India needs 50 million homes by the year 2022 and there are more than 90 smart cities being planned. To achieve such a huge feat in a short time, industry experts point out that offsite construction and pre-fabricated modular units, will play an important role. Although such offsite technologies are at a nascent stage in the Indian market, the demand for them is gaining momentum.
“With developers shifting their focus to mass housing, this technology is an ideal solution for affordable homes and mass housing schemes, due to its fast, accurate, efficient and cost-effective process. For an industry which often suffers from increasing debts and limited cash flows, completing projects early, saves interest cost. This saving can be passed on to the customers, thereby, making homes cheaper for them in the long run,” says Sumesh Sachar, CEO of KEF Infra.
With the use of technology, homes, hospitals, schools, hotels, etc., can be built faster than conventional methods and also have a longer life. So far, prefabrication technologies have only been used for low cost, mass housing schemes, by the government and for slum redevelopments, etc., points out Harleen Oberoi, MD – project management, Cushman & Wakefield India. “Prefab technology is adopted mainly for enhancing the speed of construction work and requires minimum or low involvement of human workers. Also, the quality of products are good, as they are produced under controlled conditions. However, utmost care should be exercised while designing, lifting, shifting and placement of prefab elements,” says Oberoi.
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Prefab homes, or modular homes, are extremely energy efficient and help to save on electricity, water usage, etc. Additionally, one can customise or modify it anytime.
“Maintaining prefab construction doesn’t require much investment. While certain cities, like Bengaluru, have accepted the concept of prefab, other places in India still face hurdles, owing to issues like government permissions and availability of suitable land for construction,” says Harjith D Bubber, managing director and CEO, Rivali Park and CCI Park.
In prefab constructions, the wall panels are made inside a factory. This reduces the construction period, as compared to structures that are constructed traditionally. “Compared to traditional constructions, prefab structures can effectively reduce structural deviations, such as leakage issues, cracking of walls and other quality issues,” asserts Bubber.
However, the disadvantages of such construction techniques, include finding the land for such constructions, inspection of the site, upfront payment to the manufacturer and transportation and assembly issues.
A prefab structure reduces construction cost, manpower cost, material cost, water consumption and labour cost significantly, hence, making it cost effective.
“Offsite construction cuts project costs by up to 30% and delivery times by up to 50%, as compared to conventional construction techniques, while producing high-quality and custom-built buildings and facilities,” says Sachar.
Today, India’s construction industry suffers from a shortage of skilled labour, long gestation periods, increasing prices of raw materials and wastage. Developers can derive cost benefits from offsite construction technologies, through timely completion of their projects. “Prefab technologies are cost effective, if there is greater usage of the system. In other words, the system proves economical, wherever mass clusters of building or campuses need to be constructed,” concludes Oberoi.