3 August 2017
I was surprised to find I have never written about Keraforce before. It all started on 18 August 2011. Rein Buisman wanted lightweight rigid pipes. I showed him one of my lightest materials and one of my strongest materials. He said “Why don’t you mix the two together.” I promised to try it though it made no sense to me. When I mixed the two together the mixture ran like water so I concluded “Well that’s truly buggered now.” The next morning it was rock hard!! I was flabbergasted. It was just what Rein needed, so I named the material Reinite.
It continued to do amazing things, with a bit of adjustment here and there. I found it reaches new heights as a composite. I tested it in various types of fibreglass and textiles and after covering just about every type of textile I chose the geotextile Bidim A2 as the best carrier. We now call the powder Reforce, the liquid Reinite Binder and the composite Keraforce. Then I discovered I could make a magnificent engineering material by covering polystyrene with Keraforce. It is extremely light, very rigid and strong. With the added property of thermal insulation it was a natural choice for housing.
My late friend Paul Olver brought Liezl Kok to see it. She immediately registered a company Biohabitat to market the housing. Our first house was a small one with a mezzanine bedroom for the kids. It had two skylights and the atmosphere, particularly the temperature, was very appealing. The biggest advantage was that it was factory built, and assembled on site in one day. That means you lock it up that night and there is nothing on site to steal. We found that you cannot buy a stand in the townships from the municipality. (I now sympathise with squatters.) Our first house was made of corrugated panels which are quite strong. Unfortunately our target market felt it resembled corrugated iron and rejected it on appearance. I discovered that flat sheets of thicker polystyrene work out cheaper than the corrugated model. I worked closely with Technopol and we discovered that a 150mm thick roof panel 1 metre wide supported at a 2m interval takes nearly a ton before it breaks! We now use them unsupported over 5 metres.
In 2013 I started a 3 storey house in my factory grounds. For a foundation I used polystyrene “floats” 250mm x 250mm x 1m, joined together with Keraforce. I placed this right on top of the ground, thinking I would watch it sink in every time the ground got saturated with water. It still hasn’t sunk in. The building inspector banned my third storey, but Zorro built me a sort of attic in the roof. Call it a 2 and half storey. I am living in the house to learn the ins and outs. It has a nice round fireplace in the centre of the ground floor. It gives radiant heat in all directions. It took a lot of modification and experimenting to get it smoke free. Only one component of the fireplace was made of refractory, and it was the only one that failed. Now the whole system is Keraforce.
Some customers have built houses with Keraforce. I sent a big truckload up to the Zambezi river. Recently I got an order from Lere Saunderson for a house. One storey plus a mezzanine bedroom. I had less than a month to build it. It was very hectic but I managed to complete it in under a month. Costs are about R1700/m², compared to about R2400/m² for conventional building.
I would like to see Keraforce used extensively as a replacement for fibreglass. It is not messy, just wipe the bench with a wet cloth. It is not irritant, no carcinogens, not sensitive to timing when laminating, UV immune, fireproof, hard and rigid. I use Keraforce for just about everything these days, see the brochure attached. Another lucrative application would be repair of sagging roof trusses. Just jack them back into place and wrap them with Keraforce and they will be as good as new. I built a large afdak behind the factory with thoroughly rotten wood as the beams, wrapped with Keraforce. It is working. You can see three Keraforce structures at my factory on Google Earth.
Marelise did some marketing. Unfortunately she had to leave to join her husband in Lichtenburg. I miss her terribly.
Wishing you all the best,