PEB - The Way Forward for India

Arshiya International Limited

India has the second fastest growing economy in the world and a lot of it, is attributed to its construction industry which figures just next to agriculture in its economic contribution to the nation. In its steadfast development, the construction industry has discovered, invented and developed a number of technologies, systems and products; one of them being the concept of Pre-engineered Buildings (PEBs). As opposed to being on-site fabricated, PEBs are delivered as a complete finished product to the site from a single supplier with a basic structural steel framework with attached factory finished cladding and roofing components. The structure is erected on the site by bolting the various building components together as per specifications. PEBs are developed using potential design software. The onset of technological advancement enabling 3d modelling and detailing of the proposed structure and coordination has revolutionised conventional building construction.

PEBs have hit the construction market in a major way owing to the many benefits they possess. They exemplify the rising global construction, technology and while they oppose the practice of conventional building construction they simultaneously have taken it to a higher level too. Worldwide, they are a much used concept with studies revealing that 60% of the non-residential low-rise building in USA are pre-engineered; for India the concept has been gaining momentum and the scope of growth is guaranteed looking at India's huge infrastructural requirements. Studies already validate that India has the fastest growing market in the PEB construction segment. The scope of using PEBs ranges from showrooms, low height commercial complexes, industrial building and workshops, stadiums, schools, bridges, fuel stations to aircraft hangers, exhibition centres, railway stations and metro applications. While we are still to see PEBs being used in residences in India, one can see their optimal use in warehouses, industrial sheds, sports facilities etc. The Delhi Airport and the metro projects of Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai are also examples of PEB applications.

Rohit Ranjan

Pune based Tata BlueScope Building Solutions: a division of Tata BlueScope Steel Limited (an equal joint-venture between Tata Steel and BlueScope Steel (Australia)) supplies PEB solutions and takes single source responsibility for their design, manufacture, shipment and erection. With developing structures conforming to AISC, MBMA or IS standards, Mr Rohit Ranjan, General Manager, Marketing adds, "Steel construction is evolving from boxlike steel structures to aesthetically pleasing designs. Initial acceptance of metal building systems has been high in industrial applications, followed by infrastructure and commercial structures. However as awareness is growing, metal buildings are being considered for residential applications as well."


TATA motors at Pantnagar Interarch Building Products

Gautam Suri
Interarch Building Products Pvt Ltd with headquarter in Noida is India's leading turnkey pre-engineered metal building company and has myriad construction solutions including advanced Pre-engineered Steel Buildings. Specialising in airport roofing and ceilings for over two decades, one of their coveted projects is DIAL Terminal 3 (Terminal 3, IGI Airport at Delhi) with a seven-layer roof installed over 2,00,000sqm roof area covering the entire airport. On the absence of PEB's in the residential sector in India, Mr Gautam Suri, the firm's CTO & Founder Director notes, "In India, modular construction is still the preferred choice over PEB systems for the residential sector which is mostly due to lack of awareness about the benefits of PEB with the general perception being that they are expensive. Having said that, I would also like to mention that the PEB industry is slowly and steadily gaining its hold in the commercial/residential sector and will certainly see widespread application soon."

The PEB industry has evolved over the years. What started as a role limited to design and manufacturing PEBs, has widened today to making firms responsible for the erection of the structures too. Citing facts, Mr Ranjan estimates the PEB market in India to be around Rs.4,000 crores currently. "It has been growing at over 15% for the last few years, and is expected to demonstrate a similar, if not better growth in the years to come," he states.

A PEB system in totality consists of a structural system, sandwich panels, roofing, exterior facade and accessories. The PEB concept based on a proper design usually involves a thorough project information data including complete details like building parameters, grade of steel, secondary member details, paint coat on steel members, welding, anchor bolts steel grade, roof & wall liner / panel, insulation, sky light, gutters, facia, mezzanine, ridge ventilation to name a few. Following this input, the drawings for general arrangement, Anchor Bolt & Template Fabrication & Erection are prepared.

Advantages

Ideal for construction in remote and hilly areas, PEBs offer a complete building system of energy efficient, optimum weight and cost customised fitted requirement. They can be customised as per the climate/design requirements at the site. Since only the bolting needs to be done on the site a quicker construction speed compared to conventional construction is possible. The flexibility of PEBs to be casted even while the foundation is being laid also leads to saving on time. PEBs don't require curing time like concrete and mortar and boast of an immediate occupancy. The quality of the structure being controlled in the factory is superior to that achieved in masonry construction. The time savings lead to cost savings too, which also get enhanced by the lower operating and maintenance costs.

