Breaking New Ground

Silverline Group is changing the future of the construction industry worldwide by using state-of-the-art technology to plan, model and construct buildings that are cost-effective, strong, durable, energy-efficient — and highly attractive.

Breaking New Ground

Franchising your business can be a very successful way of expanding. Some of today’s largest businesses have used franchising to finance and accelerate their growth into global brands.

Jonathan Pepler and Charl van Zyl, the founders of a local company that started out as a small construction business in 2011, are witnessing the benefits of the franchise model and rapidly expanding their light steel frame construction franchise system.

“Soon after we launched the construction business, we were inundated with enquiries from all over South Africa, and we had to relook at the business strategy,” says van Zyl. “Today, Silverline Group has grown to become a major contributor to employment creation, economic growth and developing alternative and sustainable construction practices. It’s also the only franchised construction company in the country.”

What is light steel frame building?

Light steel frame building consists of structural wall frames and roof trusses, manufactured from cold-formed light gauge galvanised steel sections.

Exterior cladding consists of fibre cement board fixed to the wall frames. Electricity and plumbing are installed in the wall cavity created by the light steel frames, as is the insulation material. Gypsum board fixed to the light steel frame is typically used for internal wall cladding and ceilings.

“The advent of light steel frame building in South Africa is one of the most exciting developments in recent times in the steel and building industries,” says van Zyl.

“It’s a method of building that’s been used in the US, Europe and Australia for decades, but was only recently introduced to South African shores. It offers quality, cost-efficiency and speed, making it easy to erect buildings.”

Over the past 60 years, steel frame houses have become the preferred way of building in countries around the world, including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and now South Africa.

“The saving on time, costs, waste and unsightly rubble speaks for itself, but it’s the positive impact on the environment and the way clients can customise the steel frame to suit their ideal architectural style that is most attractive to customers,” he adds.

Van Zyl says Silverline Group is now the largest light frame steel construction company in Africa with 30 franchises in operation. It also has the largest footprint in the world and is both a local and global player, with construction projects in Australia, France, Mauritius and various African countries.

“The number of projects completed has helped us to achieve record growth figures, but what we’re most proud of is our excellent quality control and the fact that we have set construction industry best practice standards and benchmarks.”

Silverline Group is headquartered in Cape Town and a new regional office is being opened in Gauteng to support its franchisees and cater to the high demand for construction operations in the region.

Both the head office and regional offices provide project management, engineering, quantity surveying and marketing support to franchisees to ensure sustainable standards and better quality control.

The technology edge


Silverline Group developed software for the light frame steel industry, giving its franchisees and contractors a competitive advantage by helping them operate more efficiently and effectively, and maintain high quality standards and good margins. The software includes costing programmes, material calculators and project management programmes as well as online training material and operating manuals for franchisees.

The company also has in-house consulting engineering, quantity surveying, and project management divisions, all supporting both franchisees and the construction industry as a whole.

Partnering with leading brands

In just three years, Silverline Group has successful memorandums of understanding with a number of national and international brands, including:

Framecad, the world’s largest manufacturer of roll forming machines.

It provides a complete design and build system that is innovative, cost-effective, suitable for residential and commercial construction, and fast to construct in developed and developing markets worldwide. Its building design and detailing software makes the process of engineering, designing and detailing projects fast, simple and highly accurate. This ensures every building is not only cost-effective, but also durable and fit for purpose.

Lafarge, a building material supplier that specialises in cement, construction aggregates, and concrete.

“These partnerships give us access to the markets in which our suppliers operate, and to international Construction Projects,” says van Zyl. “For Silverline Group, exports and foreign projects have become the norm. With the exchange rate as it is, this is a very profitable division of our business.”

Impressive growth

Business is booming in an industry which had a negative growth figure in 2011, and just 4% growth in 2012.

“Silverline has grown by more than 500% between 2012 and 2014. The company’s success rate for 2013 was 84% on projects quoted to the market. This is excellent, considering the competitive market and the challenge we have of changing the overall perception of the current brick and mortar industry. We expect to top this phenomenal growth in 2014, and we are on track to do so.”

