Building with Steel – Architectural Innovation

Modern-day architects have set out to respond to one of society’s greatest challenges, that of designing a world which can adapt to a radically different tomorrow. Their architectural steel contributions are bringing about sustainable innovation to living environments as well as creating a growing awareness that sustainability needs to play an integral role in the designs of today.

Steel continues to provide the solutions for design and constructions teams from architects, engineers and developers to general contractors, fabricators and erectors. As technology advances, even the general public are becoming more involved in the process of creation and design in their own spaces.

Light Steel Frame Building

Springbok Rugby player Dewald Potgieter was not only adept on the rugby fields of the world but he is equally adept at understanding design and construction and what he wants from a home. His striking house with its clean square lines which he designed himself using 3D software on his laptop and which incorporates the use of Light Steel Frame Building (LSFB) is testament to this.

Potgieter, an advocate of green initiatives, maintains that the LSFB building method was his way of actively playing a part in implementing environmental building solutions. Using architectural steel in this manner means that his home stays cool in the summer and retains its heat in the winter, significantly cutting energy costs. In addition, the house took six months to build which is less than half the time of traditional building methods. 

The ability to achieve complex and beautiful designs was proven when Potgieter’s house, which is a complicated design and makes use of big open plane areas where the spans are pretty significant saw the LSFB system coping well. Every part and layer play a significant role in achieving the full benefits of using a steel frame. 

Fullham Heights in Brixton, Johannesburg was previously an old corner shop and a Chinese restaurant for many years before being subsequently rented as office space by Local Studio and undergoing a significant architectural steel facelift. Fullham Heights was one of the first projects to demonstrate the principals and guidelines of the Johannesburg Corridors of Freedom Policy which promotes mixed-use development and residential densification in neighbourhoods. 

The impressive building contrasts with the original concrete façade and pavement colonnade and is one of the largest light-weight steel structures in South Africa. Construction took the form of a three-storey structural steel frame inserted within the walls of the original building. Light-frame steel panels, clad on either side with translucent polycarbonate, were used to infill the façade on the east and south elevations with glazing on the north and a solid wall of fibre-cement on the west.

Architectural Steel for the Win

Adversity often brings about opportunity and despite the prevailing ‘doom and gloom’, the South African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) has remained true to its role of industry champion focusing on innovation, positivity and creativity.

The 2019 SAISC Steel Awards saw a record 94 entries as well as achieving its aim of growing the diversity of the entries received. It can be gleaned from the active countrywide participation of architects, engineers, riggers, welders and even university students, that South Africa has started to really recognise the pivotal importance of steel.

The overall Steel Awards winner and winner of the Steel Innovation Category was the Durban Christian Centre in KZN.  This building, in the shape of a large dome, was commissioned to replace the original church which burned down a few years ago. Here the architectural steel innovation lay in the geometry of the large roof arches inclined in different planes which provide support for the roof, as well as the very tight site access.

In the Mitek Industries South African Light Steel Framed Building category, the winner was the Protea Glen Secondary School in Gauteng. The Local Studio project capitalised on the key features of Light Steel Frame Building such as speed of erection, thermal efficiency, acoustics and flexibility of design. 

In the ArceloMittal South Africa Architectural category, the winning entry was the Peech Hotel located in Melrose, Johannesburg. The existing hotel was extended onto a newly acquired adjacent property. Steel was used throughout the project to express a layered architecture of lightness and as a tool of integration with the landscape. 

The very successful Steel Awards event not only showcased the innovative capabilities of steel as a material for construction but also highlighted the future sustainability of a vibrant steel construction industry within South Africa.

Steelmor is the leading supplier and manufacturer of stainless steel in South Africa. Give us a call today on 011 747 5700 for architectural steel advice and competitively priced products.