Fascinating projects in Mozambique recently demonstrated that when there is difficult terrain, limited resources and time is of the essence, one of the most sensible construction mediums in Africa is treated timber.
So says Gerard Busse, Marketing Manager of Arch Wood Protection which is deeply committed to the interests of the timber sector. Busse initiated this report to bring home a strong message about the attributes of treated structural timber in the African context.
The projects he refers to involve the Ponta do Ouro marine reserve and the Maputo Special Reserve backed by the Peace Parks Foundation, the international partnership promoting wildlife conservation, ecotourism and job creation in southern Africa. Various international sponsors finance the work.
Ponta do Ouro is a World Heritage status area and the first transfrontier marine protected area in Africa, covering nearly 20 kms of Mozambique coastline from Ponto do Ouro itself in the south to Maputo Bay in the north. The protection of the leatherback turtle is one of the conservation priorities in the area.
The Maputo Wildlife Reserve covers 77 000ha and is part of a trans-frontier conservation area that focuses on developing human resources and sustaining economic development while conserving the biodiversity and regional peace and stability of an enormous area.
The Peace Park Foundation needed new offices, a laboratory and rangers’ accommodation at Ponta do Ouro and rangers dormitories, a kitchen and ablutions at the Maputo Special Reserve. South African treated timber suppliers, architects and consultants were invited to come up with answers. Upon investigation it was decided to opt for a series of timber frame structures.
The subsequently appointed professional team included Architect Neil Crafford of Crafford & Crafford, Project Manager Louis Van der Merwe of Ikama, Cape Town based contractors Timber Frame Technology headed up by Andre Serfontein and son, also Andre, who worked on the project as well, timber suppliers Kusel Saw Mill (sawn timber) and Harding Treated Timber (eucalyptus gum poles).
Both Kusel and Harding are based in KZN and both are long standing customers of Arch Wood Protection which supplied the Tanalith CCA specified as the protective agent against insect attack and weathering in the Mozambique climate.
Says Serfontein: “For the two marine management ranger accommodation buildings in the Maputo Special Reserve, an all timber decision was easy. We were 30 kms from the main gate and access was only possible with 4×4 vehicles. Bricks and mortar would have needed a lot of trucks, water for construction, more time and a much bigger budget.
“The design was the same as for Ponta do Ouro but this time the structures had to be built with CCA treated South African pine – including the floors and ablutions, so we prefabricated everything and sent it to a storage facility at the main gate to the reserve.
“The piles were in place for us and we completed both structures within the timeframe which was 30 days. It required the construction crew to camp on the site and we used a generator for power and water but we did it – and with minimal impact on the environment” he adds.
“In designing the facilities a modular footprint was utilised for a number of reasons. Firstly the client might develop accommodation for rangers in future on another property at Ponta do Ouro.
“Secondly a modular design is ideal for timber frame construction as the number of different wall panels is minimised and roof trusses are simplified, making manufacture easier and quicker.
“Another design consideration was the high rainfall and temperatures so typical of the Mozambique coast and to shield walls against solar heat gain, a large roof overhang was provided.
“Natural cross-ventilation was also essential and wide covered patios were provided on the western sides of the buildings to shield the walls from the setting western sun and provide external circulation.
“Treated timber pole foundations were used with the exception of the rangers’ dormitory and this factor, together with the use of a small team and tight supervision, ensured the impact on the environment was kept low. In addition, construction of the panels was done off-site where storage space and power was available.
Work on the project proceeded well and the official hand over of the facilities by the Mozambique Minister of Tourism, Fernando Sumbana, took place on March 17.
Concludes Busse: “Clearly correctly specified treated timber was critically important in this project and Tanalith CCA once again proved to be the correct product for the task.”