The Institute for Timber Construction (ITC-SA) has appointed an independent auditor, Francois Louw, to conduct the annual compliance audits of its roof truss Fabricator members.
The Institute’s Erik Söderlund explains that the annual audit confirms that the approximately 170 Fabricator members comply with the relevant South African National Standards (SANS), applicable technical regulations and any appropriate ITC -SA manufacturing procedures.
“The ITC-SA System members license the Fabricator members to use their software to design and fabricate nail-plated timber roof trusses using specified, system-supplied nail plates and joiners,” says Söderlund.
He emphasises that the audit incorporates all structural components of a design, including verifying that the timber used has been correctly graded and supplied by an accredited mark holder.
Before the pandemic struck, Abe Stears and his organisation, SA Technical Auditing Services (SATAS), provided the audit service for many years. Stears says SATAS is strategically focusing on its certification services and can no longer assist the ITC-SA.
“The ITC-SA’s Board and Members thank Abe for his professionalism and the many years he dedicated to the Institute and its members. Abe is making an enormous difference in the structural timber industry,” says Söderlund.
Who is Francois Louw?
Louw has built his career on wood. He promotes engineered timber in structural applications because “it is the only truly renewable building material.” He cites research confirming that the global construction industry is responsible for 38% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“Wood is a sought-after and economically strategic resource. All processing plants should implement quality assurance measures and improvement programmes to reduce waste and meet internal and national standards,” remarks Louw.
From a young age, Louw was fascinated by the properties and characteristics of timber. While doing woodworking at school, he helped his father with DIY projects around the house. When he matriculated, his mother persuaded him to apply to the SABS for a job. He joined the SABS in January 1982.
While working in the timber department, Louw enrolled for a National Diploma in Wood Technology at the Pretoria Technikon. His work responsibilities included testing samples of wooden doors, wood adhesives, finger-jointed structural timber and engineered wood composite boards and plywood.
After qualifying, 23-year-old Louw felt his theoretical knowledge was “useless without practical experience”. In July 1988, he joined Scholz Sawmill in Magoebaskloof in Limpopo Province.
“It was an eyeopener,” he remarks. “Through observation, questioning and some experimenting, I managed the people and processes of kiln drying, drymill production, dispatch and client relations.” The drymill departments were grading to SANS 1783, planing, stress grading and finger-jointing to the requirements of SANS 10096.
In 1994 Mondi Timbers bought Scholz Sawmill and some of its land and relocated Louw to Shafeera Timber in Louis Trichardt. He managed Shafeera’s dry-mill production and ensured compliance with SANS 1783 and SANS 10096.
In December 1996, the previous owner of Scholtz Timber offered Louw a position at its company, ADC Components. Louw had various responsibilities, including planting, harvesting, and hauling pine and gum trees. “I learnt a lot, but it does not make me a forester,” he states adamantly.
After two years, Louw was asked to manage ADC Components’ factory in Nkowankowa. The factory manufactured knock-down (KD) furniture from laminated pine boards for the local and international markets, including Ikea.
Call of the sawmill
However, the call of the sawmill was too strong, and in June 2000, the Louw family upped roots and moved to Sabie in Mpumalanga. He worked in the hardwood drymill at Tweefontein Sawmill, producing furniture grade 25mm boards.
In 2007 a massive wildfire destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of plantations in the province, forcing the mill management to restructure the business.
Louw decided it was time for another career move, this time much further south. In August 2008, he accepted a position at Boskor Sawmill, and the family settled in Tsitsikamma on the Garden Route. Louw managed the value-adding drymill to produce SANS 1783 and SANS 10096 timber components and products for Swartland Boudienste’s windows and doors plant in Moorreesburg in the Western Cape.
The SABS knocked on his door 14 months later, and he re-joined the statutory accreditation organisation in Pretoria. His duties as a timber specialist included managing auditors in the field, allocating test samples to the correct laboratories and assisting with client certification requirements.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the 12 years at the SABS, and it was a sad day when I retired at the end of September 2021. Fortunately, just as I began to irritate my wife at home, other doors opened,” he remarks with a smile.
“The ITC-SA’s timber truss Fabricators will benefit from Louw’s consummate knowledge of the requirements of the timber standards. His 45 years of industry experience and practical drymill skills are a bonus,” remarks Söderlund.
“We welcome Francois and the depth of expertise he brings to the quality assurance team of contractors.”