DIYers’ looking for an easy, cost-effective building solution really should check out the Supa Panel invented by Pretoria-based veteran builder Mannie Small. These 80 mm thick, concrete-like pre-fabricated panels have a lot going for them. They’re strong, fireproof, waterproof, relatively lightweight, boast impressive thermal and sound insulation properties, and are easy to work, even with hand tools.
Heck, these panels even float! Which got me thinking – I reckon the plaster, made out of the same constituents as the panels, would most probably work for boat construction too. After all, well-constructed ferro-cement hulls (a popular boat building method in the 1970’s) still have a lot going for them.
Anyway, back to Small’s invention. Corner and T-shaped panels ensure accurate 90-degree corners on all external and internal walls. Thanks to their interlocking profiles, they require minimal building experience to assemble. And, as walls build with these panels weighs significantly less than those built with brick, smaller foundations are required.
Small elaborates: “You must think of my product as wood, but in a concrete form. It can be cut using a handsaw, you can sink screws without having to first drill pilot holes and, when using a router to make rebates to lay pipes, it slices through the panels as if they were butter.”
As it took Small, with his 34 years of experience in the building trade, three years of dedicated experimentation to get his patented mix of ingredients right, he’s understandably reluctant to give away too many secrets. However, he is prepared to disclose this much: his panels are made out of a combination of non-toxic volcanic glass, cement and his “special chemical mix”.
Using the same constituents, he’s also developed a plaster mix that can adhere to glass and even bare steel. “A 3-mm thick layer painted on to an old rusty galvanised roof will not only seal all voids, but also deflect 15-degrees Celsius of heat. And, if you apply a 15-mm thick layer on to the internal walls and ceiling of a room, you’ll have built your own cold room.”
In fact, Small has so much confidence in his plaster’s impressive thermal insulation and fireproof properties (it can handle temperatures of up to 1 250 degrees Celsius and still maintain its structural integrity), he’s prepared to make a very radical claim. “I firmly believe if it had been applied to the entire steel structure of the Twin Towers, they wouldn’t have collapsed like they did in 2001.”
Small is currently negotiating with a mining company for a contract to build 4 000 homes, and has already sold three agencies; one in Soweto, Pretoria and Centurion. For more information you can contact him on 071 761 4687 or visit www.supapanel.co.za