Change for the Better
Pre-engineered buildings (PEB) are highly environmentally-friendly and popular despite the volatile rise in raw material prices.
By Jayashree Kini Mendes
Use of PEB is not only economical but also eco-friendly at a time when global warming is at its peak.
The good part of pre-engineered buildings or PEB is that they are customised. Not the standard designs that come with brick and slab or precast. In India, most PEBs continue to be confined to factories, warehouses, infrastructure segments, among others. Even with affordable housing catching on, PEBs have not really become common in India.
The advent of PEB is a step forward toward the adoption of green building concept. The environmental impact during the construction of spaces such as buildings has always been detrimental. In most cases, buildings account for extensive debris, soil disturbance, topography of the area, and severe energy consumption along with toxic waste. PEBs can be designed, built, renovated, operated, and reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner.
Pulin Trivedi, GM, building solutions, Tata Bluescope Steel, says, “Technological advancements over the years have contributed immensely to the enhancement of quality through sustainable products and solutions. PEB is one such revolution. The use of steel structure is not only economical but also eco-friendly especially at the time when global warming is at its peak. It conforms to the green standard specification world over and has grown as a crucial consideration within the construction fraternity. Sustainability in PEB starts right in its design phase. Since it is predesigned with a predetermined registry of building materials, it optimises resource utilisation; minimising wastage. PEB structures have longer life since they are termite, insect and fire resistant, and can withstand rigors of terse environments. Hence environmental degradation is to its minimal while erecting a PEB. Tata BlueScope Steel’s roofing material made from COLORBOND steel assures greater thermal efficiency due to
Everest Industries’ Gokuldas Warehousing Corp., Bilaspur.
THERMATECH technology incorporated in its paint system, with high solar reflectivity. It reduces the inside temperature and increases thermal performance.”
PEB uses 100% recyclable material namely steel as its basis frame component. The requirement for water for cement mixing and curing, depletion of precious landscape in the extensive requirement of cement, high carbon footprint cement manufacturing are entirely eliminated in this method. Further, if we consider that the structures are primarily manufactured in controlled workshops rather than in-situ, advantages of scale efficiency and process effectiveness further push the green envelope to the positive side. S Krishnakumar, business head & sr. VP, Everest Steel Building Solutions, says, “A PEB structure is amenable for better implementation of natural ventilation, light and is also lighter than civil structures leading to economical structure and foundations. The recent addition of roof mounted solar systems further enhance the eco-friendly nature of Everest solutions compared with conventional PEB structures. Everest offers customised solutions including innovative ‘red’ and ‘white’ material i.e. PEB+LGSF+building product solutions such as roofing, boards & panels and roof mounted solar systems that meet the entire spectrum of customer demand with single-point responsibility and responsiveness.”
In terms of construction methodology, pre-engineered buildings don’t release harmful gases into the environment during manufacturing or on site. “Even during erection work the amount of wastage at the site is far less as compared to any other form of construction. During erection there is no need for water curing on steel buildings or structures which helps with water conservation,” says Gautam Suri, CTO and founder director, Interarch Building Products. Interarch is currently building the largest clear span building in India (120m clear span) for RSPL in Gujarat spread over an area of 6,2600m2 to a G+2 multi-storey flight kitchen steel building for Oberoi Flight Services at Mumbai airport to G+4 multi-storey car parking building for Fortis Healthcare. It’s also in the process of delivering greenfield manufacturing facilities for Ceat Tyres, Godrej & Boyce, Asahi Glass India, and Hindustan Unilever.
Speaking about the eco-friendly nature of the materials, IV Ramana Raju, chief operating officer, PEBS Pennar, says, “More than 95% of the materials used are recyclable. There are few standard green factors to be followed for pollution-free environment, avoidance of depletion of natural resources, and sustainability of building lifespan. Some eco-friendly materials like polycarbonate sheets, mineral wool insulation, louvers, turbo vents, etc., are used during construction of all types of PEBs.”
During erection there is no need for water curing which helps with water conservation.
