Top 3 Low-cost Construction Techniques

India is taking strides towards more sustainable yet rapid development. The construction sector, particularly the low-cost construction techniques, has taken the road forward. The need for low-cost housing techniques is very much visible in the country with its increasing population and stress on the land and property. Though the exact numbers are still to be estimated, the numbers predict almost 2 crore households to be constructed, 90% of them being constructed with low-cost building techniques.

According to the UN reports, 25% of the world population lack access to decent housing. Architects and structural engineers are researching low-cost construction methods to make housing accessible to poor and low-income households. They are using different materials that have been recycled or upcycled to check their suitability and sustainability for housing.

In this article, we will be exploring some indigenous low-cost construction techniques as well as global techniques that are in vogue. Let us start with the indigenous methods which have gained popularity in recent times. We all know about the prestigious “Housing for All” by May 2022 by the Central Government. This called for the exploration of techniques that have never been used for cost-cutting and also efficiency.

The GFRG Technique:

Ph.D. students of IIT Madras have developed a low-cost housing method using the gypsum waste from the fertilizer industry. The high-density alpha-based gypsum plaster is reinforced using glass fibre which gave the acronym GFRG. These panels were first introduced in Australia in 1980. These panels are eco-friendly, pre-fabricated, and can be cut for the dimensions of the windows, walls, and doorways. Some projects in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have made use of the GFRG Low-cost housing technique to build some schools, hospitals, etc.

The fertilizer industry in India produces approximately 2000 tonnes of gypsum every day. This gypsum is dumped in a large area where it is reprocessed by calcinating it. This calcinated gypsum is used as the raw material for manufacturing the plaster. This plaster is then reinforced using the glass fibre which is then used in the construction.

The construction process starts with the foundations being laid in fly ash bricks and then the plinth beams are placed. Then the walls, staircases, and roofs are built using the gypsum panels. The gaps are filled using cement concrete mixture and reinforced. The structural design has been done to withstand natural calamities like earthquakes and storms.

This low-cost construction method has been approved by the Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council of India. A multi-storied house can also be built using these gypsum panels, with proper reinforcement and plumbing & electrical works.

Under the pilot project,  a 500sft house cost around INR 5,75,000. This method efficiently uses gypsum waste and is also cost-effective. The only disadvantage being, the gypsum panels cannot be used to build curved structures. The government is all set to initiate GFRG manufacturing plants all across the country. A collaboration with Australia’s Rapidwall Building Systems is proposed to set up the plants all over India.

Pre-Cast Modular Technique:

This technique is in high demand in India for its simplicity and efficiency. It employs pre-fabricated and manufactured units that are transported to the site and simply assembled. This method uses materials like Expanded Polystyrene, Steel, and fibre cement. Theis low-cost construction method is highly efficient and the construction time is also reduced significantly. With this method, a typical 2 BHK house can be built in 2-3 hours, a school takes approximately 30 to 40 days.

The components for these types of structures are manufactured in industrial methods based on mass production scales. This will help in building components for a large number of houses within a short span of time. The plant casting facilitates high quality control, increased efficiency, and control over finishings.

The most popular structures constructed in this method are the Sydney Opera House, Burj Khalifa, etc. Indian companies like NCL Technologies, Loom Craft are some manufacturers offering these pre-fabricated services to construction companies.

Monolithic Reinforced Concrete System:

This low-cost construction technique has been regarded as the most practical and popular in India recently. The Central Public Works Department approved the technique to construct housing for Economically Weaker Sections on a large scale and for projects costing above INR 100 crores.

The MRCS is a method that employs the erection of pre-fabricated structures like roofs, walls, etc which has proved effective in both efficiency and time. Most of the state governments in India like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, and Karnataka have taken up this method to build homes for the EWS of the population.

These low-cost construction methods are being widely used in the infrastructure sector recently. They have been approved by various state governments for use in the mass construction of affordable houses. They have proved to be efficient and effective low-cost construction techniques. These can be employed for constructing buildings at a faster rate and for on-time completion of large-scale projects.

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