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 Over the years, technological improvement has contributed immensely to the enhancement of quality of life through various products and services. In construction, one such revolution has been the formulation of pre-engineered buildings. Though its origin can be traced back to nearly four decades ago, its potential has been felt only during the recent years. The market potential of PEB is 1.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). The current pre-engineered steel building manufacturing capacity is 0.35mtpa. The industry is growing at the compound rate of 25-30%.
Pre-engineered buildings or PEB are fully fabricated in the factory after designing, shipped to site in CKD (completely knocked down) condition where the components are assembled and erected at site with nut-bolts, thereby reducing the time of completion. The idea of PEB is one where the fabrication is completed in a controlled environment with the latest technology, and then subsequent erection is carried out. On an average, PEB is 30% lighter because of the efficient use of steel.
Raju D, managing director, Kirby Building Systems, says, “The Indian construction industry has evolved from its initial preference towards conventional and RCC structures to the PEB in low rise industrial buildings in the last decade. It is 30-40% faster than masonry construction, provides good insulation effect and is suitable for construction in remote and hilly areas.”
Though initially only off-the-shelf products were available in these configurations aided by the technological development, tailor-made solutions are also made using this technology in very short durations.
Alakesh Roy, managing director, Zamil Steel India, says, “What works to make PEB popular is steel and space. Since PEB requires little space and creates little or no pollution, this concept has picked up in certain sectors.”
In the near future, what will go in PEB’s favour is the new government’s five year plan catering for infrastructure addition in the form of airports, metros and bridges. Arvind Nanda, founder director and CEO, Interarch Building Products, says, “The journey of PEB in India is remarkable in such a short span of time. Sectors such as automotive, logistics & warehousing, pharma, FMCG, and retail provide huge growth opportunities for PEB in India. Though it is said that the PEB industry is still in its infancy but, over the last six years there has been a growth in this sector due to increasing awareness amongst consultants and customers. It would certainly not be an exaggeration if we say the industry is catching up very rapidly. In fact, PEB has started getting its due credit as a favourable alternative construction methodology in India today.”
Malav Patel, managing director, Phenix Construction Technologies, says, “PEB uses a combination of built-up sections, hot rolled sections and cold formed elements which provide the basic steel frame work with a choice of single skin sheeting with added insulation or insulated sandwich panels for roofing and wall cladding. The concept is designed to provide a complete building envelope system which is air tight, energy efficient, optimum in weight and cost and, above all, designed to fit user requirement like a well-fitted glove.”
Roy of Zamil Steel India say that there’s an advantage of speed in PEB buildings. Not to forget a low gestation time. In terms of demand, he adds, PEB has found favour in some sectors such as warehousing, industrial, retail and commercial complexes and malls. “One area where PEB has found little or no demand is the residential sector. Most Indians prefer living in brick buildings. However, in most commercial buildings, the outer shell and the inner walls are made of gypsum panels, which is also a part of PEB. The frames are created in a factory and then brick walls are added. It is a hollow wall concept.”
Harish Goyal, CMO, ACME Group says, "The primary advantage of PEB is the savings in terms of time that is cut down from months to weeks. The advantage offered by saving time clubbed with the cost of raw material and planning brings in cost benefits up to 30%."
Over and above, this efficient engineering offers features and properties including lightweight infrastructure, increased safety and stability of structure and uniformity, he adds.
PEB uses a combination of built-up sections, hot-rolled sections and cold-formed elements that provide the basic steel frame work with a choice of single skin sheeting with added insulation or insulated sandwich panels for roofing and wall cladding. These buildings can be fitted with different structural accessories (ridge ventilators, skylights, turbo vents, louvers, sliding doors, windows, etc.) including mezzanine floors, canopies, fascias, interior partitions, etc.
PEB has four main parts: primary members or main frame; secondary members or cold formed; roof and wall panels; and insulated sandwich panels.
Primary members are the main load carrying and support members of a pre-engineered building. The main frame members include columns, rafters and other supporting members. The shape and size of these members vary based on the application and requirements. The frame is erected by bolting the end plates of connecting sections together. All the steel sections and welded plate members are designed in accordance with the applicable sections as per the latest international codes and standards.
