Training to ‘frame’: SASFA’s very popular light steel frame building (LSFB) training course is essential for the building, construction and allied industries

Light steel frame building (LSFB) could become even more popular in South Africa than it already is, if local suppliers and builders are sufficiently well-trained and equipped to consistently produce quality light steel frame buildings.

For this reason, the Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Association (SASFA) offers a tailored five-day training course for builders, architects, engineers and quantity surveyors. The course covers the basic components of the light steel frame building process, including the rationale for LSFB building requirements. Students graduate with a thorough understanding thereof, as well as the ability to erect a simple steel structure, and know enough to be able to plan and supervise the cladding and lining aspects. They will also complete the course with an understanding of the building code (SANS 517).

According to John Barnard, Director of SASFA, role players must be formally trained and construction undertaken by competent light steel frame builders, in order to ensure consistently high standards and good quality work. Light steel frame building is growing in popularity in South Africa, notwithstanding the fact that it is still a relatively new building technique locally.

“To this point, SASFA has come across inadequate quality and standards on some light steel frame projects, which could be attributed to a poor understanding of the principles of this type of alternative building method – or a lack of training – or both,” Barnard advises.

“Builders sometimes strive to do better than the norm and make mistakes in the process. Others believe that light steel frame building is simple and that they can apply the method without any training.

In fact, it is only through formal training and working with competent LSF builders that consistently good quality and high standards can be achieved,” he points out.

He adds that the design consultants (architects, engineers and quantity surveyors) also need to know and understand the materials used – and the LSF building process – to be able to design, plan and supervise an LSF building project.

The SASFA training course comprises of two sections covering

  • steel frame materials, components and building; and
  • internal lining, external cladding and insulation. The frame section is presented by engineers; and Marley Building Systems provides the instruction in the cladding and lining section.

The training course is unique, as similar courses are not readily available overseas or locally.

“We have had a number of attendees from overseas (Brazil, United Kingdom, Australia and sub-Saharan Africa) attend our course,” Barnard comments.

“During the first phase of training, participants are introduced to light steel frame building, the steel-making process and the properties of coated steel sheets,” he explains.

“They are also made aware of the requirements for throwing foundations, manufacturing of light steel frames and trusses, construction tools, wall frame set-out, handling of materials, loads on buildings, floor framing, wall framing, roof structures; as well as the planning and the installation of services.”

The second stage of training covers glass wool insulation: from properties, manufacturing and benefits to energy efficiency, environmental issues, storage and handling and installation methodology. It also includes a component on gypsum plasterboard, which covers properties, storage and handling, cutting, tools and application for walls, ceilings and finishing.

There is also a module on fibre cement board for external cladding.

“This section covers the installation of the vapour permeable membrane, the sizes and availability of fibre cement boards and planks, fixing accessories, installation guidelines; and door and window frame installation,” elaborates Barnard.

Furthermore, the course includes a practical component to ensure that participants have a thorough understanding of theoretical concepts. “Participants have the opportunity to set out wall frames, square, level and build wall panels, erect roof trusses, install external cladding, complete insulation and internal lining with gypsum boards, and do internal joint finishing,” he explains.

“Past attendees have found the course to be very valuable. It ultimately prepares contractors to build steel structures; as well as to plan and supervise the cladding and lining of these structures. In addition, the contractors and design consultants also gain an understanding of the SANS 517 building code.”


Attendees receive a certificate of successful completion if they are successful in an open book test given at the end of the course. The certificate confirms their mastery of the course content, and their understanding of light steel frame building techniques.

Barnard adds that SASFA requires applicants for builder membership of the association to have completed the LSFB training course for building contractors.

He explains: “Those who specify light steel frame building must understand that it is important that their building contractor has been formally trained, and has practical experience in this field.

We have had some incidences where we had to ask SASFA members to rectify and complete light steel frame projects which were poorly executed by untrained contractors,” says Barnard.

SASFA has also developed a 1-day course on the SANS 517 building code, and compiled a 1-day course on thin gauge cold-formed steel design in association with the University of Stellenbosch.

Speaking specifically to the LSFB training offered, he concludes: “Our training course ensures that design consultants and builders have the right knowledge of the requisite materials and of the light steel frame building process. This enables them to plan, design, supervise and build LSF projects of excellent quality. In this way, we are ensuring the growth of this exciting and innovative industry sector. We are furthermore planning to present this course online to bypass the restrictions necessitated by Covid-19,” he concludes.”