Light-steel-frame building (LSFB) franchised construction company and engineering service provider Silverline Group has had to prioritise workforce training to ensure the transfer of quality LSFB skills in a country that has a long history of brick and mortar construction.
Silverline project manager Robbie Meyer tells Engineering News that, as South Africa’s brick and mortar construction industry dates back to 1656, the company has had to create its own pool of skilled labour as LSFB is still in its infancy in the South African construction context.
“One of the biggest challenges in South Africa has been to train the labour force to construct buildings using steel. “The country has an excess of bricklayers and other brick and mortar construction-related workers, so we have had to basically teach new skills – how to be steelworkers and steel carpenters.
“We have brought in industry experts from all over the world – some of whom have built more than 4 000 buildings in various parts of the world – to help with our in-house training. “We now have people who are fully skilled to construct buildings using steel,” Meyer explains.
He adds that qualified construction pro-fessionals, such as quantity surveyors, engineers and project managers, have been trained by Silverline Group, which is considered one of the local pioneers of LSFB in South Africa, to ensure sufficient professional skilled people are available in the industry.
LSFB consists of structural wall frames and roof trusses, which have been manufactured from cold-formed light gauge galvanised-steel sections. Exterior cladding consists of fibre cement board fixed to the wall frames, while electricity and plumbing are installed in the wall cavity created by light steel frames (LSFs).
Meanwhile, the Silverline Group has devel-oped software for the LSFB industry, which is used by its franchisees and contractors. The software includes costing programmes, material calculators, project management programmes and online training material as well as operating manuals for its franchisees.
The company has in-house consulting enginee- ring, quantity surveying and project manage-ment divisions which support franchisees.
Meyer tells Engineering News that the LSFB method is less labour intensive, com-pared with the brick and mortar building method and saves on average about 30% of the construc-tion time.
The method also ensures cost savings, for example, on plumbing and electrical wiring. Meyer says these savings are realised over time, as the positioning of electrical and plumbing points are pre-engineered within the steel structure, therefore, eliminating the need to cut the walls for wiring, which is typical in brick-building construction.
It also ensures less wastage, compared with using bricks, and the LSFB is more consistent as the structure is pre-engineered.
“We calculate, to the square metre, how much steel and boarding will be needed and the only waste incurred will be in offcuts, which is minimal. “There is only a 2% material waste on a LSFB construction site.”
Not only can an LSFB be built in almost half the time it takes to build a brick building, it is also durable. Further, Meyer highlights that most banks in South Africa have approved the LSFB construction method and that it has also been approved by the South African Bureau of Standards.
“Commercial clients mostly contract us to construct their buildings, as they want to save on costs and time, but we have also found that property developers have noted that they can rent out their property quicker and get return on investment earlier,” details Meyer.
Conference Centre Project
In May, the Silverline Group started the construction of a conference centre and a double-storey accommodation facility for defence nonprofit organisation, The Army Foundation, in Clubview, Pretoria. The project is scheduled to be completed in three months.
Meyer explains that steel used for the construction had to be assembled on site to ensure bulk delivery on site. The project used 1 000 m2 of steel for the conference centre and the accommodation facility.