timber construction in South Africa.

8. Stay safe and sound

Timber is strong, light and reliable, making timber construction on site simpler and safer than concrete or steel construction. In terms of structural material, radiata pine, for example, has a strength to weight ratio 20 percent higher than structural steel, and more than four times that of unreinforced concrete in compression.

Timber is also flexible, meaning less chance of structural damage typically caused by heaving clay, or the settlement cracks typicaly found in masonry construction at  the top corners of doors and windows.

Modern timber construction also has increased fire protection due to the use of non-combustible linings protecting the frames, the availability of fire retardants, and designing for safety by using mass timber with sufficient charring rates. Safety in the case of a fire is all about safety of the occupants, and timber homes, designed correctly, meet all of the fire safety ratings and requirements.

9. Home and dry

With a correctly designed and built timber home you will never have to worry about typical brick homeowners issues such as rising damp, or for those in the Cape, moisture breaching the cavity. Furthermore, arrive home on a cold winters evening, and a cosy fireplace or heater will heat the home up in no time. This is because, due to the low thermal mass and therefore low thermal conductivity of timber frame construction, the structure itself won’t need to absorb heat to warm up before you can warm up the space.

Use timber cladding in some of your living areas and you’ll also get the additional benefit of the feeling of warmth and cosyness exuded by natural timber.

10. Deal with people who care

Why is it that there are magazines, websites, online interest groups and forums, and building awards dedicated to timber construction? Now I’m not saying that builders who don’t specialize in timber construction don’t care about their work, but you can be sure that most timber builders are passionate about working with wood and take huge pride in their craft. So if you are going to be going with the lowest bidder (which in all likelihood you are), why not ensure that at least that is a choice to get your home built by people whose work is their passion.

 

Jacques Cronje

www.timberdesign.co.za

House Carstens  north facade

House Carstens is in a Nature Conservancy area near Cape Agulhus, at the southernmost tip of Africa.

The house was designed for a challenging steep sandy site, in notorious weather conditions due to it’s exposed location at the tip of Africa. The main kitchen, living areas and main bedroom are on the first floor to maximise views sea views. Covered verandas, opening up to the living area with sliding doors, to both the south and north allow for outdoor living in either of the predominant weather conditions, namely summer south easters, and cold north western in the winter months.

CONTRACTOR

Henton Homes

AWARDS

ITFB  Silver Award 2013

House Marais
House Swart
House Hussey
Orban Exterior

2007

Building contractor: Pine Homes

The house was designed for comfortable beach living, to maximise sea views to the south and out to the bay and point to the southwest, and to allow for maximum penetration of winter sunlight from the north. Horizontal forms and gently sloping mono-pitch roofs resonate with the gently sloping and undulating form of the landscape. To minimise visual impact up from the coast, the major portion of the south façade is shaded, and the colour palette was chosen to blend in with the vegetation and sand.

The house has split levels, which allow it to step down the slope following the contours of the site. Appropriate responses sought to resolve the issues of north light from behind the house, the prevailing winds, and maximising views include covered outdoor deck areas to both the north and the south of the house, and elongating the plan form on an east west axis.

The house is ‘off-grid’ and power is produced by photovoltaic panels, with a battery pack and inverter, and a silent running generator providing backup power should there not be sufficient sunlight for several days. Hot water is heated by means of a Vacuum Tube solar panel, and is circulated by a small pump also powered by a photovoltaic panel. The sewerage has been split into grey and black water and the plan is to recycle the grey water for re-use. Rainwater is harvested from the roof, with all the downpipes leading to horizontal storage tanks fitted below the house.

PUBLISHED

SA Timber Homes & Projects, Issue 11, 1/2008  House Orban