Policy

Concretising mass houses

To meet the hopes of the teeming millions who dream of affordable housing especially in small towns and villages, now ‘prefabricated’ housing seem to have found a new takers- the developers. How the real estate boom gets buttressed by the ‘component housing’ by Team R&M
Concretising mass houses

The prefabricated component industry in India, although, in a nascent stage, is fast catching attention of builders and construction companies developing mass housing in smaller cities as well as in the interiors of the country. The reason behind the picking up of this concept is that the prefabricated materials have made construction work easy and it also brings down the construction time by as much as 70 per cent. “Facing a shortage of labourers, builders are resorting to new ways to meet the unprecedented construction demand in one of the fastest growing construction markets in the country,” describes a building construction expert.

RUDIMENTARY NEED
According to a United Nations Habitat report, 3 billion people will require homes over the next 24 years. “Now, Getting down to essentials, the requirement becomes construction of 300 homes every five minutes, the world over. A large portion of this demand throws up in our country,” says Aasif Khan, Director, Fabtech Technologies International Pvt. Ltd. He explains, “To help meet the housing requirement is not merely a business opportunity, it’s a social responsibility as well. Plaswall might not be able to fulfill the gap in entirety, it will certainly be the most effective way to reduce this gap. We aim to replace costly aluminum framework with cost effective options.”

Khan’s company Fabtech Technologies has tied up with Sterling construction and Development Corporation to form a joint venture named Fabtech Sterling Building Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (FSBT). The company operates in India as well as abroad in prefabricated materials.

WHERE DO WE STAND
In India, the prefabricated or precast material industry is in a burgeoning stage. It is worth Rs 4500 crore in infrastructure construction and less than Rs 1500 crore in case of prefabricated homes. People are experimenting with them and some contractors specialise in them although there are specific drawbacks to the support system in urban area. At present, precast technology are more in vogue in rural India and not so favourable for the elite housing as aesthetics may be compromised.

However, off late, many builders have taken up prefabrication to meet demand. Earlier used in large projects, this system is gradually being preferred in most aspects of construction. “Facing a shortage of labourers, builders are resorting to new ways to meet the unprecedented construction demand in one of the fastest growing property markets in Asia,” explains Khan. Prefabricated building systems that have been traditionally used in India to build bridges, metro rails and industrial units so as to save money and time are now finding their way into constructing homes.

IN THE PAST
Prefabricated building systems that have been traditionally used in India to build bridges, metro rails and industrial units so as to save money and time are now finding their way into constructing mass homes. ‘Prefabricated’ refers to building built in components (eg, panels), modules (modular homes) or transportable sections (manufactured homes). Modular homes are created in sections, and then transported to the site for construction and installation. These are typically installed and treated like a regular house. Although the sections of the house are prefabricated, the sections, or modules, are put together at the construction site much like a typical home.

HOW IT WORKS
Now, more and more builders are opting for prefabricated materials to put together large structures without employing large labourers. Prefabricated materials are essentially ready-to-fit materials manufactured at a factory outside the construction site. They are later assembled at the construction site by masons and joiners. In prefabricated housing construction, only the foundation and floor slabs are constructed the conventional way, which involves brick work, timber work, cement and sand to the building site. Sections of walls and roof are fabricated at a factory—with or without windows and door frames attached — and transported to the site, where they are just assembled and bolted together.

Prefabrication saves time and as a result cost. For instance, casting of a super structure, where the structure of a building above the ground level takes 7-28 days if the casts are made at the construction site. But if the casts are made at a plant outside the construction site, it takes just seven days. Although prefabrication is being used on a growing number of projects, most construction work is still site-based.

The cement prefabricated component industry is largely fragmented with large number of small players dominating regional business. Many producers still continue with conventional methods of production that meet local demand and specifications. Few organised players using modern technology are emerging with modest investments in plant and machinery. A number of these companies also have technical tie-up with foreign specialists.

GAINING A FOOTHOLD
There are several reasons for why precast building technology is rapidly gaining a foothold in the Indian market. First of all, socio-economic development means that the demand for affordable housing is increasing fast. The precast industry is currently concentrating on the “Affordable homes” concept. The Indian government is planning to provide subsidies for builders to meet the shortage of 25 million affordable apartment buildings. Precast is increasingly popular also for commercial projects. Secondly, government regulations are changing in such a way that they favor precast because of its advantages compared to other building techniques; it is affordable, fast, and safe. The schedules are always tight in the construction business and precast makes it easier to stick to project timelines and eliminate unexpected interruptions in work.

Engineering and precast technology cuts down on the need for a large workforce and large turnover time, with components like supporting pillars, door heads and roof structures built in a climate-controlled factory away from the construction site and transported to the actual site for assembly. A structure built using this methodology is stronger and economical, compared to buildings constructed conventionally. In addition, it takes a very short time to put together, too.

Precast concrete technology has proved its worth by saving a lot of construction time. The best part of the technology is that it not only speeds up construction work but also enhances the quality of the final output. The use of this technology can bring down the construction cost by 10-15 per cent and it could be the answer to India’s affordable housing.

Says Bhim Yadav, CEO of Falcon Realty, “The real estate industry is under tremendous pressure when it comes to timely completion of projects – it is a huge task for the builders. Precast and engineered homes technology helps in sustainable development by introducing eco-friendly and innovative technologies and could pave the way for green construction and a greener planet.”

To conclude, we can say that the use of such technology helps in saving up to 70 per cent of the total man hours needed using conventional methods. That is, if a building takes one year to raise using brick and mortar method, it can be completed in three to four months with precast and engineering homes method.

Engineered and precast homes have brought in a drastic change in the construction industry over the traditional method of construction, which involves assembling partially constructed components manufactured inside a factory. Engineering and precast technology cuts down on the need for a large workforce and large turnover time, with components like supporting pillars, door heads and roof structures built in a climate-controlled factory away from the construction site and transported to the actual site for assembly. A structure built using this methodology is stronger and economical, compared to buildings constructed conventionally. In addition, it takes a very short time to put together, too.

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