Demand for light steel frames increases

23rd November 2007

The Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Asso-ciation (Sasfa), a division of the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction, reports that the demand for light steel frame building is rapidly increasing.

“During the first nine months of 2007, some 250 projects with a total floor area of about 950 000 square metres have been completed. “Some 6 800 t of high-strength galvanised steel sheet was used for the light steel structures,” Sasfa director John Barnard tells Engineering News.

Barnard adds that, although light steel trusses and purlins/battens entered the South African market some years ago, the industry is currently finding growing demand for this product, mainly in competition with timber trusses.

“The high level of activity in the building industry has resulted in shortages of good-quality structural timber, exacerbated by the losses in huge plantation fires earlier this year. Timber is being imported to supplement local supply, resulting in significant price increases, which render light steel trusses a competi- tive alternative,” he says.

More than 70% of the total floor area covered by light steel frame buildings during 2007 can be attributed to steel trusses.

However, Barnard says that, while light steel frame buildings – which include wall panels, floors and trusses – have been around for only the past 12 months, already some 60 projects have been completed by Sasfa members, ranging from a 3 000-square-metre college building, in Durban, two schools, several classrooms, office buildings, a number of single- and double- storey houses, and several residential additions. A large housing project is under way in the Eastern Cape, where 30 of the 120 midsize houses have been completed.

He adds that several other projects are either under way, or are scheduled to start in the next three or four months. This includes a 250-house project in KwaZulu Natal, several schools, and a growing number of houses in the affordable to upper- income markets.

“Sasfa manufacturing mem- bers are inundated with enquiries for new projects,” he enthuses.

Barnard points out that there is a natural time delay of six to nine months between design and the decision to go ahead with a project. “Accordingly, it would appear that the light steel frame industry’s demand forecast of 20 000 t of steel for the period July 2007 to June 2008 may yet prove to be conservative, rather than optimistic,” he concludes.