End-to-End Building Innovation
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Stuart Parker
Razorbill Holdings has grown into a multi-faceted building solution Company, comprised of four subsidiaries that when combined, provide an end-to-end building solution that focuses on bringing innovative green building techniques to South Africa’s commercial, residential and social housing sectors.
At the core of its business remains Razorbill Properties 127 (Pty) Ltd, the first of its subsidiaries to enter the lightweight steel frame (LWSF) construction sector via the social housing market in 2007. The Company quickly established itself as a reputable supplier of total roofing solutions, initiating and promoting the new South African energy efficient building regulation changes; which saw the industry move from the standard cranked IBR roofing sheets on purlins, into energy efficient roofing solutions consisting of cement roof tiles on trusses and later, the inclusion of ceilings with insulation.
“At the time, we designed our roofs in such a way that they could be retro-fitted with ceiling insulation materials to upgrade the houses over time, bringing them in line with the expected legislation. Given that the market continues to constantly change, it is important to think ahead in order to provide the right innovative roofing solution in the long-term,” explains Chris Smith, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Razorbill Holdings.
As the roofing market became further saturated, Smith identified that there was a gap in the market for a total solution provider who could take on an active project management role. In 2010, this prompted the decision to split the Company into the aforementioned four subsidiaries under one holding Company, namely: Razorbill Eco Building Warehouse, Razorbill Eco Construct, Razorbill Construct and Razorbill Properties 127.
“Leveraging our strengths in both working with steel and roofing solutions, we began to expand the Company and enter into the supply of other key building materials, providing turnkey solutions for projects across both the public and private domains including institutional building and government projects,” says Smith.
With client needs determined on a project by project basis, Razorbill has successfully bolstered on all the right components to offer a tailored turnkey service including in-house architectural design and engineering services through its professional teams. Moreover, continuous research and development into new building technologies has meant a solid quality of service for clients as the Company now looks to share its knowledge by exploring opportunities in Namibia and Swaziland.
Scratching the surface
Leveraging its strong South African backbone, Razorbill is currently testing the market outside of the country, identifying Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia as significant growth markets.
Smith details: “Not only is Namibia close to our current operations, but it has the potential to serve as the gateway to its surrounding countries such as Angola, Zambia and Botswana. On top of this, the country has a strong drive to become financially independent from South Africa in the near future. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of the market here, starting with an agreement with a local company.”
At present, Razorbill has two contracts in Namibia: one social housing project and one for additions to the Maerua Mall in Windhoek, while also having a number of contracts in the negotiation or early design phase.
“To expand our market share in both Namibia and Swaziland we will have to install capacity, which involves skills transfer or our South Africa competencies to the market; with the view to then recruit locally. Functioning as a sort of franchise model, we can provide all the technical engineering, design, assist with management, arrange the supply of materials, training and offer financial packages from our South African operations,” the CEO states.
Further to this, the Company continues to develop its core roofing business in South Africa which witnesses significant growth year-on-year. “We have a number of residential and commercial projects currently underway in the country, including several projects which were entered into the Steel Awards of the Year competition that will take place in September,” he continues.
Passing on the savings
South Africa is well-known for its sustainability efforts, having embraced renewable and green energy compliances across the board. Razorbill’s innovative building technologies are not only 100 percent compliant, but are eight times more insulating than standard brick and mortar building solutions.
Smith emphasises: “Clients that choose us will find that our eco materials present multiple energy savings which are passed onto the home or building owner, while ensuring minimal environmental impact. By working with local brands that have an international presence, such as ArcelorMittal for our galvanised steel and Saint Gobain building technologies, we can ensure a consistently high quality finish is achieved for every project.”
Equally, Smith recognises the importance of generating local content and contributing to economic development goals in South Africa. As such, Razorbill Holdings’ subsidiaries are level 4 and level 3 BEE compliant and have black shareholding in all four divisions.
“We advocate skills development through the SASFA training courses and upskill local contractors with on-the-job training in order to enhance local core competencies; mainly training people in LWSF construction. We appreciate the need for as much local development as possible to help grow the economy and address skills shortages which in turn, combats some pressing social issues,” he adds.
In order to further enhance its educational offering, Razorbill is in discussions with the South African Qualifications Authority, as well as the Namibian Qualifications Authority, to establish an apprenticeship scheme that will enhance the already extensive on-the-job training the Company offers and install pride and dignity amongst local sub-contractors. Moreover, by taking part in corporate social investment projects on an annual basis, Razorbill is able to demonstrate its long-term commitment and presence in each area it operates.
Technology has become an integral part of society and is an important part of any business operating today. Using software provided by OEM, FRAMECAD Razorbill is able to utilise technology in the architectural drawing stage through to the engineering stage.
Smith cites: “This machine allows our six full time engineers to turn a concept drawing into a total engineered design solution to which we can make the necessary checks to make sure the resulting structure complies with local and international building standards.
“The program makes the manufacturing process more efficient as you can feed the drawing straight into the machine to create bespoke and accurate profiled steel.”
Over the past five years, Razorbill has maintained an impressive growth rate of 60 percent per annum, and backed by its eight years of experience and aptitude for innovation, the Company is aiming to continue this growth pattern; with the opening of doors into Namibia and Swaziland contributing tremendously to profitability.
“Razorbill is very much in a growth phase and is equipped with all the right methodologies to continue researching the best green building innovations that ultimately provide a return to the end-user. The adoption of these building technologies in Southern Africa shows the continent’s aptitude to follow in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US in securing a more sustainable future for its people,” Smith concludes.