Citing cost and time as the most significant advantages of PEBs, Mr Ranjan avers, "A PEB can be erected considerably faster than conventional buildings, and at a lower investment. This means building owners can start generating profits from their operations in a shorter time frame. Contemporary erection practices adopted by some PEB manufacturers, like the use of boom lifts instead of scaffolding, make PEBs a safer option as well." From the safety point of view, steel buildings are also resistant to earthquakes and cyclones.

ONGC Mangalore Petrochemicals Supertech

Puneet Khanna
In times when the crusade for green buildings is on with much vigour, PEB structures come to the forefront with a high proportion of recycled content, being environment-friendly and energy efficient. With several building owners asking for LEED certifications to demonstrate their contribution to reducing Carbon Footprint, Tata BlueScope Building Solutions is currently offering a solution for installing Photo-voltaic systems on their MR-24® Standing Seam roof panel. Noida based Supertech (India) Pvt Ltd, a leading steel building solution provider and a manufacturer of PEBs complying to ISO 9001-2008 certification have come out with their new product - Standing Seam Roofing System with different types of insulation that help in conservation of energy and reducing noise pollution. Mr. Puneet Khanna, founder of the company adds, "We are providing transparent sheets on the roof to provide natural lights and turbo vents to control air pressure & temperature of the PEB."

KK Mitra
Lloyd Insulations (India) limited, a 54+ years company engaged in the field of design, manufacturing, fabrication, engineering & contracting works entered the pre-engineered building construction in mid 90s and built one of the first Pre-engineered steel buildings in 1997 for Delphi Automotive, Greater Noida. Lloyd's commitment to energy conservation has been well-known. Mr. K K Mitra, Vice President (Mktg & Tech) says, "We have insulated prefabricated sandwich panels of PUF/PIR/RW, which can be used on roof and wall of PEB for energy conservation. Similarly, we have got specialized grade non-combustible, Water Repellant Grade Rockwool Slab, which can be used below the metal profile sheet roofing as insulation for preventing heat from coming inside the PEB building." Lloyd is now coming up with application of solar panels over metal sheet & sandwich panel roofing as a composite system. Hence they will offer PEB with insulated roofing and Solar panels fitted on to it. "We are thus offering Energy Conservation as well as Energy Generation – A unique combination," adds Mr Mitra.

Standing Seam Roofing System
PEBs are much lighter in weight than normal steel buildings owing to their high proportion of recycled content. Interarch Building Products Pvt Ltd, though catering to the heavy steel and industrial building market have recently introduced a light building system that is more efficient and a lighter system of construction catering to economical buildings, housing systems, light weight homes, villas, and light weight construction in remote locations.

PEBs can also prove to be a good bet for affordable housing owing to their speed of construction and low cost, thus helping in rural development projects in India. Their design flexibility is also a plus with wide ranges of available wall and roof sheeting (granite, stone cladding, brickwork, ACP's etc) and interface details between steel and other materials. PEBs are low maintenance structures requiring only periodic cleaning of roofs, painting and annual washing of eave gutters. The ease of construction makes them hassle free and bestows cleaner sites since the self-supporting components don't require shuttering or scaffolding. Future extensions/modifications or dismantling/relocating can be accommodated easily. Mr Mitra explains, "Usually on the PEB structure, flanges or punched holes are provided so that for addition of any future building elements, these flanges can be utilized and welding can be avoided."

PEB system Delhi Cargo

PEBs offer large clear spans in buildings (up to 90m) – the reason why they are suitable for structures like aircraft hangars and sports facilities. Unlike traditional construction, they don't get affected by weather elements like wind, rain etc. PEB structures are an outcome of a single responsibility as opposed to multiple responsibilities in traditional constructions, leading to better organisation and less confusion.

Reiter Nittoku Automotive Sound Proof Products

Challenges

The application of PEB's is economical and speedy for low rise buildings only (with the maximum eave heights ranging between 25-30 metres). Special care needs to be given to the joining of pre-fabricated sections and to the packing of such sections which involve huge transportation costs. There are challenges with the joinery details which can lead to leakage. But in some cases like the 'FM Approved' MR-24 Standing Seam Roof System (offered by Tata BlueScope Building Solutions), there is one of a kind's 360o Pittsburgh Double Lock seam which assures leak-proof performance.

