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It’s a steel

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Besides saving on time, PEB structures are catching up in numerous sectors. BY KAVITA JOSHI

 

At a recent event held in Mumbai, a panellist speaking on pre-engineered buildings mentioned that there has been a marked increase in two important areas in the pre-engineered metal building sector: reroofing and energy upgrades. He cited a few clients that have reported energy cost increases as high as 40% especially during winter, and why improving energy efficiency has become a priority. In terms of cost, while the actual construction of a metal building constitutes only 10% of its total cost, the lifetime expenses of utilities and general maintenance total as much as 90%, he added.
Pre-engineered steel buildings (PEB) use 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. However, energy efficiency is an inherent quality of metal building systems due to the physical properties of the material involved, the level of insulation in older metal buildings is considered inadequate by today’s upgraded energy requirements. Compounding the problem is the fact that many of the earlier metal roof systems are fast coming to the end of their lifecycle.
PV Rao, MD, Pennar Engineered Building Systems, says, “Earlier for roofing and walling, the trend was to use zinc sheeting. However, now deploying Galvalume sheeting (zinc + aluminium) is common as it offers durability. Maybe, in time to come, some architectural facades and glazing may become new advancements.”
The PEB industry has evolved from catering to applications such as warehouses, fuel stations, factories, workshops, etc., constructed in the initial phases of the industry, to include highly complex buildings such as shipyards, metro stations, power plants, steel plants, oil & gas structures, factory buildings with high capacity cranes up to 500MT and also high rise structures which require very specialised design, manufacturing and installation skills.
D Raju, MD, Kirby Building Systems India, says, “Initially, the PEB industry started addressing niche commercial and residential segments like high rise structures. Kirby Building Systems has executed several projects in both commercial and residential segments. We have built five G+7 buildings for slum rehabilitation in Mumbai and a G+13 residential building in Jammu. All these buildings were completed from design to construction in a span of 6-8 months with quality material manufactured in a factory controlled atmosphere which is not possible with traditional methods of construction. We will continue to promote steel as a preferred material for all high rise buildings.”

There is a general perception among industry experts that the growth rate of PEB industry would be around 8-10% in terms of revenue in future. What will drive this growth will be growth in retailing, warehousing, and power plant sectors. Although, there is intense competition, low margins and a lower than expected growth, the whole industry is bound to grow once the investment in sectors driving PEB kicks in.
The infrastructure industry has grown significantly in the past decade and half and has potential for further investment opportunities. This has led to significant improvement in quality of construction due to increase in exposure to the global construction technologies and best practices. “Project durations have become shorter and there is a special focus on safety standards. We observe that there is a shift from in-situ construction to factory–controlled pre-engineered high quality construction. Pre-engineered construction improves speed, quality and pricing of industrial construction, offers green benefits, and a high resale value,” says Raju.
What is expected of companies in the PEB sector is to focus on cost cutting measures by improving supply chain efficiency. Technical competence is a major necessity to survive. Moreover, companies which cannot invest in in-house R&D are forging strategic alliances with reputed companies to offer better products. PEBs are not the ideal choice for factory buildings which have to sustain very high dead and live loads. Also, PEBs are generally used to construct low rise buildings. Development of engineering expertise which offers solutions to the aforementioned problems would place the company in a better position to handle competition. In addition, it is important for companies to realise that aesthetics are as important as the operational use of the building.

Offering a case study, Tata Bluescope recently helped Prakhhyat Infraprojects to complete its flagship ‘K Square, The Integrated Park Project’ a next-generation logistics and industrial township across 170 acres. Its layout includes space for every entity in value chain of industry’s manufacturing and logistics needs. PEB built-to-suit warehousing complex was designed, manufactured and supplied by Tata BlueScope Building Solutions.
With the initiatives of the government, most companies are expecting huge infrastructure projects to happen soon. Rao says that works in Mumbai-Delhi freight corridor have started already and there will be huge potential for PEBs for logistics hubs coming up along this corridor. “We are planning a second manufacturing unit in Rajasthan or Gujarat to cater to the north Indian market. We expanded our capacity in Hyderabad to reach 90,000MT per annum.”
Customers too are looking for interactive support from the PEB contractor in terms of after-construction support. Normally the defect liability period is one year from date of handing over and if there are any issues, the contractor attends to it. In buildings where there are heavy overhead cranes, it’s essential to check the bolted connections and bracings periodically. Contractors hand over the maintenance manual to customers after the handover, which stipulates the measures to be taken by the customer periodically to maintain the building.
In terms of PEB construction for residential buildings, Rao says, “Though some PEB companies are trying for residential projects (permanent type of houses), somehow the response has not been encouraging in India. The general mind-set is that the building should have a concrete roof which we are used to. Moreover, land availability for mass housing is another stumbling block. Though there are economical solutions in PEB for houses, the penetration level is low. Buildings used for rehabilitation during an earthquake, tsunami etc, are mostly steel.”
Speaking about the technologies used at the plant, Raju says, “We design to latest International design codes with software. All our global buildings are designed for seismic load requirements. Kirby follows standard norms laid down by American Welding Society (AWS) for all welding related processes. Some of these processes such as SAW, GMAW, ESW, FCAW, etc. used for fabrication based on the size of the primary or secondary members and as per the customer requirement. Advanced equipment installed in our sophisticated quality laboratory is used to test mechanical properties, welding and paint quality of the material.”
Steel is the preferred material used in the PEB industry. Steel members, joined by continuous welding process as necessary, conform to the physical specifications of ASTM A570 (Grade 50) or equivalent and have a minimum yield strength of 50,000 pounds per square inch.
In terms of market growth, firstly, PEB market will grow as the input material required in development of infrastructure projects with increased emphasis on infrastructure development. Also, better infrastructure will increase overall economic growth of the country leading to higher demand for PEB products and services. Going ahead and in the subsequent years, all the reforms and initiatives taken by the governments will act as the propelling factor for the economic growth of the country and shape the country’s road to success. “Kirby India will be a part of this growth story by developing country’s infrastructure requirements across all the segments and make an impact on India’s economic progress with a footprint on the global map,” says Raju.

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