Specialist – Market Systems & Entrepreneurship
Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, Habitat for Humanity International
In the course of our work in India and across Asia-Pacific, we often ask families whose houses we help build or repair what part of their old house they most want to improve. The top answer is inevitably their roofs. If only they could afford it, families will patch up the holes on their roof, stop the tin from leaking during the monsoon season, tie up or secure the material so it will not be blown away in a storm or collapse during an earthquake.
Their response is not surprising. Whether built from brick, tin, bamboo or thatch, roofing is a vital component to a house. To families, a sound roof offers shelter from the elements. To engineers and architects, roofing provides a house’s structure protection from climatic conditions.
The need for a durable roof is reflected in the demand for roofing products and services. In the years 2017-18, Edelweiss Research valued India’s overall roofing industry at INR 42,000 crore. The industry is expected to grow year-on-year at 6 to 8 percent, depending on the country’s GDP growth, rural incomes and abundant monsoons.
Among the recent drivers of demand is the Government of India’s Housing for All Scheme, or Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, providing great impetus for large-scale construction and real estate activities. Working with private sector participation, the government will implement in-situ rehabilitation aimed at redeveloping slums and building new houses to assist families in need. Construction of affordable housing is ongoing, in partnership with the public and private sectors. The government is also providing subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement. It also offers a credit-linked subsidy scheme to provide benefits to families classified under the economically weaker section, low-income group, and middle income group.
Indian cities also rank among the fastest growing urban centres in the World, according to UN-Habitat. According to a report by the National Real Estate Development Council and KPMG, there is an estimated population of 81 crore people that will reside in urban areas by 2050, further increasing the need for more housing and contributing to a significant increase in demand for roofing products.
Roofing is, of course, not just a matter of quantity of demand. It is also important to focus on the quality of materials utilized for construction projects. Ideally, roofing materials should be sustainable, energy-efficient, affordable, and durable. They must have enhanced safety features to ensure that they can withstand natural hazards. Roofing must be designed for aesthetic value as well as for better acoustic properties.
The traditional and conventional systems of roofing available in the Indian market are fiber cement sheets, asbestos cement sheets, corrugated roof, corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets, clay tiles, shingles and reinforced rubber shingles.
There has been a paradigm shift in the roofing industry in recent years. With increased consumption and high investments in infrastructure, customers are demanding high durability, thermal efficiency and flexibility along with aesthetically pleasing designs. New-age roofing solutions in the form of Zn-Al coated, colour-coated sheets, composite panels and sandwich panels offer excellent performance.
Reinforced cement concrete is predominantly used in house construction for roofing. It is resilient but expensive compared to other types of roofing material such as corrugated galvanized iron sheets or cement sheets. Use of RCC is also difficult in the case of many families in the lower income housing segments. The incremental nature of building in this segment usually means that houses lack the load bearing capacity needed to support the RCC slab load.
However, there is still a large number of our population that is unable to afford or access good-quality housing materials even with the availability of varied roofing materials and notwithstanding the current increased national demand.
Understanding the roofing market
In late 2018, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter carried out a research study to understand issues and challenges faced by families in the LIH segment in accessing affordable, quality roofing materials and services.
As part of the research, a sample size of 300 households were interviewed and focused group discussions were held in Tamil Nadu. We focused on understanding the roofing needs of families living in coastal communities in the districts of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. Two taluks from each district were selected for the purpose of this study using random purposive sampling methodology.
After we discovered that:
– Roofing is a cause of concern for all the respondents, who indicated that roofs get destroyed on an annual basis due to severe rainfall, frequent cyclones and strong winds.
– Frequent repairs or replacement of roofing products challenge families financially.
– There is also low awareness among households on various types of roofing products or services available in the market and no awareness at all of newer, more eco-friendly roofing solutions.
– Households face challenges in accessing quality and affordable roofing material.
– Survey respondents indicated that the community members lack easy access to financial assistance specific to replacement or repair of roofing.
Due to paucity of funds, households build their homes gradually over a long period of time and resort to temporary roofing solutions that are often subject to repair and renovation. Results of the study validated assumptions that households from the coastal communities in the districts of Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu are some of the most vulnerable units of society. They live in non-engineered or semi-engineered structures built with locally available materials like mud, coconut, thatch, bricks, wood, etc. Every year, due to destruction caused by natural disasters such as cyclones and heavy rainfall, they engage in some kind of roofing maintenance or replacement activity, in general.
Bearing these key findings in mind, the Terwilliger Center aims to stimulate and partner with India’s housing market players-particularly in the roofing sector-for a solution that will address the roofing requirements of the LIH segment.
The Center wants to work with firms to facilitate activities in the private sector that will contribute to systemic change and improve the access and usage of the low-income housing segment to roofing products and services. Interested organizations, industry associations, service providers, agencies and academia are invited to partner with the Terwilliger Center’s program by sending an expression of interest to receive technical and financial support. The selected partners will benefit from Habitat’s expertise and latest findings from on-going research and global best practices.
Through this work, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter strives to improve on great ideas, products and services and link them to the market segments-families-that most need them. In the coming years, we envision that these linkages will create profit for our partners as well as address a critical need for households wanting to improve and upgrade their roofs, on the way to building a decent shelter where families can thrive.
– Housing for All Scheme Guidelines issued by Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India
– Decoding Housing for all by 2022 – A study by KPMG and NEREDCO
– Edelweiss research report on Building India – December 2017 publication