Stand 47: A case study on how to build a better home

Situated in a serene setting on Monaghan Farm Eco Estate (Gauteng, South Africa), Stand 47 serves as a model in contemporary building methods and materials for the high-end residential sector in South Africa with a direct focus on comfort.

Aesthetic, thermal, acoustic, air quality and modular comfort were kept in mind, so the design for Stand 47 was environmentally conscious from inception to completion. Together with Saint-Gobain, key organisations partnered in the project, working towards the same goal over a period of two years between 2013 and 2014 to deliver a contemporary embodiment of comfort and sustainability.


Our aim is to rethink the way we build houses in South Africa to meet the needs of contemporary lifestyles with the advances in Saint-Gobain’s building technology that uses less energy, is more flexible and most importantly, more comfortable.

Our view is that the demands of modern-day living and the availability of contemporary building materials demand a review of the traditional approach and process applied to building a home.

A better home, is a home that will adapt to your needs as your requires change over time, and this concept should span over decades, which will maximise your home’s value over time. An 'open-ended' design creates capacity for a home to endure change, should change be required. So 'better' refers to housing that not only does more with less, but also provides opportunity for adaptation.

Less effort is required when a house has built-in capacity to change – as well as fewer material, construction, maintenance and living costs. 


Our approach is to show how you can build a better, more comfortable home that adapts to the changing needs of your family over time using fewer resources and innovative materials to conveniently do so.


Our results after completion and testing show our guests confirming that building a home using state-of-the-art Saint-Gobain materials has measurable and proven multi-comfort benefits.

Our multi-comfort principles are centered around the human senses, to ensure overall comfort in the spaces we spend most of our time in while safeguarding the environment. It is all about design and technology, beauty and safety, efficiency and sustainability:

  • Feel — How to reduce energy bills 
  • Breathe — How to improve indoor air quality 
  • Hear — How to improve acoustics (insulation and absorption)
  • See — How to introduce as much natural light as possible


Thermal comfort – maintaining comfortable internal temperatures within an airtight building envelope by providing highly effective thermal insulation and relative humidity. Limit extreme internal temperature variables, summer overheating, drafts or surface heating.  Thermal Comfort is achieved largely through the design and insulation of the external shell of the house (roof, walls, and floor) and include, the temperature of the air, from objects in a house, water vapour (humidity) in the air, and the rate that air moves through the interior.


Indoor Air Quality comfort - Indoor air quality (IAQ) may be broadly defined as the state of air (clean or contaminated) that in turn affects the health and well-being of occupants. Poor IAQ affects health comfort and productivity (e.g. through the aggravation of allergies and asthma) especially if we consider that 90% of our time is spent indoors. Indoor air comfort is determined by:

  •  Indoor air quality
  •  Fresh air supply
  •  Absence of internal pollutants
  •  Control of odors

Human exposure to indoor air pollutants is influenced by factors such as the ventilation rate within a building, air velocity, temperature, relative humidity, the activities taking place, and the frequency and duration of exposure. The first step in controlling indoor air pollution is therefore to remove emissions of primary and secondary pollutants at source. This can be achieved by paying attention to the ingredients of materials brought into any living or working space and, where possible, choosing healthier alternatives (formaldehyde free, natural products).


Acoustic comfort – acoustic isolation and sound-absorbing panels limit the transfer of airborne, impact and reverberation sounds through the house. Acoustic comfort is achieved by isolating sounds within a room and limiting the transfer of noisy sounds through the structure of the building and between spaces.


Visual comfort – natural light, outdoor views and traditional materials complement contemporary forms and technology to create a familiar, comforting aesthetic.


The perception that dry-walling is perhaps not as safe as masonry for example is unfounded. Rigorous testing has been conducted to create a product that is highly fire-resistance and Saint-Gobain drywall systems have a higher combustion point than masonry. Gyproc's FireStop plasterboard withstands fire for 120 minutes. Another perception is that the external dry-wall systems and the light-steel structure are not strong or weather badly. However, the combination of up to 8 layers of specialised products creates an inseparable unit that is high-strength, highly efficient and well-weathering. In addition, Gyproc's DuraLine plasterboard can be used in high-traffic or impact areas as it withstands knocks and bumps in daily life.