Secondary structural framing refers to purlins, girts, eave struts, wind bracing, flange bracing, base angles, clips and other miscellaneous structural parts. Purlins, girts and eave struts are cold formed steel members.
Phenix Construction Technologies, for instance, uses advanced computer design, planning and manufacturing for enhanced project control, complete structural analysis, faster field erection, accurate project pricing and cost predictability, design simulations and total architectural freedom with adequate attention to detail and aesthetics. The company has worked with multiple industry segments such as automobiles, railways, warehousing, power, commercial complexes and manufacturing. Above all, their highly skilled and experienced team operates to translate smart engineering into smart buildings; buildings that can be customised and tailor-made to needs.
The market for smaller PEBs and light gauge structural products has been increasing because of its varied applications. Vikas Gaikwad, deputy general manager – light building solutions, Tata BlueScope Building Products, says, "Backed with our world class manufacturing facilities and a team of diligent designers we are able to manufacture a range of high quality innovative structural products that can be used for multiple applications, like terrace top buildings, warehouses, farm houses, site residences, sample flats etc."
The major benefits that Tata Bluescope Steel’s EZYBUILD solutions offers is quick and easy construction. The structures are light-weight and high strength and offer better corrosion resistance and aesthetics. The solutions can be relocated and can be extended further if required.
Some of the major projects that the company has executed include Reliance insulation shed in Sasan, Atlas Copco training centre in Bijay Naga, Mahindra Lifespace in Pune, Sales Tax Check Posts at Choupran & Maithon, among others.
There are various advantages related to PEB which can easily address India’s huge infrastructural requirements in areas of housing, commercial, industrial, etc. “They offer more flexibility for plant layouts for future expansions, savings in construction time leading to faster realisation of the project, large clear spans, superior quality and conformance to international standards, low maintenance, earthquake and cyclone resistant, environmentally-friendly and sustainable, and architectural versatility with buildings being supplied with many other components,” says Raju D.
The market for steel construction is growing exponentially in India with consumers opting for new-age technologies as well as the need for rapid infrastructure development to match the economic growth of the country. “Considering India’s extreme weather conditions, a steel building proves to be energy efficient, especially when insulated, because of its low thermal mass. Not only this, the advantages of having a steel structure or building over a concrete one are far too many,” says Nanda. Some of which include: Greater flexibility & aesthetics; clear span up to 100m without any coulomb; clear height up to 40m; occupies less space in comparison to RCC and less volume to mass ratio; no site fabrication is done hence better quality of end product; easy to expand in future; faster construction material compared to all other construction material available worldwide hence early occupancy and early return on investment; and fire, quake and cyclone resistant – hence from a safety and longevity perspective, these buildings are timeless.
There’s also the concept of green buildings in PEB. “We are a member of green building association. Our products are green certified in majority of the cases. We do product insulated buildings, ensure that there’s zero lighting load in the daytime. Also if you look at the kind of sheet that we use they are all reflective sheets. About 70% energy is radiated out. We are also entering the segments that were unheard of earlier like the pharma sector, cold storage sector, and these are the traditional areas that were built of brick and cement,” says Roy.
Raju D says, “Kirby is in the forefront of green innovation through its PEB technology. Steel is the preferred material for all pre-engineered structures and PEB uses steel which is more than 90% recyclable. These buildings are cost effective, energy efficient and provide better quality environment as they are cooler due to use of roofing material and effective natural ventilation.” The use of skylights and solar panels on rooftops helps in meeting daylight and other captive power requirements and at the same time reduce emissions and gain carbon credits under clean development mechanism. Effective usage of insulation material, louvers and other materials also help in making Kirby structures one of the most preferred green & sustainable buildings.
In terms of logistics, most PEB manufacturers have tie ups with logistics companies or have developed in-house logistics capabilities. Generally, 40-feet trailers are used to transport the building components when it comes to domestic supplies. In case of exports, 40 feet hi-cube containers are stuffed with the components and transported to the ports for shipment. Overall, the PEB market is witnessing higher growth compared to both Indian steel and Indian construction GDPs. The overall per capita consumption of structural steel and PEB in India over the next ten years has the potential to look even more attractive, with the overall indicative potential reaching 17kg to 22kg per capita.

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