Increasing recognition of timber’s invaluable role in the built environment raises the bar for South Africa’s prefabricated timber roof truss industry.
Erik Söderlund, the newly appointed general manager of the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), says the institute’s objective for 2021 is to reduce the incidence of non-compliant site-made roof trusses.
Söderlund says the ITC-SA has entered 2021, its 47th year, “refreshed and ready to get back to basics”.
The ITC-SA’s mandate is to create and maintain the engineered timber roof construction industry’s highest standards. The membership includes the software suppliers, fabricators, erectors, inspectors, designers, and engineers involved in every roof truss production and installation aspect.
The institute and its members have a long history of promoting and self-regulating the prefabricated timber roof truss sector in South Africa. They achieve this by monitoring roof truss manufacturers’ legal compliance and working with local authorities and the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) to improve the standards continuously.
The organisation also promotes and markets the use of engineered timber roof structures and oversees its members’ professional development.The members have earned their professional status because the ITC-SA is an accredited professional body that self-regulates the engineered timber roof structure industry.
The Institute’s Board of Directors is positive about the future. Two years ago, after a period of declining voluntary membership and funding the board had declared the organisation dormant.
“The response to the ITC-SA’s announcement of dormancy was immediate, impassioned and loud. It is a sobering reminder, not only of the risks of declining building standards and quality but of the countless businesses and individuals that rely on the invaluable work of the ITC-SA,” the directors said in an official statement.
At the end of 2019, the board announced that they had reversed the decision based on a revised funding model and re-focus of the ITC-SA. In 2020, the directors began the process of recruiting a new executive officer to lead the institute and, like all organisations, Covid-19 interrupted operations. However, the organisation used the time to continue reviewing its strategic direction and appoint Söderlund to the general manager position.
Söderlund has much to offer the institute. Over the past 27 years, he has assimilated his early studies in wood science, accounting and economics with a wealth of hands-on operational and management experience in the forest products value chain.
He embarked on his career in 1993 at Thesen & Co in Knysna in the southern Cape, where he worked in quality assurance in the company’s plywood plant, pole yard and sawmill. In 2005 he moved to Stellenbosch to take up the position of general manager of Cape Sawmill/MTO and its forests. In 2013 Söderlund moved to KwaZulu-Natal to manage the forests for Masonite Africa. Unfortunately, Masonite went into business rescue in 2015, and Söderlund accepted a position at World Hardwood.
Over the year’s Söderlund’s technical knowledge and leadership abilities served the sector well in various positions on several industry board committees including:
- Non-executive director of Sawmilling South Africa (SSA)
- On the General and the Executive Committee of Forestry South Africa (FSA)
- Board of Control member of the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR)
- Chairperson and executive member of the Umbrella Fire Protection Association of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Back to basics 2021
“The timber frame builders, deck builders and their suppliers are shifting their efforts to timber frame housing and decking under the banner of the new South African Institute for Timber Builders,” explains Söderlund.
He reports that despite the interruptions caused by COVID 19, ITC-SA remotely hosted its accredited Level 1 and 2 Estimator/Designer courses last year. It also presented the Roof Specialist Level 1 course aimed at new entrants and erectors.
“We have identified the critical to focus on the institute’s core function of self-regulating engineered roof trusses,” says Söderlund. “At the moment we are appointing regional coordinators, and recently employed Boitumelo Shoro to assist me with the administration at the head office in Johannesburg.
“The plan for 2021 is to refocus on the prefabricated timber roof truss sector. Our objectives are to add value for the institute’s members, expand awareness of the ITC-SA’s value, and reduce the prevalence of non-compliant site-made trusses by working with the responsible authorities.”