Many old commercial buildings in Johannesburg’s central business district are currently being transformed from derelict offices into secure and comfortable residential accommodation.
Craig Paton-Ash of Ikhaya Futurehouse Systems says, “These refurbishment and conversion projects are challenging for building contractors,particularly when it comes to transporting heavy, bulky construction materials, like conventional bricks, in small, passenger lifts.
“The use of traditional building systems like dry wall partitioning can also be problematic as dry walling can be easily damaged by residents, it can be knocked through so it doesn’t provide effective security, and its sound insulating properties are inadequate for residential buildings.”
Paton-Ash explains that the Futurehouse system comprises high tensile steel mesh encasing lightweight expanded polystyrene (EPS) walling panels. The high strength system provides effective thermal and sound insulation, it is cost competitive compared with traditional brickwork, and the panels are quick and easy to build with, even with untrained labour.
Futurehouse EPS panels are currently being used successfully in the upgrading and conversion of the seven-storey Sefton House in downtown Johannesburg.
“It is easy for builders to carry these lightweight panels up many floors of high rise buildings,” says Paton-Ash and he highlights the further advantage that the walls have the feel and appearance of concrete or plastered brick structures. “Wall panels are cut to size to fit wall openings and are wire tied to each other and to a support rebar placed in the floor, columns and ceiling slabs. These rebars ensure each wall panel is plumb straight and secure.”
The Futurehouse system – with an expanded polystyrene core that absorbs sound and reinforced plaster that reflects noise – limits sound transfer from room to room. There is also no hollow sound when knocking on the walls and there is no problem with hanging fittings and pictures.
The system is designed to accommodate doors of different sizes easily and plumbing and electrical conduiting is simply run behind the wire of the panels without any need for angle-grinding. The panels are then finished with conventional plaster, 20 to 25mm thickness, which can be spray-applied to speed up the building process.