Boosting residential supply
The paradigm for Indian real estate has changed drastically over the last decade. What was before a fairly straightforward equation has now transformed into a dynamic landscape that brings its own opportunities and challenges. The questions being asked today by end-users, investors and even conscientious developers are very different from those of a decade ago.
Some of these questions are – what drives the Indian real estate market? Who are its primary influencers? Who are the real beneficiaries?
Inclusive growth in context with the Indian real estate market must necessarily mean that the benefits of growth in the sector must be spread over a wider palette. It is already happening, in the sense that the Indian government’s heavy investments into infrastructure have created a much larger job market.
However, even today, there are many hurdles to the real estate sector’s growth. Archaic and counterproductive land laws prevent our cities from growing logically. In a country reeling under an acute shortage of affordable housing, it makes sense to adopt methods that allow the supply pipeline to be augmented while simultaneously reduce the amount of waste created in the construction process.
Some of the leading developers in India are now engaged on a quest for innovative methods of delivering quality homes while reducing the environmental impact.The Alu-form construction process is an extremely progressive technology that allows for the speedy, accurate and highly consistent casting of all internal and external walls, columns, beams, floor slabs, stairs and other parts of a concrete building. It is an integrated system which merges the wall and slab panels into a seamless unit. Alu-form allows electrical fittings and plumbing to be incorporated
with a high degree of design efficiency.
Alu-Form construction technology involves efficient, light-weight and flexible materials and cuts down on the need for messy brickwork, concrete leakage and the use of conventional, polluting construction equipment. Significantly, it puts an end to the problems of construction irregularities and asymmetrical aesthetics which plague even the best of projects. The basic equipment used can be reused over up to 300 times. Since it involves less skilled labour and conventional construction materials, it is ideally suited for the speedy completion of affordably priced homes.
It must be noted here that the use of such innovative construction technologies requires a consummate upgrading of the skills of construction artisans at the grassroots level so that they can understand the entire concept. Using alternate construction techniques without proper knowledge and instruction can result in compromised construction integrity, safety and project life-span.
Other ways of meeting the demand for cost-effective, yet environmentally friendly homes is through the use of alternate construction materials such as recycled fly ash (a waste by-product of coal combustion). This medium can be utilised to build budget housing of fairly high quality.
Other alternate construction media are interlocking bricks, hollow concrete blocks, rubble filler blocks, stabilised mud-based blocks and funicular (or rope-like) shells.Modular housing is yet another method that can be adopted by progressive Indian developers. When supported by the correct design, factory-build modular housing conforms to most standards of structural integrity, safety and environmental impact. This kind of construction involves the use of pre-manufactured components like roof and floor trusses that can be assembled quickly and with major savings on construction time and labour costs.
There is still a fair degree of resistance, both from developers and buyers, to projects built with alternate construction materials. While innovative construction techniques like Alu-Form construction in housing projects have become widely accepted and indeed popular, the Indian market’s acceptance of housing built with alternate construction materials is still quite low.
In India, unlike in the more developed countries, there is still an erroneous assumption that the use of cost-effective alternate construction materials results in inferior structures. Knowing that a building has been built with anything but conventional materials and technologies cause potential buyers to have concerns about its safety, durability and resale value.
This lack of awareness can result in a loss for developers who use them, since it would impact the marketability of their product. Alternate construction materials have therefore not yet become a very popular route among developers in India.
The primary challenge lies in convincing buyers of the inherent value of such projects, and also to educate developers on the long-term business potential. There needs to be a greater level of awareness.
• The author is CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd