Precast technology

Precast technology

New addition: Precast technology is a concept that reduces construction time and cost overruns.  Ruth Dsouza Prabhu introduces us to this new form of construction technology

Construction seems to be happening all around us these days. Every road you turn into has a new structure coming up. This is, of course, apart from all of the infrastructural development that is also taking place across the city.

The construction industry may be seeing a bright future ahead, especially with the new government at the helm. But there are a few inherent problems that seem to plague it.

Problems of the industry

“The sector faces a severe shortage of committed employees,” says Ganapati M G, Vice-President, Precast, Brigade Group.

“With an increase in demand for white collared jobs and the lack of organisation in the construction field, the number of dedicated workers has reduced significantly. With an increase in the pace of construction, effective utilisation of manpower and materials is going to be critical. Taxation on factory products also poses additional problems for the industry. In such situations, advanced construction technologies can help make a difference.”

Brotin Banerjee, MD and CEO, Tata Housing, “With rapid urbanisation across the country, running short of residential units will be a major concern soon. The realty market in India is still dependent on manual labour and on-site construction, which in turn leads to the wastage of materials, inefficient labour and delay in delivery of the project.

The concept of affordable housing has been included in our national policy goals. Precast technology would be most suited to meet these requirements.”

Understanding precast technology

Precast concrete construction has been around on the international scene for a while now. Primarily used in the development of infrastructure, it has helped in speeding up the process of construction, when compared to traditional methods of building.

While structural steel has been used for close to four decades for the development of buildings, concrete has also been used extensively. Construction activity, which was primarily site-based, is gradually moving towards becoming factory-based.

Precast concrete products may be of the following kinds. Infrastructural elements such as troughs, trenches, girders, box culverts and the like. Structural building elements such as load or non-loading bearing walls, panels, slabs and stair-flights.

Architectural elements like cladding panels that may be exposed, coloured or sandblasted. Precast concrete construction methodology is completely dependent on prevalent market conditions and infrastructure available.

There are two basic kinds:

On-site-based precast technology: This is primarily done in places where there is a lack of infrastructure. It is widely used in the making of mass housing projects. It helps save on the additional cost of transportation and taxes.

Factory based precast technology: Widely used in the Middle East and in western countries, its use is on the rise in India right now. This method brings about an industrial approach to the system. It goes through the process of sales, design, production, site, QA or QC, safety, maintenance and automation.

In fact, automation in precast industry creates employment opportunities for various professionals in the fields of mechanical, electrical, computer and civil engineering.
What’s in it for the consumer?

Brotin feels that precast technology is a concept that reduces construction time and cost overruns, as well as improve the quality of the final output. He says, “The technology contributes to sustainable designs in various ways. Being versatile and durable, it is produced under strict quality measures in a factory by highly trained professionals with almost no wastage.

The pre-cast panels can be swiftly erected on the job site with negligible disruption to the site. The pre-cast thermal mass can not only save energy but also increase the comfort.”

Ganapati feels that precast concrete construction has boosted quality and speed of construction tremendously.

In countries like Bahrain and Dubai, precast concrete construction has covered approximately 80 per cent of the buildings that have come up.

A ground-plus-one villa with a built-up area of around 300 sq m began to be erected as quickly as one a day. Precast concrete construction has contributed largely to development of countries in the Middle East with efficient resource planning and reduced pollution.

With precast technology, costs of construction are reduced in terms of labour and transportation.

With the possibility of a 7 to 10 per cent savings on construction cost, the benefit is bound to percolate down to the buyer. Projects may be completed and handed over quickly and this always bodes well for a brand.

Precast technology already has an extensive presence in the country. With the new government now in place, the real estate industry is expecting a massive fillip and precast technology may be at the centre of it all.