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Why steel is safe

Steel continues to be the go to material for the construction industry and new age innovations are ensuring that buildings are getting both better and more safe

From offsite manufacturing to onsite placement and assembly, the construction of steel buildings calls for a whole lot of skill sets in the construction workforce.
From offsite manufacturing to onsite placement and assembly, the construction of steel buildings calls for a whole lot of skill sets in the construction workforce.

Steel is one of the best materials used in the construction of a building to make it withstand extreme forces like strong winds and earthquake. It is due to its immense strength and the property of being tensile and flexible that steel is considered as an ideal choice for constructing the basic strong structure of a building. Moreover, steel also offers the engineers and architects a stylish way to create large and column-free interiors.

Depending upon the requirements, steel should be used in the form of structural sections and reinforcing bars to provide tensile strength and stiffness to the concrete used in the construction of a building. In combination of concrete, steel should be used in the construction of lintels, footings, roof slabs as well as the stairs to make the entire building long lasting and sturdy.

Pankaj Kumar Jain.

Steel matters
Use of structural steel over reinforcement steel has much more pros. PEB structures and structural steel designs have ample of benefits as compared to conventional designs. Steel is an integral component in the construction business and has multiple applications in the industry. Owing to its reliability, durability, versatility and strength, steel is the ideal material to use for construction of large structures such as buildings, warehouses, bridges, etc. Within buildings, steel is used in reinforcing structures, columns, roofing, cladding, strengthening structures and exterior walls. Steel is an important component in Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) buildings and is used in the form of rebar’s of various diameters. High-rise buildings upto 400m tall are being built with RCC. Industrial and commercial building construction segment has adopted all steel construction much better than residential segment. This is possible due to the value of time saved by way of faster construction times, thereby facilitating earlier revenue flows.

Lower cost, faster possession to the customers, larger clear span, better quality, and low maintenance are some of the advantages of steel building structure over conventional construction process. “While conventional construction processes involve laying a strong foundation before the building is erected, the steel buildings on the other hand can be constructed without foundations. Moreover, steel buildings are more earthquake resistant than the buildings made through conventional construction processes. Another key advantage of steel buildings over the buildings constructed through conventional construction process is that steel buildings can be constructed faster while conventional construction process is not only labour intensive, but time consuming as well,” says Pankaj Kumar Jain, Managing Director, KW Group.

“Steel buildings can be built faster than RCC structures as RCC typically gains its final strength in about 28 days unlike steel which is ready to be fully loaded on day one. Steel rebars need to be tied and placed in concrete formwork and concrete needs to be poured in this formwork, which needs to be properly supported till concrete achieves its strength. All this is labour intensive and time-consuming. So, while conventional RCC buildings are still built cheaper than steel buildings, their construction is a slower process. Steel buildings can be built faster as their individual components like columns, beams and slabs, can be individually fabricated in a factory to precise dimensions and just assembled on site,” says a spokesperson from Kalpataru Group.

Swadesh Anand.

Built considerations
There is a certain acceptance of doing construction of projects steel buildings over conventional options. The concept of Pre-engineered Building (PEB) has already hit the construction sector with a bang. PEB has gained even greater acceptance among those Indian developers who follow sustainable and energy efficient building construction process. “We at KW Group also understand that more and more use of PEB in projects promises fast-track construction and speedy project delivery. Moreover, the use of PEB in construction is also a strong step forward towards delivery of affordable projects. While time and cost savings are among the biggest benefits of PEB, its massive use in construction may also help us in contributing our bit efficiently in the government’s ambitious mission of housing for all by 2022,” avers Jain.

In the last two decades, steel buildings have gained popularity, especially in urban areas and industrial townships. “Owing to various advantages of steel buildings, business owners are increasingly opting for it over conventional buildings. For many industries, steel buildings are ideal because structural changes can be made in a short time unlike conventional buildings, which need to be demolished for new structures. In most of the industrial parks and townships, steel buildings dominate the landscape. We see an increased demand for steels buildings. Now, residential buildings are also gradually finding favour in enhanced use of steel. Looking at the rising demand and fast pace of construction, we expect to see steel buildings becoming acceptable in the construction of multi storey apartment complexes,” says Vineet Kashyap, MD, BL Kashyap & Sons Limited.

Safety with respect to a project post-handover all boils down to the kind of materials used to create the said project. Swadesh Anand, director of engineering, procurement and construction, Paradigm Realty, says, “Steel with Material Test Certificate specifying various physical and chemical characteristics in terms of integrity or composition, ductility and strength should be used and monitored whilst using the said products. Also random sampling for testing of the material lot should be done in third party quality labs so as to nullify the probability of substandard material being used in the project.” Steel and concrete are crucial to building strength. “At Kalpataru every consignment of steel used for the construction is tested. We are among very few developers in India to have our own central steel testing lab, which can test all diameters of rebars for their physical & chemical properties as per relevant codes. We are so stringent about this that once a truck comes, it is not unloaded unless the test results come in,” says the spokesperson from Kalpataru Group. “One of our hallmarks is safety. We create a healthy and safe work environment at project sites to ensure prevention of occupational injuries. We believe that every accident is preventable, and we implement this ideology in every project we execute through a combination of technical field procedures and ongoing training programs. Our commitment to zero accidents extends to every aspect of a project, from planning to completion, and from the boardroom to the manpower on site. The result is exceptional safety performance, even in hazardous work environments across locations. We also work closely with our subcontractors and construction partners to enable them to adopt and mirror our commitment to safety and health,” opines Kashyap.

Vineet Kashyap.

Go green
Today, developers are sensitive towards environment with respect to the impact of construction activities. “Many people have accepter fly ash use in concrete and blockwork. Plastering activities have also been incorporated with the use of GGBS in their scope by industry stalwarts. Solar panels and flushing cisterns and mandatory rain water harvesting add strength to the cause,” opines Anand. It is due to recyclability of steel, Pre-engineered steel building promotes green construction. Moreover, it also allows the construction companies to maximise the time and effort saved in construction. Apart from providing healthier spaces for the occupants, such construction process also optimizes energy efficiency and generates less waste. Consequently the construction sector is witnessing growing demand for pre-engineered buildings amid the green construction movement gaining ground in India.  The demand for green buildings has been high over the last ten years, primarily due to the governments push for the same. Many progressive organisations have adopted green buildings to a large extent, and there is tremendous scope for steel to play a role in it. Steel structures go a long way in ensuring zero energy building. “It has been found that 80% of the energy is consumed when the building is operational as compared to the construction phase. The usage of steel aids in reducing the energy consumed by a building making them thermal efficient. Also, the integration of renewable energy systems with steel structures is easy; steel can be recycled, and there is a considerable decrease in the environmental impact during the manufacturing process,” says Kashyap.

While the workers engaged in the construction of conventional buildings only require onsite construction skills, the construction of steel buildings demands both onsite and offsite skill sets. From offsite manufacturing to onsite placement and assembly, the construction of steel buildings calls for a whole lot of skill sets in the construction workforce. The skill sets required for the construction of steel buildings requires a good understanding of metallurgy. While skilled personnel receive training, project managers and engineers with metallurgy background are preferred. When working with steel, quality is essential. Through the on-site deployment of senior site supervisors for all processes, elaborate documentation and reporting, quality audits, scheduled management visits and periodic reviews assure quality craft, finishing, detailing and on-time completion of projects. Steel buildings are being increasingly considered in commercial and industrial projects due to the value they offer to the owners.

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