Behind the scenes


CEO and co-founder of Silverline Group Charl van Zyl has more than 20 years of international business development experience. His focus is on business strategy and operations, which includes product development, franchise operations, project management, supplier relations, exports, engineering and quantity surveying, international business development and construction software development.

Co-founder and director, Jonathan Pepler has more than 30 years of business and franchise experience and focuses on Silverline Group’s finance, business administration, corporate governance, human resources, real estate, legal, business strategy and development, as well as public relations.

Marketing director, Hein Steenkamp, has more than 20 years of property development and real estate experience and heads up marketing at Silverline, including construction and engineering project sourcing.

Commercial Building Advantages

  • 4% more lettable rental area due to internal space increase, internal and external walls
  • Reduces internal and external columns
  • Saving on ring beams
  • Saving on floor costs
  • Reduced foundation requirements — due to ten times lighter structure on the foundation
  • Roof structure weight savings
  • Superior insulation properties — saving on capital outlay of H.A.V and up to 40% of electricity bill
  • Plumbing and electrical installation easier and faster
  • Reduces interest period on bond accounts due to early occupation
  • Reduces base plate sizes
  • Reduces foundation footings
  • Two-hour fire resistant walls
  • Better sound properties than brick and mortar.

Projected industry growth

According to John Barnard, CEO of the Southern African Light Steel Frame Building Association (SASFA), sustained growth in the light steel frame building market reveals a demand for the following:

  • 380 000m2  p/a of external cladding (typically fibre cement board)
  • 1,3 millionm2 p/a of bulk insulation (typically glasswool bats)
  • 1,7 millionm2 p/a of internal lining or gypsum board
  • 400 000m2 p/a of vapour permeable membrane used in external walls

The total light steel frame market (local and export, trusses only, and complete buildings) is forecast to continue growing by 25% per year. SASFA manufacturing members report good demand for middle and upper income housing, schools and classrooms, and roofing structures for low-cost housing projects.

A number of project enquiries have been reported from neighbouring countries, and there are several large housing developments in the pipeline in South Africa.

Local architects are increasingly utilising the advantages of light steel frames for external walling of office buildings, with great results. Apart from the striking façades that can be achieved, using light steel frames shaves weeks off the building schedules and allows reduction in the capacity of air conditioning equipment because of the thermal efficiency of well insulated walls.

A greener way to build

  • Light steel frame building offers designers and building owners the opportunity to minimise energy wastage during building operations, as well as during the life of the building.
  • The primary steel industry worldwide has in recent times vastly improved production processes to minimise energy consumption and pollution. Furthermore, a large percentage of all scrap generated is reused in electric arc furnaces to produce new steel, resulting in significant energy savings and a reduction in pollution.
  • As light steel frame building is an engineered building method, use of materials is optimised, offering savings in energy used to produce the materials.
  • The mass of a wall in a light steel frame building is ten times lighter than a brick wall. Thus, significant energy savings are achieved merely in the transport of the materials to the building site. Furthermore, wastage of materials on site is minimised, again reducing energy wastage by obviating the need to remove truckloads of building rubble after completion of the building process.
  • However, the most significant energy saving is achieved over the life of the building. Light steel frame buildings can be optimally insulated for each type of building in the different geographic regions in Southern Africa, resulting in reduced energy wastage for heating and cooling.
  • All of the above factors combine to render light steel frame buildings energy efficient, and sustainable.
  • Superior insulation of steel frame homes saves energy that would otherwise be used by heaters and air conditioners (helping the energy  crisis and your pocket).
  • Stronger than brick and mortar.
  • Up to 50% faster than brick and mortar.
  • More than 1 000% better insulated than brick and mortar.
  • 600 year durability.
  • 2% waste material on site.
  • 80% less carbon footprint.

Silverline’s product and building methods and processes are totally green as steel is the most recycled product in the world and ideal for today’s environmental requirements.

Silverline franchise investment

Monique Verduyn
About the Author
Monique Verdyun is a regular contributor to Franchise Zone. Franchise Zone is published by Entrepreneur Media SA. It offers advice and franchising opportunities in South Africa.

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