Stand 47 has three types of 'flexbility' built in to adapt to the unpredictable changes in family life, without forcing the users to renovate extensively or move away.

One of the factors affecting long-term experience in a home is flexibility. Most often homes are outgrown when they can no longer accommodate the needs of the inhabitants and the consequences often lead to extensive (and expensive) renovations. The value of Stand 47 increases due to its latent potential to transform and broaden its market appeal.




The purpose of this step is developing an architectural brief with a detailed accommodation schedule to guide the entire process. For a house to be designed in a considered manner, one must first know how it must work before thinking about how it will look. Knowing how it must work begins by setting up an accommodation schedule that lists the rooms and functions required.

The absence of a 'real' family meant that Stand 47's accommodation schedule had to consider the potential needs of a 'question-mark' family. This uncertainty informed how uses fit together to make the house comfortable and adaptable in future; functional service areas are fixed in service zones, while living areas remain adaptable in living spaces. The objectives can be summarised as:

1] Internal rooms evolve easily overtime without compromising the outer shell of the house or its architectural integrity with the possibility for multi-purpose uses.

2] Fixed services (service zone) : kitchen, scullery, bathrooms, garages, domestic quarters, and storerooms. Flexible spaces (living spaces): Living areas, bedrooms, study, patios, and corridors. While lifestyles evolve, needs satisfied by the service zone undergo less radical changes, so the 'living spaces' must adapt to change more easily.



The purpose of this step is to create an architectural design concept that builds on a clear accommodation schedule and brief to direct the decision-making involved in resolving and detailing a building. Design requires constant adjustments to technical necessities by exploring possibilities before construction, and in Stand 47 design materialises in the concept of 'building better by doing more with less'.

Stand 47's site inspires a design sensitivity toward the landscape by incorporating views, working with the slope, integrating passive strategies for orientation, ventilation, light and thermal comfort, acoustics and water harvesting. It also incorporates principles from the Modern Movement that illustrate a contextual sensitivity to site while adopting contemporary materials and technology. 

Generating the sketch plan, sections and elevations from the accommodation schedule, site analysis, precedent study and functional layout, provides the architectural quality and spatial character of the house. It is not primarily about 'looks'.Stand 47's design qualities include: 

  • Flexibility (fixed outer shell), 
  • Fixed versus flexible zones (adaptable internal walls freeing up living space), 
  • Planes (continuous floor and ceiling planes to create the possibility to reposition the internal drywalls), 
  • Grid (a 900mm x 900mm module making repositioning of internal walls easier), 
  • Skin (the roof and solar screens), 
  • Contrast (through zones, structure, and transparency).

Stand 47's design emerges from a process that always refers back to Step 1's Fixed vs. Flexible approach, to do more with less. The design also incorporates hi-tech functionality and contemporary building strategies and technologies without losing the feeling of 'home' by using organic materials, connections to nature and references to traditional design. 



The purpose of this step is to adjust the sketch design to material requirements, structural integrity and technical feedback received from the quantity surveyor and structural engineer, while keeping to the accommodation schedule and concept. After a few design iterations, documentation is finalised and the approval processes begin at the various regulatory bodies (estate committees and municipal councils). 

Contemporary materials, systems and technologies that meet the objectives of Step 1 and Step 2 are analysed for their impacts on the design. These adjustments are reflected either in layout changes or technical detailing. Stand 47's specification process refined technical requirements based on the best contemporary options available (such as building systems from Saint-Gobain) to meet the state-of-the-art deliverable that is the vision for Stand 47. Cost projections generated by the quantity surveyor and feedback regarding product performance, alternatives or requirements and alternative energy solutions influence design refinement.



