Student accommodation requires fast, efficient and sustainable building solutions, prompting the increased use of light steel frame building (LSFB) for its construction, explains Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Association (Sasfa) director John Barnard.
He highlights that the Tygerberg 3 student accommodation development in Bellville, Cape Town, is an ongoing project using the LSFB method.
Tygerberg 3 is being developed by student accommodation group Stag African to help address the accommodation shortage at Stellenbosch University. He says the development will comprise 200 bedrooms, divided into 25 pods of eight bedrooms and two bathrooms each, which also includes a common kitchen area and a room for social activities.
Barnard explains that Stag African aims to build a further 500 000 m2 of student accommodation in South Africa once Tygerberg 3 is complete. Using the LSFB method requires less energy and fewer materials than traditional brick and mortar buildings because the main structures are built off site and assembled on-site.
The sustainability features of the LSFB method include a significant reduction in the cost of heating and cooling of the accommodation, compared with a similar conventional brick and mortar building.
He explains that the energy savings were published in a report released by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The CSIR carried out a study comparing the energy required for heating and cooling to comfortable temperatures of a LSF building and a brick and mortar building of 200 m2.
“Owing to the energy efficiency of well insulated LSF buildings, the energy required for heating and cooling could be as little as 50% of that required for masonry buildings – as evidenced by the CSIR’s research into single-storey residential buildings,” he states.
Barnard explains that walls used in LSF buildings have a mass of only 10% of walls built using brick and mortar. This results in significant savings in transport and handling and, therefore, reduced carbon dioxide emissions from trucks, with 70% of the steel being used produced from recycled steel products.
In addition to LSFB enabling quicker construction times, it also offers better finishes than masonry buildings because the surfaces are smooth and are sized to exact dimensions,” Barnard adds.
“Plasterboard presents a blemish-free surface for finishing processes such as painting,” he states.
Barnard explains that the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) had decided that an increasing percentage of new hospitals, clinics, schools and student accommodation must be built using innovative building methods, which include LSFB.
He points out that the PICC’s support of alternative building techniques is boosting the use of the LSFB method in South Africa.
“Builders have learnt that, to capture one of the major benefits of the LSFB method – the speed of construction – they need to plan in detail before going to site. With masonry building, plans can be [drawn] and adapted as a building takes shape, but the LSFB method requires a detailed plan from the start,” he states.
Barnard further points out that LSF buildings are more dimensionally accurate than brick and mortar buildings – once an LSF building has been completed, the walls, rooms and general dimensions of a building should be within 10 mm of the stipulations of the architectural plans.
“LSFB walls are vertical, and the corners are square, resulting in neat installation of floor tiles, ceiling panels and built-in cupboards,” he concludes.