After almost 150 years of concrete and steel, the world is returning to wood. This time around it is Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) that is transforming building construction globally.
Nelson Mandela University (NMU) has commissioned a CLT building that is set to influence a new direction for design and construction in South Africa. CLT and mass timber construction is already making significant inroads in Europe, North America, Australia and Scandinavia as the low carbon, sustainable, economically competitive construction technology of the future.
“To advance the adoption of CLT in South Africa we have established the CLT Engagement Unit as a transdisciplinary entity in the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology (EBET),” says the CLT Engagement Entity coordinator, Dr Ossie Franks.
Developing a new industry
NMU has committed R4.4 million to the CLT building project, and has partnered with Italian construction company Innovhousing for the construction, with the aim of promoting the CLT building technology and developing the industry in SA.
“This is the right technology for the times,” says Innovhousing’s founder and CEO, Eugenio Bin. “South Africa has a massive carbon footprint and a significant housing and building backlog. CLT offers the solution as it is a carbon neutral, sustainable way of building.”
Innovhousing architect Alessandro Zuanni and wood structural engineer Franco Piva have designed the two-storey 350m², multi-use CLT building. It is being prefabricated in Europe, will be delivered to site, flat-pack furniture style, and will be erected in a matter of days.
“The University will use the building to advance knowledge, research and skills about CLT and mass timber construction, incorporate it in our curriculum and transdisciplinary research, including engineering, architecture, construction management sciences, and business and economic sciences,” says Dr Franks.
CLT presents a major opportunity for new industry and job creation, according to Prof Jos Louw from the School of Natural Resource Management. “We need to recognise the many advantages of CLT and stimulate the culture of using wood for construction in South Africa.”
*First published in SA Forestry magazine, November 2020
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