Transpiring from its once lurking domain in concrete columns, steel has offset concrete in a major way. Pre-engineered buildings are in vogue and are hogging the spotlight as the preferred alternative globally. Following the precedent set, the Indian PEB sector is bracing itself for a giant leap.
From a simple box industrial building, which was imported into India way back in 1997 to the present day mega projects that define innovation with precision and speed, PEB sector in India has indeed come a long way. The humongous expanse of the construction industry has been accommodating technological innovations galore and PEB as a sector has crept in slowly but steadily as one of the most viable building options that makes optimum use of steel and expedites the construction process by miraculous degrees.
¨The PEB concept is recognised to be the most versatile, fast, and economical method of constructing buildings. The economy and the speed of delivery and erection of these buildings are unmatched in the construction industry,¨ avers Manish Garg, President & CEO- Everest Steel Building Solutions, Everest Industries. Besides its many inherent advantages; in terms of speed, economy, strength, and aesthetics; the spurt in the infrastructure sector, the growing emphasis on green building construction, and the gradually evolving investor sentiment have contributed in making PEB a name to reckon with.
Despite making several breakthroughs and denting the conventional concrete construction market to an extent, PEB as a sector is yet to attain holistic growth. The sheer magnitude of the construction industry is believed to be a constraint in this regard. While the construction market in India is estimated at around Rs 250,000 crore, the PEB market is estimated at a little over Rs 5,000 crore. This is a reflection of the relatively low level of PEB penetration in construction. Nevertheless, there are no two views regarding the sector´s immense potential for growth.
In the wake of rampant earthquakes like the Nepal earthquake, seismic resistance is increasingly being regarded as a significant parameter during construction. ¨Be it Nepal or Gujarat, concrete buildings are seen crumbling, not steel. Earthquake by itself doesn´t kill, people getting stuck under debris get killed. Steel is seismic friendly to a great extent. Under the recommended ´Limit stay design´, the building will get damaged only in severe earthquake, beyond repair but will not collapse, i.e., there will be no human loss but asset loss,¨ affirms Garg.
Steel buildings are designed using the IS: 800 Code of Practice, which adequately covers earthquake withstanding capability of the assembled building in a well-drafted section. ¨All steel structures are earthquake resistant and have high energy-absorbing capacity as the seismic zone of the project location is considered during the design stage itself in order to ensure that it is earthquake proof,¨ states D Raju, Managing Director & CEO, Kirby Building Systems India Pvt Ltd.
Industry experts opine that in India PEBs are built to sustain an earthquake of magnitude seven on the richter scale. However, if greater safety is sought, the PEBs can be tailor-made according to requirements. ¨There is no question about the sustainability as the design of the buildings is done as per earthquake zone. The designer has to be very vigilant and design conscious to make the building sustainable,¨ seconds Rajesh Kumar Singhal, Member, Indian Building Congress, and President- Projects, Central Park.
Experts say that the seismic resistance of steel buildings is four-five times of a concrete building. ¨Design considerations include generics like seismic zones, climate zones, and wind zones, as well as specifics like dimensions, loadings, and workflows. With the appropriate design considerations, PEB´s are more suitable in increased seismic activity,¨ asserts Rohit Ranjan, General Manager- Marketing (Building Solutions), Tata BlueScope Steel Limited.
Standards & Codes
PEB is a rather unorganised sector and the absence of any national governing body and the consequent lack of standards and codes are touted by many as major constraints. Nonetheless, the leading players maintain that they do have a forum in the form of the PEB Manufacturers´ Association and are organised to that extent. PEB players affirm that they follow national and international standards, namely, MBMA, AISC, and IS.
¨The advent of steel buildings was as modular structures. However, over the years, steel building design has evolved to customised solutions that meet the specific requirements of building users. Having said that, all major players today make PEBs as per commonly adopted material codes, building codes, and design standards. Design, fabrication, and erection approaches are a part of the individual value proposition of each player,¨ affirms Ranjan.