India’s rapidly growing younger population is driving the domestic consumption story leading to ways of sustainable growth. Kirby India is leading the revolution of green construction through its PEB technology. “These buildings are cost-effective, energy-efficient and provide better quality environment as they are cooler in hot conditions due to the favorable roofing material, suitable insulation and natural ventilation. The use of skylights and solar panels mounted on rooftops of industrial buildings also meet daylight and captive power requirements and reduce emissions and gain carbon credits under clean development mechanism,” says D Raju, MD & CEO, Kirby Building Systems India.
Traditional buildings incur costs due to maintenance that need to be performed regularly. PEBs on the other hand, due to its durability, have lower maintenance cost and trouble free performance. For large projects, Tata BlueScope’s high strength light weight ZINCALUME steel and COLORBOND steel are most preferred materials, especially for cladding applications. Al-Zn coated steel also finds its application in high-rise buildings as well as heavy PEBs, owing to its properties like strength, light weight and corrosion resistance. BUTLER and ECOBUILD solutions supplies customised pre-engineered steel buildings that are designed for strength, durability, longevity and sustainability. Both solutions are accompanied with galvanised purlin and girt known as CEE-plus & ZED plus, last much longer without regular maintenance, as compared with conventional unprotected structural elements.
Railway sheds and metro stations are increasingly adopting PEB.
There are many opportunities that exists for PEB industry in the form of construction of other types of buildings and other infrastructure. Some of these include high-rises (residential & commercial), mass housing, cold storages, showrooms, railway stations, airport terminal buildings, bridges, flyovers, metro stations, multi-level parking, sports stadiums, shopping malls, entertainment centres, schools, colleges, etc.
PEB industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two decades and are further expected to witness high growth owing to initiatives by the government. The focus on manufacturing and infrastructure development accounts for overall growth of the construction sector, thereby leading to demand for steel structures. Raju says his company has ventured into construction of residential and commercial buildings completely in steel or composite form which is slowly being accepted by developers. It has already executed high-rises and is executing over G+20 floors commercial buildings. Raju adds, “This will definitely lead to an increase in demand for steel structures. A huge opportunity awaits this industry besides regular industrial infrastructure and this growth story is poised to continue in coming years to the next level of growth trajectory.”
Explaining the special steel that Smith Structure uses, Sumit Rustogi, associate director, Smith Structure India, says, “We are using a special grade steel from JSW and Essar. It is Grade 50 and 345 MPa material and is recyclable. In terms of insulation we use glass wool or mineral wool or bubble insulation, almost 90% of the buildings have them on the roof and walls.”
Moreover, PEB contractors now prefer pre-galvanised steel to painting them. Clients also ask that for shot blasting or epoxy painted structures.
The use of skylights and solar panels meet daylight and captive power requirements.
The Greater Challenge
What most PEB contractors find challenging is dramatic increase in steel prices since last year. “This has raised the cost of constructing pre-engineered buildings by 25% or more. Simultaneously, the huge surge in demand that we were expecting has not happened. Demand has increased as compared to last year, but not to the extent we thought,” says Rustogi.
The supply chain is highly dependent on prevailing situation in steel sector and closely mirrors the price levels of the same. Logistics continue to contribute to the price pattern with differentiation based on plant and site location.
However, with the introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST), the cascading effect of taxes are eliminated and the taxation has become uniform in all states, says Trivedi.
Steel forms a major component of any PEB and steel prices are volatile in nature. “However, when compared to RCC/conventional HR sections where other products such as cement, reinforcement, etc. also form a part of the building along with steel, the price increase has been relatively high when compared to PEB steel construction. PEBs are designed with very optimal tonnage with tapered sections & cold formed sections for secondary members using high strength steel which reduces the overall consumption of steel and hence the impact of price increase when compared to conventional steel construction is relatively low,” says D Raju.
The Duralex factory built by Smith Structure.
There’s a good side to this too, says Krishnakumar. “What has helped the cause is that the creation of new dedicated freight corridors, expressways, warehousing demand and rise of national metro rail systems have created new business opportunities. Moreover, we have a unique advantage in terms of two fully integrated manufacturing facilities located in Gujarat and Uttarakhand and a smaller sheeting facility at Ranchi,” he adds.
Going forward, most PEB contractors are hoping that pre-engineered buildings will also be adopted in residential buildings too. Currently, they are concentrating on the government’s infrastructure expansion and this should give a boost to the industry, immaterial of price hikes.