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In the light of Housing for All initiative Masterbuilder had one to one chat with Mr. Harsh Pareek, Regional Sales Director, Trimble, India & Saarc region. During the conversation he shared insights on the challenges of affordable housing, technological advancement and prefabrication.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
What are the unique challenges of constructing affordable housing?
Affordable housing has been one of the topmost priorities of the Indian government and has invited a lot of interest from all key stakeholders in the construction lifecycle. A technical study by the government in 2011 found that there is a shortage of 18.8 million homes in India. In response, the central government set for itself an ambitious target to provide ‘Housing for all’ by 2022. The success of ‘Housing for all’ mission will in improving the lives of the residents of the country and driving the overall growth of the Indian economy. However, the progress on this front has been relatively slow, due to certain roadblocks.
One of the key challenges is the limited availability of land, especially in the urban cities of India, which has greatly impacted the development of affordable housing in these areas. The issue needs to be taken seriously by the government and various non-essential land parcels need to be unlocked for the Government to achieve its mission of constructing millions of new homes by 2022. Secondly, there is still ambiguity in the definition of affordable housing, as the current explanation falls short in terms of clarity for all the states of India. Moreover, the lengthy approval processes also act as an impediment in the project’s implementation. According to the World Bank’s Ease of Obtaining Construction Permits Index, India ranks poorly at 185 out of 187 countries, which clearly highlights the dire need for the government to fast-track the approval processes.
All this, bundled with the high cost of financing and stringent regulatory framework, limits the participation of the builders and developers, who still remain hesitant to dive into this segment. Builders often find it more attractive to take up high-value projects rather than the low-value ones because of a strong perception of poor ROI in affordable housing and the cumbersome processes involved.
What are the technological advances in the construction industry and how they can help speed up construction of affordable housing?
The Indian construction industry has been transforming itself with a growing use of advanced construction technologies and tools across the design-build-operate lifecycle. These technologies not only bring down costs and execution time, but also offer enhanced productivity and greater safety and security to the construction professionals. New age construction techniques such as prefabrication; precast concrete and pre-engineered buildings (PEBs) combined with tools that support constructible BIM, automation, and increased collaboration are finding wider adoption.
Many of the modern technologies, particularly precast concrete or prefabrication as it’s sometimes referred to, can help speed up the construction of affordable housing. These new-age construction techniques address most of the challenges like rework, wastage and timely completion of projects. These technologies enable faster construction – saving upto 64% of the time taken for similar projects using conventional construction methods. For example, if it takes one year to complete a project using brick-and-mortar construction, using precast would complete it in about four to five months. Further, using precast can reduce the overall construction costs by upto 15%.
Further, use of constructible BIM can help construction companies complete their affordable housing projects faster and more efficiently with reduced wastage that would help preserve their margins. The term “constructability” here defines the ease and efficiency with which structures can be built using BIM or Building Information Modeling. When developed and accurate enough, BIM lets the industry achieve efficiency with information-rich, as-built models and find possible problems before starting to work, using or wasting real materials. As-built models minimize costly surprises, RFI’s (requests for information) and opening way for more profitable projects.
The Indian real estate sector is at a critical juncture of growth, and adoption of new construction technologies is often deemed a necessity to support the growth of the sector and achieve its long-term business goals. While the brick and mortar construction process has been around for several millennia; it is often slow, incurs a lot of resource wastage and above all is difficult to control for quality of the finished building.
The use of right construction methods is often vital to ensure the success of any construction project. Construction companies are opting to choose precast concrete over the conventional cast-in-place concrete for various reasons. Firstly, precast construction eliminates long and cumbersome on-site construction times and large on-site labour requirements. Since precast concrete is manufactured in advance, it can be quickly integrated and installed on site; thus dramatically reducing on-site construction times. On the other hand, cast-in-place construction can often be unpredictable and add more days to the onsite construction, stretching the delivery time in most cases.
Secondly, as the amount of resources needed on-site is sharply reduced, precast construction reduces wastage produced on-site by 50%, which has long term environmental benefits as well.
In precast construction, since building components are manufactured in a controlled environment, the critical processes of mixing, placement and curing are minutely controlled and monitored. The end result is improved quality of finished buildings. Further, external weather conditions do not much impact the buildings that use precast concrete, while cast-in-place construction is definitely more prone to weather conditions. The positives of using precast are many, which is the reason why it is gradually becoming the preferred choice of the concrete construction industry.
Also, these new methods of construction are also better suited for modern construction projects that involve high-rise buildings. In a nutshell, the noteable benefits of using these techniques include improved safety and security, less manpower requirement, and improved quality of buildings and for these reasons, precast is becoming the preferred choice for constructing affordable housing units under the ‘Housing for All’ initiative.