The Nelson Mandela University’s Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology (EBEIT) with participation from other faculties including Science (School of Natural Science), established in 2019, a multidisciplinary Cross Laminate Timber (CLT) Technology engagement unit.

The vision of the CLT Technology Unit is to …..

Establish the CLT building technology in Southern Africa, which optimally contributes to economic development, the sustainability of the environment and natural resources, and is used in building functional structures for human occupation.  

The mission of the CLT Technology Unit is to …..

Promote the adoption of the CLT technology, enhance and broaden education (dissemination of knowledge), conduct research (discovering new knowledge and information about CLT) and build a broad eco-system of partners relevant across the CLT value chain and in so doing contribute to enhanced economic activity, job creation and reduced poverty along with the preservation of our natural resources.   

As an entity of the university named after Nelson Mandela the CLT Unit’s guiding ethos is a commitment to a sustainable environment and just society by creating new products and technologies and potentially new industries at a national level that yield decent green jobs, reduce poverty, reduce the carbon footprint and conserve natural resources.

Activities of the CLT Unit

Given the broad goals of the unit it is imperative that the work of the colleagues in the unit will be wide ranging and inclusive of:

  • Curriculum development work including module content development for formal programmes or degrees, as well as the development of short learning programs,
  • Organizing seminars and workshops for academia and industry
  • Working with the building sector bodies, like the Master Builders Association the Municipal Building Regulations authority, to provide continuing professional development in regard to their members and staff in regard to CLT technology,
  • Building a competence within the CLT Unit including colleagues across disciplines including wood science, engineering, architecture as well as construction and project management,
  • Collaborating with TVET Colleges to ensure appropriate staff knowledge transfer, and skills development programmes are designed and developed and delivered to produce the requisite skills including carpenters, metal workers, assemblers and the like,
  • Organise and present seminars for built environment professionals and foresters to further educate these professionals with regards to the new CLT building technology,
  • Developing a research roadmap which will inform specific research projects,
  •  Collaborating with industry on scoping and conducting applied research projects required by industry, including work in partnership with some of the world’s largest CLT companies based in North America and Europe.
  • Advocacy work with national bodies including the South African Bureau of standards and Agrément to ensure that the necessary CLT design codes of practice and building standards are developed in line with international trends,
  • Liaising and collaborating with stakeholders in industry and academia both nationally and abroad,
  • Collaborating with international CLT experts including academics for transfer of knowledge and research expertise purposes, as well as professionals practising in industry including architects, engineers, carpenters and related skills and trades.
  • Undertake projects, including the construction of buildings which could serve as concept demonstration buildings (See figure 1 below).  This demonstration building will serve as a forerunner in the establishment of CLT as a feasible alternative building technology and construction methodology.


The Nelson Mandel University, via the CLT Unit, is partnering with and Italian company, Innovhousing, to design and build the first iconic CLT demonstration building (See concept design above) on the university’s beautiful George campus which is located within the footprint of the forest.

The building will be situated in the arboretum, amongst a grove of trees with the Outeniqua Mountains as a backdrop and will be used for demonstration purposes as well as selected events.  A more practical purpose of the CLT building will be for it to serve as a living laboratory for experimental work undertaken by academic staff and postgraduate students.  This CLT demonstration building will also enable research into a number of interesting phenomena, about the CLT material, such as thermal, acoustic, vibration characteristic tests, noise transfer and creep measurements, to be undertaken

This CLT building will serve as a natural incubator that brings together university and public life through the numerous complementary functions designed into its versatile, connected, and open-plan layout.  These multi-functional uses include areas for co-working, meetings, lounging areas, B2B pods, conferences, ceremonies, gala dinners, art and other exhibitions, small fairs, concerts, cinema, indoor, open-air and rooftop coffee areas, a rooftop gym, rooftop skateboard park, rooftop table tennis, and a rooftop barbeque/braai area. Thus, the buildings space will be optimally utilised for educational, and cultural growth, and potentially modest revenue generation.

Many of these above activities will contribute to building the necessary knowledge base, skill and expertise to be able to undertake both education programs as well as research project in order to advance our understanding and utility of CLT as it relates to a feasible alternative to the conventional building materials of concrete and steel. 

The set of activities outlined above furthermore will contribute to the building of a broader ecosystem within which professionals from across industry, private practice, government structures, regulatory bodies, municipalities, and academia will be able to work towards the building the CLT industry sector in South Africa.