Also very large prefabricated sections can only be placed on the site by making use of cranes. A PEB structure due to its assembly of various parts requires a painstaking attention to detailing requiring high skilled workers – the shortage of skilled labour proving to be one of the lesser disadvantages that they have over traditional masonry construction.

Steel has a lower fire resistance as compared to concrete and other construction materials. It also faces issues of buckling, stability and corrosion. Indian Codes still need to be developed which PEB manufacturers can adopt unanimously. "Steel is a more versatile material than concrete and can cater to a wider range of applications. However, it needs architects to visualize how to work with the engineering and systems that allow steel to be effective. Although now most architects in the commercial and industrial spaces are well versed with steel, the introduction of new improved steel codes catering to pre-engineered construction are still restrictive as they are still not utilizing the maximum efficiency of steel. Due to the conservative criteria laid down in previous codes, the current updated versions are also not as efficient as other steel design guidelines used around the world," adds Mr Suri.

Mr Khanna while maintaining that PEBs are the fastest growing segment in the low-rise construction industry with a substantial role in the development of infrastructure projects adds, "The major challenge in the sector is that people are still looking at conventional method of construction and not considering the speed & long-term benefits of metal buildings. For this, we are planning to expand the marketing network and project offices throughout the country to serve our clients in a better way."

Making the sector organised will also yield positive results. The supply incase of PEBs has been seen to be much more than the demand since many unorganised segments are supplying them at very low costs, compromising on their quality and adopting codes according to their wishes.

Amit Bharana
Transportation costs are a challenge in PEBs but companies are taking care of the same. Noida headquartered Era Buildsys Ltd (EBL) is an ISO 9001:2000, ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007 certified company and comes with a strong experience of pre-engineered buildings. Mr Amit Bharana, President, EBL mentions that in order to manage the costs regarding the material and transportation, EBL ensures full utilization of the capacity of the vehicle. Also, different transporters & vendors are approached for different locations to get the best price. For maintenance of the material, the firm ensures one time planning for procurement, proper cutting plan and less rework.

Mr Mitra points out that since the product transportation is related to its dimension and usually transported on trailers, hence the approach road condition is very important. Citing transportation as an important component in PEBs he emphasizes on proper transportation linkage and their loading and unloading factors and elucidates, "Transportation needs to be properly planned in terms of the product loading and also one needs to pay heed to the systematic selection of the component as to which one has to reach first."

Government's Role

The government could do well with reducing the tax on PEBs to facilitate their easy acceptance by all. A code for PEB application becomes mandatory to recognise the concepts of advanced steel design, which will also lead to PEB becoming recognised as a separate entity.

Accepting that the Government is taking major steps to promote the PEB industry, Mr Amit adds, "As per the government's projection of 1$ trillion investment in infrastructure segment during the 12th five year plan, the expected economic growth would be approximately 8.5% which may even rise to 9%. This is surely very crucial for the infrastructure segment as growth in the infrastructure investment is expected with this projection of the government. Although, the fluctuation of prices affects the availability of the capital goods, tax structures etc, the SEZ tax benefits and excise holiday zones encourage more constructors to invest into this sector. Closely looking at the sectors of investment pre-engineered buildings will have an advantage in the construction industry."

Car shed Era Buildsys

Mr Mitra is of the view that the government should take steps like removal or minimisation of excise duty components in PEB manufacturing. He explains, "The latest budget has witnessed the increase of excise duty from 10.3% to 12.36%. The government should notify Industry owners and Government agencies to promote the steel building concept especially for residential building construction. All constructions in remote areas should be made mandatory with steel construction methodology. Benefits like fast construction and green features in a building should be highlighted."

Mr Khanna opines that the controlling of the high fluctuations on the steel prices would be good for PEB structures.

Conclusion

PEBs have a lot of advantages and some challenges that are being confronted successfully. It is important to realise that in their case whatever can be done in advance should be done in advance. Efforts should be made to reduce the number of parts and material and use light weight elements to save on the transportations costs. However, the most important step is to increase the awareness amongst people so that there can be a shift from conventional structures to PEBs. Firms like Tata BlueScope Building Solutions are focusing on training and development of their partners and vendors as well – the industry is hoping to see a wider application of PEBs.
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