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Structure it right

Structure it right

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Creating awareness about the advantages of using steel over concrete among end users, remains a challenge for the PEB industry.

Pre-engineered building (PEB) industry has grown leaps and bounds over the last two decades. However, its growth trajectory in the long term remains to be determined. While the industry consists of four to six frontline players from the organised space and has overcome many of the hurdles in the past three years,. there are challenges that are still hindering its growth.

Non-availability of skilled manpower
According to Kirby, some of the challenges include separate industry recognition by government, fluctuating steel prices, non-availability of skilled manpower, standard design codes, industry practices and policies and procedures, etc. The PEB industry is overcoming the above challenges by sharing knowledge across seminars, conference, industry forums, colleges, education curriculum, etc., with the target audience thereby increasing the popularity and advantages of steel construction across industry verticals. Thus, a huge opportunity awaits this industry.

Perception shift for non-industrial buildings
Gautam Suri, CTO & Founder Director, Interarch Building Products Pvt Ltd, says, “One of the biggest challenges a PEB manufacturer faces is perception shift for non-industrial buildings, which although changing, still remains inclined majorly towards the conventional methods of construction that are regarded as the cheapest and best. Many sectors have started considering pre-engineered steel structures as the most favourable form of construction for any kind of building application.”

He adds, “In recent years, Interarch has delivered many non-industrial steel buildings for applications like hotels, hospitals, multi-storey residential buildings and Institutional building for schools and colleges etc.”

Lack of awareness leads to false assumption
According to I V Ramana Raju, Chief Operating Officer, Pennar Engineered Building Systems Ltd, “As per the current scenario, PEBs are playing well over RCC in Indian market, but there are few factors that are still holding back growth. Though construction industry is heading, few customers still aren’t aware of PEB’s benefits over conventional, which leads to false assumption of low-cost steel price expectations.”

While an array of small players have entered into the PEB market over the past decade given the upsurge in the utility of steel, the companies are yet to shore up in the areas of design and manufacturing facility that are crucial to meet customer requirements.. Commercial factors like ebb and flow in raw material prices sometimes lead to rough phase in the market. Factors like infrastructure development, high-rise buildings, metro rail projects, commercial complexes etc., are having a key growth in India which drives PEB industry with a phenomenal percentage growth every year, for which engineers need to develop suitable provisions within the organisation and specifications in order to meet the increased demand for innovative material, construction methodologies, high performance, economical and faster delivery steel buildings to run their operations. As PEBs are confined to commercial sector, experts look forward to acceptability of steel in residential sector for future growth.

Unfettered competition from low technology
Ranjan Dhar, Chief Marketing Officer, Essar Steel is of the view, “With any new concept, the idea of steel replacing cement or wood as a material of construction was facing difficulty in adoption by engineers, designers and architects who had been designing with traditional materials. Innovation with steel required expertise and experience which has now been developed by the PEB industry over the years. However, the challenge which still remains is that of unfettered competition from low technology – low-cost players driving down margins although construction market (commercial /retail /residential) is growing at an unprecedented rate, thanks to the earth-shaking reforms in this space like RERA, digitisation, stamp duty reforms etc.”

The question now is not whether steel design can deliver better than other materials; the question now is whether end consumer will pay for quality steel builds. That boils down to discretionary spends and ability to deliver aesthetic quality builds on time while maintaining high guarantees and low cost.

In developed countries, a very large percentage of multi-storeyed buildings are built with steel where as in India, steel is hardly used in construction of multi-storeyed buildings even though steel has been proved to be a better material than reinforced concrete. Hence, the biggest challenge with all PEB industry in India is to make the end users aware of the advantages of using steel over concrete in construction. More work needs to be done in this area.

Importance of PEB for various projects

Advantages and applications of PEB
There are many advantages of PEB which makes it an ideal one for a project when compared to other construction technologies. Some of these advantages are reduction in steel weight, lesser delivery time and lower construction time and cost. Other advantages include optimised design with standard sections and advanced design software’s, factory controlled quality fabrication, ease of future expansion, architectural versatility, high seismic resistance, lighter foundations, single source responsibility, etc.
There are no major limitations for the PEB industry when compared to conventional construction as the industry has overcome many hurdles over the last two decades of its presence in India. Kirby adds, “The industry has ventured into unknown territories which were never thought of thereby creating newer application areas for these types of structures which are highly customised and unique in nature. Kirby is leading the path through its new and innovative designs, systems and processes and construction techniques thereby making the industry well equipped to overcome all the limitations capable to handle any complex project across different industry segments.”

