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Samir Sharan, CEO – ACME Cleantech Solutions Limited tells Sandeep Menezes that prefabrication will continue to grow in India as the demand for affordable housing increases.
Excerpts from the interview:
Prefab has multiple advantages vis-à-vis traditional construction technologies – but it has still not reached its true market potential in India. Comment.
Yes, prefab definitely has advantages over conventional technology in construction; but it has not really been able to compete with the conventional forms of construction.
There are several reasons that can be attributed to this phenomenon, the major one is the lack of awareness brought in by existing and potential players.
This lack of awareness of this technology at the retail scale has kept this fabulous solution away from mass-scale implementation.
Over and above, the various geographies in the country have different requirements regarding the prefab products, solutions and implementation needs that make it difficult for implementation.
Indian market in all terms is a very cost sensitive market and the initial higher cost barrier too has cast a role in the lower uptake of this technology.
Most of the country landscape is under plains and observes all the weathers. Due to lack of awareness, conventional building material is considered as a long-lasting solution for building structures compared to prefab.
While there is huge scope of prefab implementation in the country, there is also need for more investment in bringing awareness about the technology to its customers – industrial, commercial, and retail to effectively use this solution to resolve the issues of lack of housing and infrastructural development in the country.
Most of the demand for prefab materials is from large developers and for commercial spaces such as offices – its use by individuals for their homes is yet to gain popularity. Comment.
Awareness about prefab and apprehensions about the cost and durability has been the mainstay in the Indian consumers and conventional construction consultants at the retail level.
Also, in India, the architecture is varied in its use of materials, style of construction, cultural and geographical differences that cannot be generalized.
For affordable homes, prefab technology is ideal as it is time and space saving and cost-effective.
It definitely has a great potential in coming years and ACME is fully poised to facilitate and participate in the growth of this segment.
India has a demand of 26.5 million affordable housing units and it is challenging to supply these houses through conventional building technology. How can prefab technology assist to satisfy this demand?
Prefabrication will continue to grow in India as the demand for affordable housing increases.
The material is ready-to-make type, and can easily meet the demand of the sector, enabling mass customization.
Prefabricated technology for construction is best-suited for the environment that is facing challenges in terms of time taken for construction, location of installation where conventional means of construction are not possible owing to lack of raw material, workforce, transport and means of construction.
These all challenges can be suitably addressed by prefab technology that will save time, use trained engineers, proven designs and scientifically planned architecture that can chart the best possible use of this technology to serve all requirements in the given landscape, ensure effective after-sales-service and mechanized installation with planning through informed-decisions at all platforms.
Decisions will be easier to make regarding the adoption to the benefit of both economy and environment.
Other than use of prefab at long-term infrastructure, it has suitably filled the gap in scenarios where there was an immediate requirement of shelters in case of a calamity – natural or human-inflicted.
Prefab has also been able to suitably address the requirement of population that was in dire need of short-term shelter and had to change the location, it is made possible only by the nature of prefab technology that can be relocated at convenience without huge costs.
Considering these vast advantages of prefab over the conventional means of construction, it is evident that prefab is suitably positioned to cater to this demand better than conventional means.
Usually, pre-engineered or pre-fabricated houses show better performance, as factory- or assembly-line-produced homes are manufactured to stricter norms. Comment.
Indian players are well-versed in the technology both in theory and practice and have the ability to support this technology into the long term.
Such building solutions use cutting edge technology and reduce the number of manufacturing defects given the strong quality checks that can be put in place and have a life span of 30-50 years, equivalent to the lifespan of structures using conventional methods. The life span of the prefabricated buildings can further be improved by selecting special anticorrosive coatings during manufacturing stage and with periodic preventive maintenance.
In India, prefab technology has been used in large infrastructure projects like the elevated expressways and metrorail projects. Going forward, do you foresee wider acceptance in infrastructure development?
We definitely see wider acceptance at all levels of this technology and believe that this will bridge the demand-supply deficit in the country as prefab unleashes engineering and scientifically proven-intelligence and tackles the daunting problems faced by cities worldwide.
While conventional methods of construction are nearly uniform across the country, prefab can address to particular needs and challenges of environment across the length and breadth of the country.
Importantly, the scope of use of prefabricated structures in infrastructure projects can further be assessed by per capita consumption of steel in India as compared to countries like USA, China, and Canada etc. As per studies done in 2012 the per capita consumption of steel in India is approximately 57 kgs PA whereas the same for China and USA is respectively 450 kgs PA and 310 kgs PA respectively.
Do you feel the government; local bodies can give a regulatory push to prefab construction especially while issuing infrastructure construction tenders?
Due to increasing housing demands of the growing population, the best method to cater to this ever-increasing demand of shelter is the use of prefab technology.
We firmly believe that the policy-push from the government and local bodies will help the infrastructure sector through the effective utilisation of this technology which is fast to implement and is a greener solution as compared to conventional buildings.
Does prefab construction have properly defined safety and quality standards vis-à-vis conventional construction?
Material used in prefab is definitely more efficient, durable and lesser susceptible to climatic calamities and this makes the case for increased implementation of prefab. The prefab buildings are designed strictly as per relevant national and international standards & can be customized for any specific requirements related to quality and safety.
What is ACME Group’s future business strategy in the prefab construction segment?
ACME has aligned itself to cater to market potential for pre engineering buildings within and outside India. With in-house design and development team backed by state-of-the art manufacturing facility, ACME is eyeing low rise insulated pre fabricated buildings for multiple applications.
ACME is directly participating in Pre Engineered building opportunities with Government and Semi-Government sectors and providing end-to-end solutions under various schemes and program. Our approach is to provide innovative solutions including power generation and its storage, water and HVAC to end users.
Tell us about ACME Group’s Games Village project in Kerala which is going to be based on prefab technology?
Last year, ACME bagged the order for constructing the ‘Games Village’ at XXXV National Games Kerala and has commenced the construction of the same.
We will undertake construction of housing units in the Games Village using PUF based Prefab Technology in EPC mode, covering design, supply, transportation, and erection at the site including interior services.
This facility will be spread over 28 acres of land belonging to Kerala SIDCO in Menamkulam and the facility will house approximately 5000 persons.
The advantage of having a pre-fabricated village would also ensure negligible operation costs. It can also be relocated to any other site with only 10-15 per cent cost for dismantling an existing structure and re-assembling it.
We look forward to making this village an engineering ideal for the infrastructure industry to observe and learn the true potential of prefab technology.
Going forward, does Acme Group intend to utilize prefab technology in its other infrastructure projects?
As a pioneer in the prefabricated technology space in the country, we are working towards further implementation of this technology in various sectors like infrastructure, residential & commercial constructions, defence, shelters for telecom equipment at telecom tower sites, cold rooms, schools, hostels, clean rooms for production & OTs, blood banks, rural health centers, floriculture, horticulture, roof-top structures, modular housing, warehouses, grain storage, high altitude accommodation, tourists huts, kiosks, and many other sectors that look forward to be benefited by the faster construction facilitated by high-technology engineering.
We look forward to participate in the growth of the country through infrastructure development and serve the country.