Low-cost housing 
for South Africa

19th November 2010 By: Tracy Hancock - Creamer Media Contributing Editor

Steel producer ArcelorMittal Con-struction South Africa plans to construct a multimillion-euro plant in Vanderbijlpark, next year, to produce insul-
ated steel panels to construct buildings, such as low-cost housing, schools, shopping 
centres and factories, reports ArcelorMittal Construction South Africa MD Thierry Poitel.

However, the construction of the plant, costing between €10-million and €20-million, will depend on the feedback received from trials. The trials involve the construction of two 40-m2 houses in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, by November 25, and 40 houses near Diepsloot, in Gauteng, at the start of 2011. Each house costs about R60 000. The Newcastle houses will be presented to members of the community and the Department of Human Settlement. The cost of the 
houses includes the laying of the foundation, electricity and plumbing.

“If we receive positive feedback from govern-
ment and the community, we will proceed with the construction of the plant,” explains Poitel.

The modular housing construction system is called Protea. It consists of standardised components that are prefabricated in factories, packed in protective containers and 
delivered on site, ready for assembly.

A 40-m2 house comprises two bedrooms of 6 m2 and 9 m2 each, a lounge, a kitchen and a bathroom.

The kit includes walls, partitions and a roof – in the form of sandwich panels, doors and windows, a technical guide for all components and a construction guide, technical drawings, a performance guarantee, supervision training and technical assistance during construction.

The concrete slab or dry steel deck used in the foundation process, the plasterboard, electric fittings, plumbing, floor finishes and floor tiling are not included in the kit and will have to be subcontracted to local companies.

The interior walls of the houses will be plastered and painted, while exterior panels 
are coated with thermosetting polyester resin, which has good resistance against corrosion, colour and appearance stability, external 
durability and metal forming suitability.

Poitel says that this coating should last about ten years, given that buildings constructed using insulated steel panels in Europe, in the 1950s, are still standing today.

The house is designed to withstand winds of up to 50 m/s and seismic activity with a peak ground acceleration of up to 10 m/s2, while providing significant thermal and sound 

If extensions are required, a 3-m × 5-m extension kit is available. The original kit is only suitable for the construction of one-storey buildings. To construct a multistorey building, metal framing has to be used to support the upper floor.

Three workers are required to construct the house in four days, the company reports. ArcelorMittal Construction  aims to train members of the community, free of charge, to construct the units. However, the services 
of qualified contractors to dig and pour foundations, and electricians and plumbers will still have to be acquired.

Meanwhile, Poitel says that the company has simplified the connection of the panels by introducing the concept of using self-bearing panels, eliminating the need for framing and screw connections.

ArcelorMittal Construction has applied for the relevant national certificates for the Protea system to guarantee that all regulatory requirements are met.

As part of its corporate responsibility, steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa is 
involved in sponsoring and building ten schools around South Africa over about four years, using insulated steel panels.

The first school built through the initiative is the Meetse-a-Bophelo Primary School, in Mamelodi, Tshwane, which won the Community Development category at the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction’s Steel Awards 2010.

Mittal had originally planned to construct the schools using brick and mortar. However, after Poitel showed Vereeniging firm Geldenhuys & Jooste Architects’ Humphrie Jooste, the architect for the school, a presentation on the benefits of using steel, the method of steel construction was adopted.

“Jooste took the opportunity to build the school using new technology. Mittal imported 
the panelling from Europe, as this construction solution is used abundantly on the continent. People from the community were trained on site to build with the product, providing them with hands-on experience and enabling them to understand the quality of the product,” he says.

The use of the insulated panelling enabled Mittal to construct the school in 11 months instead of the two years it would have taken using bricks and mortar.

The insulated panels are sustainable and have a low environmental impact, as there is no waste on site because the panels are prefabricated in factories.

The school was built using a combination of ArcelorMittal Construction’s Arval façade system panels and Mittal steel for the IPE-beam portal frames bolted to the raft foundations, lightweight steel for partition walls and cladding framework, steel roof sheeting fixed to steel top hat sections, powder-coated steel windows and doors with ancillary flashings.

Distinct design solutions were incorporated 
in the design of the school. The window sills comprise a steel channel and timber top for electrical trunking cables and the triangular winged layout of the buildings enables most of the classrooms to face north to provide more light, while windows that open just below the sloping ceiling line enable the classrooms’ natural ventilation to regulate the temperature all year round.