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What is a cost effective way of building on a hill? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 June 2010

David wrote in about his dilemma regarding the most cost effective way of building his house on a steep hill.

Hi Les,

I was wondering if you could maybe shed some light on a problem I've been having.

I'm planning to build my house soon and have been struggling to find a cost effective way that will also meet my needs.

The house I plan to build is on a hill and as of now there is no road leading up to the site. (This will change soon.)

My question is ... what building method will be the cheapest and most reliable?  I've looked at the American kit houses but worry about the life span of the wood.  Brick building is quite expensive and have therefore thought about concrete. Would this be a cheaper option?

Thanx so much for your time


Les responded as follows:

There are a number of building methods that you can consider and you are correct, brick building is the most expensive building method at the moment.

In the Western Cape it averages at R7000/m² for standard building. Timber building probably comes up next at  R6000/m². Light steel frame comes in at anywhere from R4000 to R5500/m²

I would also not recommend concrete panels given your access problems.

The system that I would, however, recommend for your particular application, no roads, on a hill, etc. would be a SIPS building system, (Structural Insulated Panel System), which comes in at around R4800/m². All the walls of the house  are pre-made in a factory and delivered to site. They are easy to erect and are lightweight, so are easy to transport, highly insulated, soundproof and fully green. I can carry a panel myself so walking up a hill with them or using a 4x4 would be easy.

As an architect (with a structural engineering background)  in the Cape Town area (Hermanus) I have designed buildings using all five building methods (although SIPS is still relatively new to most people).

My favourite medium is timber but on cost, SIPS panels, which can have almost any finish you would choose, inside or outside, would be your best bet.  As with timber frame and light steel frame construction, SIPS construction can be made to any design and to look like any building finish you would want, from brick or stone veneer to smooth plastered finish to half logs or shiplap fibre cement planks so there is no limitation there. It just depends on what you are prepared to spend beyond the basic finish which is a smooth plastered finish.

I hope that this helps you. You are welcome to come back to me with any further questions you might have.

Kind regards,
Les Abbott


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