Prefab Technology: Eco-friendly Construction Option

As the Government is working towards providing housing for all by 2022, Samir Sharan feels that prefab technology can help to realise the mission at an affordable cost along with reduction of the nation’s carbon footprint.

Samir Sharan

Samir Sharan

India’s infrastructure deficits and housing shortfalls have been talked about for years on end. The NDA Government too has spoken about according top priority to these issues including housing for all. While analysts discuss various solutions that could accelerate the process to address these deficits, one sector can surely play a pivotal role in this scenario: the PUF (Polyurethane Foam) panel and prefabrication industry.

Despite the housing boom in the metro and tier II towns, there still exists a huge gap between the demand and supply of the housings. On the overall, house construction in India so far in the organized sector has been in conventional manner. Burnt bricks, cement mortar, steel reinforced cement concrete, glass, aluminium, tiles, etc all labour intensive, time consuming and expensive.

None of the present designs and technologies of houses in India is even environment friendly as well. A convention houses uses sand, brick, cement, soil, wood and steel to construction, for which million of trees are cut every years. Illegal mining of soil, boulder and sand has already hit the limelight since last few years. A small house of around 100 sq ft takes at least 6 months to a year to complete and costs as high as rupees 5-10 lakhs. Besides this, India also has a serious shortfall of masons, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, construction supervisors, planners, experienced engineers and architects.

Homes built with RCC roofs absorb all the heat of the sun during the day and radiate it inwards in the night to the discomfort of the dwellers. People, who can afford, then spend much on air conditioners and consume so much electricity making India a power hungry nation already, even with half of its population sleeping under the open sky.

All these issues call for urgent actions to popularize alternative design and construction technologies with regard to future houses in India – both for urban and rural people.

Today, the advent of prefab technology has shown the way forward for sustainable construction technologies and is key to the future in construction sector.

Prefab technology involves use of factory-manufactured components in buildings. Some commonly used prefab materials also include steel frames for structures, panels made of wood, cement, gypsum and other materials for floors, walls and ceilings, factory-made doors, windows and ventilators. Prefab technology can be used to build homes quickly and cost-effectively, especially as traditional construction costs continue to rise. As the cost of borrowing is steep and developers are facing a liquidity crunch. In case of large construction projects, various modules of the pre-fab structure are cast off-site in factories and then assembled on the site.

Prefab construction also helps in reduction of carbon footprint by help in reduction of construction time and thus improves the quality of the building. Though initial cost of the implementation of prefab materials are a little bit expensive than initial cost of traditional technology – the higher efficiency, less wastage and labour costs brings down the overall cost substantially for large buildings. These structures also eliminate the need for auxiliary activities such as plastering, electrical wiring and plumbing as these are done at the casting stage itself. The use of prefab techniques can also result in better cost efficiencies over the life span of the buildings.

A carefully planned and pre-assembled prefab structure renders the best waste management. Prefab structures can reduce waste to 10 per cent or less, which conserves the environment as well as saves money for buyers.

Prefabricated structures can also be customised to make the best use of renewable energy sources for heating, ventilating and cooling. It can also be designed to integrate the latest smart and green technology i.e. – photovoltaics, solar panels, heat pump, wind turbine or rain water collector, among others by combining the right equipments to best suit anyone’s energy efficiency requirements.

Because prefab homes are factory-made, the measurements are precise, thus saving energy losses to a large extent. Large pieces fit together and joints are sealed to conserve energy and potentially save millions of rupees every year. Companies can also cut costs by offering features like recycled roofs and flooring

One of the major considerations as to why precast concrete is preferred choice over cast-in-situ construction is because of following environmental attributes:

 

  • Precast plants also reuse formwork, thereby reducing construction waste that would otherwise be generated at a construction site
  • Precast concrete manufacturing under factory environment can optimise materials usage, reduces wastages and wastes creation, and both the concrete itself and steel reinforcement inside it are recyclable
  • Because the precast components are modular and standardised, they are installed in a quicker fashion and result in reduced construction time, energy usage and emissions from on-site equipment
  • Precast concrete products are valued for its inherent quality, value and permanence

Such marvel infrastructures are examples for the sector to emulate and to believe that Prefab technology holds massive opportunities for the future. As higher GDP growth will be locked in the coming years, the economic growth would take India to a consumption pattern in line with developed countries with higher utilisation of Pre-fabricated buildings, thus realising the Govt’s vision of providing houses to all at an affordable cost.

(The author is CEO, ACME Cleantech Solutions.)

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