Lafarge Gypsum have introduced an innovative alternative to the traditional brick and mortar house structure, with the launch of their Lightweight Steel Framed Housing solution, which cuts construction time by a third.

Lafarge Gypsum have already received positive feedback from architects who have had exposure to the product in the form of accredited training.

The steel frames are manufactured and supplied by Lafarge Gypsum using FrameCAD Solutions’ Frame Master Technology, which has been installed and commissioned at Lafarge Gypsum’s Alrode plant site in Johannesburg.

“An architect’ house plan is fed digitally into the FrameCAD Frame Master machine’s CAD program to create an optimised frame design,” explains Lafarge Gypsum Marketing and Strategy Manager, Jennifer McGill.

“From this, the Frame Master then manufactures cut-to-length galvanised steel sections. The sections are assembled to form a complete house frame, including door and window frames, plus the roof trusses.”

Among the many reasons for the new structure being viewed by architects and developers as an attractive alternative, are its fast construction times and flexibility, according to Jennifer McGill.

“The time required to complete a house is reduced by a third compared with traditional construction,” she says.

“The components of the frame can be partially or fully assembled in the factory and delivered directly to site leading to a quicker assembly on site. Once a section of the frame is in place, the builder can then move directly to exterior and interior cladding.”

Initial feedback from developers has been positive. “This new solution to house construction and extension meets the growing need for a faster, more efficient building process that is cost effective and versatile, while providing a high quality, aesthetically pleasing end result,” says property developer, Lucas Sithole.

Braam de Villiers, Vice President of the Pretoria Institute of Architects (PIA), sees Lafarge filling a big gap in the market with its Light Weight Steel Frame Housing solution, which he says provides an innovative alternative to the traditional brick structure and offers speedier construction times.

“Because of the technical requirements needed to build the structure, I think it will ensure a better quality building, and it will create more skilled construction jobs,” he says.

“In terms of sustainability this construction will render a good thermal performance for the walls are well insulated. The construction method can also render a lower embodied energy as less material is utilised at a lower energy input.”

Lafarge Gypsum and the PIA recently co-hosted a technical accredited training course to co-incide with the launch of the new product themed “Creating innovative spaces with Lightweight Steel Frame housing”, for 65 leading architects who got exposure to the new concept and trained on the technical aspects of the product.

“The training on the technical aspects of the Light Weight Steel construction solution was well received by the architects, who found it valuable and informative, and the product innovative,” says Braam de Villiers.

As well as obtaining a certificate of attendance, he points out that the course enabled the architects who participated to obtain a 0.1 Continuous professional development (CPD) credit.

“These credits are a necessity in order for the architects to maintain their registrations with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP),” he explains.

He says that the role of the PIA, as a ‘regional institute’ of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), is to serve the interests of SAIA members.

“We strive to assist members in building their architectural practices by arming them with latest industry information and updates from a legal, design and technical level,” he adds.

“This ensures better architecture and by giving them exposure to technical training and latest product innovations ensures better build environments and better buildings.”

Lafarge Gypsum recently attained their Continuous Professional Development (CPD) accreditation, from the PIA. ”Our accreditation is important as it ensures that we are able to work collaboratively with architects to provide systems and products for their latest designs,” says Lafarge’s Jennifer McGill.

She says that Lafarge is strongly committed to training architects, designers and contractors. “Our training initiative is two years old and over 800 people have been trained on products, installation and quality, so people can live and work in beautiful spaces and bring materials to life,” she adds.

“We have committed to run a specific program aimed at architects and interior designers every two months in all the geographic areas where we are corporate members of the Institute of Architects.”