The purpose of the fourth and final step is to monitor the construction process on site, to work out unexpected issues that might arise from specification or unknown site conditions and to manage timelines and costs. It begins after building 

plans are approved after which the tender process is opened to interested or selected contractors. The tender closes when the main contractor is appointed based on their tender submission. 


Stand 47's high quality materials and vision required that the contractor emulate this excellence in workmanship and construction experience. Collaboration and regular meetings with the contractor and subcontractors, QS, architects, and clients ensure that building work is well monitored, inspected, adapted and executed as per updated drawings to ensure quality control.

The construction process at Stand 47 is guided by the objectives of the preceding three steps. In addition, the decision to document the construction process has formed an archive of valuable lessons, which can guide similar projects and also contribute toward creating a network of like-minded individuals that can build better using contemporary housing solutions in South Africa. 

Some of the focus areas on building better were:

  • Seamless integration between masonry, stone, drywall systems and                light steel.
  • The installation of drywall systems results in much less wastage and less water requirement, cleaner environment and                  faster building time.
  • The light steel frames with drywall cladding provide a high thermal insulation and improve internal air quality as well as                acoustic value and fire safety.
  • The use of thermal insulation on the floor slab. The use of timber doors and window frames fitted with 6.38mm Clear PVB            Laminated Safety Glass double-glazed with a 6mm cavity to limit heat transfer.

Special Features (Materials and Systems)

  • Light Steel frame structure 
  • Saint-Gobain Gyproc internal drywalls including Gyproc RhinoBoard, MoistureResistant, Duraline, FireStop & Gyproc                      Activ’Air plasterboard as well as RhinoLite Multipurpose  plaster.      
  • Saint-Gobain Weber external drywalls using the ETICS system 
  • Saint-Gobain Isover insulation systems including Aerolite and Cavitybatt 
  • Saint-Gobain Isover PolitermBlu floor insulation 
  • Timber doors and window frames 


Saint-Gobain’s innovative materials are not only for new build projects. They can also be applied in the retrofit sector to improve the performance of built homes. Considering the following areas of improvement can help increase your comfort and lower environmental impact, helping you get peace of mind for many years to come.



When poorly insulated the roof spaces account for between 25-45% of heat gain or loss in a home. Properly insulating a ceiling offers the best cost benefit, improves indoor temperature and makes the home quiet all year round.

- Gyproc – Ceilings

- Isover - Insulation

- Brasilit – Roof Tiles


Up to 30% of the heat inside a home can be lost or gained through the outside facing walls. Installing a thin layer of thermal insulation to existing walls can vastly improve the indoor comfort level.

- Gyproc - Walls

- Isover - Insulation


Heat is also lost through the floor into the ground. Heated floors especially, should be installed above insulation. If the floor is not heated, it is better to insulate the foundation walls where heat loss is greatest or to install a light weight insulated screed below the floor tiles, timber floor boards or carpet.

- Isover - Insulation (EPS beads)

- Weber – Floor underlays


Occurs around exterior doors and windows, the edge between ceilings and walls, expansion joints, and services. Seal gaps with an elastic sealer, use a “door sweep” at the bottom of entrances, & install cornices at the ceiling perimeter.

- Huet – Sealed Acoustic and Fire Rated doors


Can improve comfort by providing both access to fresh air as well as balancing the internal temperature.


Installing double glazed, low-e* coating windows reduces the transfer of heat. External shading devices protect windows from direct sunlight in summer while allowing winter sun into the home. In addition, consider using the correct balance between glazed and wall surfaces in the external façades to maximise daylight while minimizing unwanted heat transfer.

*Low-emissivity (Low-E) coatings are microscopically thin, virtually invisible, metal or metallic oxide layers on a glazing surface

- Saint-Gobain Glass – Specialised Glazing for thermal, acoustic and visual comfort needs

Did you know ?

The Stand 47 case study takes traditional materials, components, functions and processes and attempts to use them in a different way together with modern design principles, state of the art materials and technology.