Alternative building materials – Germiston City News

The ever-increasing cost of building and maintaining a home has led many South Africans to seek alternatives to traditional building materials and construction methods.

Brick and mortar are excellent building materials that have stood the test of time. In addition, banks are willing to finance homes constructed from these traditional components, while they may apply additional lending criteria when it comes to financing homes built with other materials.

To be competitive, alternative building materials must be able to contribute to buildings that are healthy, affordable, sustainable, energy efficient and quick to construct.

Other options

Two Cape Town-based companies that are making a name for themselves in the field of alternative building materials are MagnaStruct and Stumbelbloc.

Magnetic boards

MagnaStruct is the distributor of MagnaBoards, which are large magnesium oxide boards. Product benefits include superior insulation propertiesand above average fire resistance – an important consideration given the increase in fires in some areas in recent years.

“Another advantage of building with MagnaBoards is the speed with which construction proceeds, with many homes being completed in a significantly shorter time than when conventional materials are used,” says Dave Lindup, MagnaStruct’s Managing Director.

Other benefits of these panels include impermeability to water and insect infestation, resistance to mold and mildew, and excellent acoustic and thermal benefits. Due to their non-toxic nature, the panels can be used for interior and exterior walls.

Lindup says: “Building owners today are very aware of their carbon footprint and conduct extensive research into sourcing sustainable building materials. Over the past three years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of architects choosing to use MagnaBoard for home and industrial applications.

“Because they are non-toxic and energy efficient and allow for quick construction, they are ideal building materials for environmentally conscious homeowners. They are also well suited to low cost housing projects, where fire retardant properties are particularly important.


The Stumbelbloc system has proven to be a cheaper way to build as well as creating thermally efficient buildings in which to live, says Jan Minne, Principal Architectural Technologist and Owner Builder, who has worked on many residential and commercial buildings using brick and mortar over his career.

After much research on previous projects and the Stumbelbloc factory, he decided to build his own 400m2 house in Pretoria using the Stumbelbloc construction method developed by Cape Town-based Andre Esterhuizen.

Stumbelbloc blocks fit together using the minimum amount of bonding material. Ready-made blocks are available from the factory, or builders can fabricate the blocks on-site using proprietary molds.

“Stumbelbloc’s construction method optimizes construction and its insulation properties help to reduce future energy costs,” says Esterhuizen.

Other benefits of using Stumbelboc include:

  • The blocks are self-aligning and self-leveling, which saves on plastering the walls.
  • They are perfect for DIYers.
  • Electricity pipes and water pipes can be installed inside the empty cavities.

“The blocks are about eight times larger than traditional bricks, so the walls go up faster and fit together, much like Lego blocks, making building easier. Once a wall is complete, regrind of polystyrene is pumped into the cavity from the top of the wall to insulate it, saving time compared to other construction methods.

“Polystyrene is an excellent insulator and its use helps reduce waste in landfills,” says Esterhuizen. “The Polystyrene Packaging Council works with recyclers to develop new uses for recycled polystyrene to prevent the product from creating waste.”


Both alternative building systems have wide application – from luxury homes to commercial and industrial buildings and low cost housing.

They could provide an elegant and cost-effective solution to the problem of reducing South Africa’s housing backlog.