On the top
Traditionally dominated by asbestos and galvanised steel sheets, India’s roofing industry has recently shifting its preferences by moving towards zinc-aluminium (Zn-Al) coated products because of their superior quality and aesthetic appeal.
Asbestos’ carcinogenic nature, low strength and brittle characteristics make it a no-no in today’s construction climate, says Riten Choudhury, vice-president of building products at Tata BlueScope, one of the biggest players in the roofing and wall cladding segment with manufacturing facilities across four locations in India. He says that architects and developers are keen to take a wholesale approach to replacing it: “Increased corporate and public awareness about climate change has resulted in new initiatives like green building concepts and the elimination of carcinogenic materials. Zn-Al coated sheets provide excellent atmospheric resistance in a wide range of environments under many diverse conditions.”
India’s construction boom has had a positive impact on the roofing sector not just in terms of volumes but also in terms of innovation and technology, and on-time delivery is one of main clauses in any infra project deal. Contractors are looking for products that are quick to install and which do not compromise on quality and looks. That’s where PEBs and metal roofing comes in, not least with the total market for steel roofing approaching over a million tonnes.
Though galvanised roofing has seen high growth from the retail sector, Zn-Al coated roofing is making inroads into its traditional metal counterparts because of its better value proposition. “Aesthetics, superior technology, durability, thermal efficiency are some of the driving factors for Zn-Al coated sheets. Performance of 150-GSM Zn-Al-coated material is four times longer than 275 GSM zinc-coated material,” says Choudhury.
With massive recent shifts in requirements and materials, the roofing industry has seen considerable changes of late, not least because of increased infrastructure investment that is leading customers to demand more durability, flexibility and good looks. Designers are seeking newer concepts to meet their ever changing end-use objectives, and colour-coated sheets, with their associated prestige value, are gradually replacing bare sheets. Moreover, metal roofing has found particular favour within the industrial sector, where a fast pace of turnover is essential. However, it is making little headway in housing sector, which has the most potential. With increasingly more PEBs being built, especially in the industrial sector, the demand for Zn-Al colour-coated roofing sheets is expected to rocket.
Now, India’s roofing industry in India is preparing for the next generation of projects, with infrastructure and industrial growth being a major demand driver for roofing and wall cladding. “It has registered a double-digit growth over the past three years,” says Choudhury. “We have seen a major shift from clay tiles and conventional roofing to metal cladding. Customers are looking for architectural solutions that provide innovative shapes, such as convex and concave, as well as attractive new colours. The future of the industry is bright considering the low penetration of steel and high construction industry demand.”The Indian automobile industry’s rise has also contributed to growth through the creation of new facilities.
Roofing’s key players include Tata BlueScope, Everest, Interarch, Kirby and Pennar, which offer a wide range of products for roofing and cladding solutions. Tata BlueScope offers the Lysaght range of profiles, which have zinc-aluminium alloy metallic coating, and include concealed fixed-roofing systems with on-site roll forming facilities. Its screw-down roofing and cladding comes with a range of accessories, such as TRIMS, skylight and louvers. The company says these offer durability, thermal efficiency, recyclability and corrosion resistance while also complying with green building standards. Under the same brand, the company offers around 15 types of profiles designed, tested and proven for roofing, cladding and structural applications.
Through its brand Hi-Tech, Everest offers an advanced roofing system that combines high-impact polypropylene technology with Saint Gobain’s Brasilit technology. It is suitable for factories and warehouses. Everest Rooflight, another polycarbonate roofing sheet, and Everest Metal roofing are available in bare and coloured galvalume pre-painted galvanised iron. Everest also offers a standing seam profile, which ensures the use of large-length sheets without endlaps.
Pebs Pennar, meanwhile, markets its Prime Build and Value Build products. While Prime Build caters to customers who desire premium features, Value Build is a solution for those who focus on economy. It also offers the Double-Lok standing-seam roofing system with 10 years leaf-proof warranty.
There is a growing trend among customers to move away from conventional screw-down systems in favour of concealed-fixed systems. Screw-down often causes leakage and rusting due its exposure to the atmosphere, poor workmanship and the use of low-quality fasteners. On the other hand, in the concealed-fixed system, sheets are fixed on clips, which in turn are screwed on purlins to reduce the chance of leakage.
Since there is a huge shortage of skilled labour for roofing fenestration, the industry needs to focus on training and awareness – manufacturers often complain that customers blame their products if there is are leakages. “Such problems arise when the fenestration has not been done properly so you can’t blame the manufactures. This is an installation problem, not a product problem,” one of the leading manufacturers told us on condition of anonymity.
The roofing industry has had its share of dark elements in the form of unorganised players, and many local companies, whose primary concern is to make money at their customers’ expense, have been active for years. They take undue advantage of their customers’ lack of knowledge, and most survive and sometimes even make profit by selling cheap roofing products.
Another key problem is that many local players do not understand applications and installation, and this is where organised players step in. At the root of the problem is the scarcity of a skilled workforce, as well as insufficient penetration and growth of knowledge. “The presence of large, organised players is limited in the roofing industry. The lack of availability of skilled manpower for installation, low product quality and lack of safety awareness are increasing challenges for the us,” says Choudhury.
Another key market player puts this in the context of the growing threat from the unorganised players: “The market might be expanding but there is a real need for organised players to constantly move on newer projects. This can be done by offering not just better materials but also advanced technology for installation.”
Another issue for the sector is having to deal with the geographical and weather variations found in India. Roofing solutions need to be adapted as per a region’s climate: one that works in Pune may not necessarily work in Jaipur; what’s good for Guwahati could be bad for Chandigarh. So creating customised roofing solutions that are suitable for each of these regions is a big challenge for the industry.
But there are just as many positives, and these are what show through. Roofing and cladding is an innovative industry, and its majors’ focus on R&D and has allowed established brands to create never-before landmarks and structures that would not have been possible previously.
Fasteners are critical components of buildings. The cost of the fasteners constitutes less than one per cent of the total cost of a project and under three per cent of the cost of a building. But wrong fasteners can cause huge difficulties with a leaking roof leading to damaged raw materials and machinery, and a corresponding loss of time and expense.
Self drilling fasteners are relied on for structural performance. Such screws drill their own holes and tap the thread to hold a metal roof to the secondary membrane. These provide high shear strength, maximum thread engagement and positive fastening in structural steel. The most popular diameter is 5.5 mm, whereas 12G is accepted worldwide.