In South Africa, timber homes were re-introduced as an alternative to conventional brick and mortar homes in the sixties. While 70% of the population of the developed world’s population live in timber frame homes, up to 90% in Canada and the United States and New Zealand and 20% in the UK, it has a relatively minuscule share of the local market at an estimate of around 1%. It has, however, shown a steadily growing interest in South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, over the last decade,
‘Timber Frame’ has many forms, and in South Africa, the term refers to what some countries call ‘conventional framing’. In the U.S.A, ‘Timber Frame’, is what we refer to as ‘Post and Beam’ construction and the British call ‘Heavy Framing’.
American ‘Timber Framing’, which uses fewer and larger timber members, is based on a traditional method of building dating back to ancient Japan, Europe and medieval England, and has seen a revival in the States since the seventies. While stemming form ancient traditions timber frame has evolved to being considered a ‘modern method of construction’ today. This is largely because, when compared to ‘traditional’ brick and mortar, which is still put literally put together piece by piece on site, timber allows for accurate pre-machining in a factory environment with assembly on site. Another reason is that the hollow frame allows for an infill of the ever increasing types of modern insulation.
Conventional Timber Framing, as is predominant in South Africa, is also referred to as ‘Platform Framing’. The walls are manufactured on site or pre-manufactured in panels, and then raised and fitted onto the floor platform of the building, with the next floor platform, in the case of a double storey building, resting on the frames. External cladding can be timber in various options, a manufactured fibre-cement building plank which can be painted to any colour, or a smooth plastered cementitious finish. Internal cladding can be smooth skimmed dry walling, or timber panelling in an various profiles, textures and styles. Solid Log homes have also maintained popularity and there are several firms in South Africa who produce high quality log homes.
With Timber Homes the building process is quick and efficient, utilising easily transportable lightweight materials which greatly reduces disturbance to the surrounding environment during the construction process. It is the ideal building type for inaccessible or remote sites, as well as steep sites and when building in environmentally sensitive areas. From a design point of view timber is an ideal material to work with providing unlimited scope, weather it be to blend in with the natural surroundings, achieve clean lines, intricate detail or impressive beams and structure.
The timber frame building system in South Africa is included in the National Building Regulations (NBR), specified in SANS 10082:2007 – Timber Frame Buildings , and is recognized by the NHBRC, lending institutions, insurers and local authorities.
One can assume, that as the efforts to curb global warming increase there will be a louder call for more sustainable methods of construction. Given our rapidly developing world in terms of technology; think smartphones and cars; it is also likely that we will want to see the benefits of new technologies incorporated into the homes we build; think lightweight, precision engineered, efficient insulators and moisture barriers. Given a rapidly modernising and fast-paced world, a timber frame home – built from technology, while satisfying sustainability requirements, and at the same time having natural materials providing a relaxing environment and closeness to nature, may well be the answer.