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Stellenbosch student residence built for half the cost


A new technique will slash the construction cost and time for a new residence for students at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, by half.

The ‘per bed’ construction cost of building residences for university students in SA is R240 000, according to a report tabled by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. "We looked around for a building method that we could apply to the South African context,” said John Schooling managing director of STAG African, a student accommodation development company. “That is when we discovered a substantially cheaper solution to bricks and mortar, something that is much better.” Schooling is referring to a light steel frame which will form the core of the building.

STAG African is making use of innovative building technology that has been used to build the Eiffel tower in France, the Empire State building in the US as well as the old and new World Trade centers in New York. These materials have been widely used in developed countries for decades and have only been recently introduced to the African market. Due to this building technique being fairly new to the construction industry, there are a lot of builders who are unfamiliar with the construction methods and therefore opt to not use the materials.

The innovative building technique used for the Stellenbosch campus is a light steel frame which consists of structural wall frames and roof trusses. They are manufactured from cold-formed light gauge galvanized steel sections. The benefits of using these materials are aspects such as 30% savings on cost, quick construction, improved thermal and acoustic properties and high levels of building accuracy, to name a few.

Steel framing is also fire resistant and it does not contribute to smoke and carbon dioxide in the event of a fire. As it is highly unlike that the frame will give in while the building is on fire, residents will have more time to safely evacuate.

The cost saving factor goes beyond the cost of the building materials. The advantages of using the light steel framing are that, there is less scrap and waste at the end of the project. There is also less maintenance cost of the building due to the materials used.

The construction time for the steel frame building is 40% less than that of a normal construction project. This is due to the structure itself being prefabricated before it is brought on site. The light weight of the framing also allows for more materials to be transported at the same time while the load bearing capacity of the frame allows the developers to use different materials to finish the structures. Installing these materials also requires less time.

The South African cabinet has also adopted the use of IBTs (Innovation Building Technology). It stipulates the use of the technique to construct 60% of all new social infrastructure projects. This includes clinics, schools and student residences. The construction of 12 primary and high schools in the Eastern Cape during 2012 was part of an IBT pilot project. A further 16 schools were built last year. The pilot project may result in an additional 30 schools being constructed this year. Stellenbosch University is, however, the first university that uses the technique for its facilities.


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