Suri explains the benefits of using PEB as listed below.
• Steel structure is faster to erect, as compared to RCC frames being lighter in weight and offers speed in construction and time saving resulting in an overall cost saving.
• Flexibility in construction and aesthetic look.
• Occupies less space and can be designed for larger span or column free spaces, resulting greater coverage, which helps in large open spaces and large auditoriums and halls.
• Steel construction takes reduced time at the site and plant and labour causing little disruption to normal life of the community, unlike the wet concrete construction process.
• Low lifetime maintenance cost and durability.
• Easily expandable for the growing need with the time.
• High strength-to-weight ratio, they result in much reduced load on foundations resulting in less cost of foundation as well as time saving.
• Reduced project time results in early occupancy, results in economic advantage to the investor or owner.

PEBs are more reliable
Steel used for PEBs is good for clear or longer span. With steel, providing column less space is much economical than reinforced cement concrete (RCC). These buildings can withstand to extensive deformation without failure under high reversal of stresses especially in the case of earthquakes. As a known fact, steel is stronger than concrete, they don’t brittle as years pass by and the properties of steel do not change as opposed to concrete.

Raju from Pennar says, “PEBs need minimal maintenance unlike concrete. From raw material till finish, at every stage, quality has been controlled thoroughly under supervision at plant. In PEBs, responsibility starting from design till erection lies in single hand, hence no hassle of multiple agencies. We can save 30-40 per cent of time in construction of PEBs, hence faster occupancy for early returns. Considering financial, beneficial and longer durability factors, PEBs are more reliable.”

Quick build time and modular design
Quick build time and modular design are the key performance parameters. Along with that come the natural corollaries, product life guarantees and cost. Dhar from Essar Steel believes PEB structures are preferred when structures are required to be up and running in short periods like 8 – 18 months whereas traditional structures in cement would need high gestation period. These timelines are now reducing even further – earlier projects used to last for years – now commissioning is expected in months. Scale up or moderation is easily done in modular design, once prototype is established. This reduces the risk factor in PEB design.

Given the design and the construction period, life guarantees like corrosion resistance in extreme environments, uniform and consistent strength of structures, easy assessment of maintenance or replacement of localised key components of the structure and finally easy raw material availability across the geographies give PEB’s their unique strengths for a project.

ZINCALUME and COLORBOND steel
Traditional buildings incur costs due to maintenance that need to be performed regularly. Steel buildings (PEBs) on the other hand, due to its durability have lower maintenance cost and trouble free performance. Pulin Trivedi, General Manager – Building Solutions, TATA BlueScope Steel Ltd, says, “Modern day requirement of structures is that, these should be lighter yet not compromising on functionality.”

He adds, “For large projects Tata BlueScope’s high strength light weight ZINCALUME steel (Al-Zn alloy coated steel) and COLORBOND steel (pre-painted Al-Zn alloy coated steel) are most preferred materials, especially for cladding applications, as compared to conventional bare and painted galvanised steel. Al-Zn coated steel also finds its application in high-rise buildings as well as heavy pre-engineered buildings, owing to its properties like strength, light weight and corrosion resistance.”

BUTLER and ECOBUILD solutions from Tata BlueScope Steel, supplies customised pre-engineered steel buildings that are designed for strength, durability, longevity and sustainability. BUTLER is a premium, globally renowned engineered steel building solution with MR 24 roofing system which carries 10 years leak proof warranty. On the other hand, ECOBUILD is a cost effective contemporary building system that can be customised to match various designs, functions, sizes and a host of segment specific requirements. Both solutions are accompanied with galvanised purlin and girt known as CEE-plus and ZED plus, last much longer without regular maintenance, as compared with conventional unprotected structural elements. These solutions combine the practicality of a rigid frame with virtually unlimited design flexibility, enabling signature styled architectural structures.

Trivedi adds, “Our safe construction practices are a global benchmark derived from BlueScope Steel, Australia. Right from effective use of risk mitigation techniques, erection methodologies supervised by dedicated construction experts, innovative construction technologies and Tata BlueScope Steel’s zero tolerance to safety violence; makes our solutions in line with the customers’ expectations.”

One of the biggest challenges a PEB manufacturer faces is perception shift for non-industrial buildings.
Gautam Suri, CTO & Founder Director, Interarch Building Products Pvt Ltd

Few customers still aren’t aware of PEB’s benefits over conventional, which leads to false assumption of low-cost steel price expectations.
I V Ramana Raju, Chief Operating Officer, Pennar Engineered Building Systems Ltd

The challenge which still remains is that of unfettered competition from low technology.
Ranjan Dhar, Chief Marketing Officer, Essar Steel

For large projects Tata BlueScope’s high strength light weight ZINCALUME steel and COLORBOND steel are most preferred materials.
Pulin Trivedi, General Manager – Building Solutions, TATA BlueScope Steel Ltd

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