Cape Reed

Thatch roofing from South Africa is proving a big hit with commercial clients in the Middle East, says Andr? van Heerden, managing partner at Cape Reed.

Cape Reed, INTERVIEWS, Design

Thatch roofing from South Africa is proving a big hit with commercial clients in the Middle East, says André  van Heerden, managing partner at Cape Reed.

Business appears to be going from strength to strength for thatched roofing specialist and timber supplier Cape Reed. After establishing an office three years ago in Dubai, the firm has witnessed year-on-year growth for its products, with strong demand particularly from the commercial sector.

The Middle East now accounts for 75% of the firm's overall turnover.

To keep pace with demand, Cape Reed has set up a training academy for its specialised craftsmen in its home base of Cape Town. Managing partner Andre  van Heerden talks shop with Commercial Outdoor Design.

How long have you been established in the Middle East?

We've been present in the region for the last seven years, originally doing projects from South Africa and then for the past three years from our office in Dubai. We have 30 craftsmen, five project managers and two people in our design team.

We've had 100% growth year on year since we've been in the Middle East and this year looks like it might be even higher.

What do you think is the appeal of the product in this region?

It's a natural sustainable product. In the Middle East where we have a largely outdoor lifestyle, our product blends in with nature. It's a natural product blending in a natural environment.

Also, all of our units are unique; we don't duplicate any of our designs thus creating a bespoke gazebo for every customer.

Are your clients mainly commercial or residential?

Up until a year and a half ago, I would have said 70% residential versus 30% commercial. It's just about turned the other way around. The commercial projects we are doing are mainly hotels and include the Kempinski hotel in Ajman, Jebel Ali hotel and Al Marooj Rotana Hotel in Dubai.

What is the timber specification?

Our timber is pressure treated Pinus Radiata from South Africa, treated against fire retardancy, moisture penetration and bugs. We give a 15-year guarantee on all our structures.

The thatch we use is cape reed, a protected species in South Africa. The plant grows for six and a half years before it's harvested. If it doesn't get harvested, it dies.

Our timber supply comes from a commercially managed forest in the southern Cape, which is a privately owned family business, established over 100 years.

It's a member of the Forest Stewardship Council, which means all the trees they harvest, they plant double that within the plantations. Approximately 95% of our raw material comes from South Africa.

Given your rapid growth, is there a risk you might run out of supplies?

Supply of material is not the problem. Availability of artisans as we call our craftsmen is. Their job is to physically handstitch the thatch onto the structure and compact and craft it in terms of patterns and shape.

All our guys are from South Africa, and have relocated to the Middle East. Ultimately, our growth is limited to only one issue and that is availability of artisans.

How safe is the material?

It's waterproof, has a natural fire resistance, and is an extremely good insulator. We put a fire blanket on the inside of the roof that is capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 500ºC.

What future plans do you have for Cape Reed?

We're looking to open an office in Abu Dhabi in the next 12 to 18 months. That is the next step for Cape Reed in the Middle East.

If you would like your company to be featured in this slot, email We are particularly interested to hear from new suppliers in the region.


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