Organisations like INSDAG- Institute for Steel Development and Growth, promoted by the Ministry of Steel- have come to their rescue. Sushim Banerjee, Director General, Institute for Steel Development & Growth (INSDAG) states, ¨INSDAG has published a ´Design Guidebook for Pre-Engineered Buildings´ for the benefit of the users. It is funding the revision of IS: 801 (Code of Practice for usages of cold formed structures). INSDAG has also proposed to prepare the draft PEB manual in line with MBMA, USA.¨
The PEB players claim that so far the role of the government in this sector has been limited. Disparities in local taxes between states and predatory incentives offered by certain states have distorted the pattern of movement in this sector. Introduction of GST however is expected to remove many such anomalies. It is yet not clear though, how tax and duty exemptions would be factored in after the introduction of GST. According to Kamal Hadker, Managing Director, Sterling Engineering Consultancy Services Pvt Ltd, ¨PEB is the preferred alternative for reasons such as unpredictability of concrete, variation in workmanship, and lack of skilled labour. The only disadvantage of PEB is that clients have to decide what they want in advance and be willing to spend. People are hesitant as they are clueless about the final outcome.¨
Price volatility of steel, which constitutes almost 65-70 per cent of the PEB cost, and falling iron-ore prices are creating an adverse impact on investments. ¨There is always the challenge of fluctuating steel prices. We are not the cheapest producers or sellers of steel. Downstream people will get affected because ours are fixed price contracts. Comparative steel prices in line with international steel prices is what the government should look at. In the heat of protecting the domestic steel industry, the government should not create a differential price, otherwise steel buildings will get affected. And moves like GST must happen,¨ points out Garg.
Central level excise duty is standardised for all raw materials; so certain states benefit, while others are at a disadvantage. This will be eliminated with GST, giving a boost to the industry. At the state level, Uttarakhand government has made a special category for PEB at the lowest tax rate, giving impetus to the sector. Prior to this, PEB as a concept was never categorised.
¨Engineers need to be trained, code of provisions require amendments, and ´change´ management has to be addressed, without which promises will not get translated into reality,¨ opines Jayaramalingam, Head of Civil & Structural Department, Reliance Industries.
The demand for PEB would skyrocket if the Prime Minister´s call for ´Make in India´ gains traction. Besides the ´Make in India´ campaign, approval of the ordinance for amendment of Land Acquisition Act for development of infrastructure and industry related projects will further give a boost to the economic growth as this was one of the major hurdles in delay of implementation of many projects.
¨Where urgency is of essence, PEBs are best suited to shrink construction times. There is sufficient installed capacity in India, and can be scaled up further to meet the emerging demand from the ´Make in India´ mission,¨ opines Ranjan.
Manufacturing would involve setting up of factories and that zone is the home ground of PEB. ¨With ´Make in India´ mission, early results will be visible. The idea is to invest in various technologies and construction materials in order to provide the best quality products. These equipment and plants will initially increase the cost of the infrastructure, but will prove to be faster and efficient in the long run,¨ says Singhal.
According to PEB players, though the investor sentiment seems to have improved, the mindset of the consumers needs to undergo a major transformation for the sector to register a substantial progress and penetrate the residential sector. Launches like the Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT and Housing for All could then turn out to be major drivers for the sector. Amit Shah, Consultant to Military Engineering Services, Indian Oil Corporation, Cipla Ltd, Trident Group, Indospace, remarks, ¨People will take some time to understand steel buildings. But the transition is gradually setting in. Steel structures are not flimsy. In fact, they are much stronger than conventional structures. It is thereby better to build high rise buildings in steel.¨
PEB industry will have a very big role to play in the metro rail system over the next 10 years as most of the upcoming metro rails are using the PEB technology to build their stations, workshops, repair bays, inspection bays, stabling yards, etc. ¨The major reasons behind PEB technology being adopted in metro rails are single source responsibility, faster installation, factory controlled quality, zero maintenance, energy efficiency, environmental friendliness, earthquake resistance, etc,¨ claims Raju.
The spurt in warehousing and cold chain will escalate the growth of the sector. ¨Over the last few years, PEBs have found favour in industrial and warehousing applications. Growth has been in the range of 10-15 per cent per annum, and is expected to increase going forward. PEB use for infrastructure and other commercial applications are growing, but it remains limited in residential and real estate applications,¨ reveals Ranjan.
Optimism has set in with stalled projects taking off, announcement of new projects, and improvement in investor sentiment. The government, through its measures of infrastructure investment, has a crucial role to play in the growth of PEB in India. The infrastructure expansion programme will contribute towards catalysing the construction activity, thereby driving PEB growth. What is needed is uniform taxation, concessions in the form of tax incentives, single window dealing, and timely approvals. SEZ tax benefits and excise holiday zones are measures which would encourage more investment in this sector. The highly anticipated GST Bill is a move in the right direction.
The total area of K Square is divided into K-Logix, K-Industry, K-Commerce, and K-Residency. Tata BlueScope Building Solutions designed, manufactured, and supplied engineered steel building solutions for the K-Logix Project, a 40-lakh sq ft built-to-suit warehousing complex.
The Strategic Partnership
Prakhhyat Infraprojects and Tata BlueScope Building Solutions have partnered to build integrated logistics infrastructure in Bhiwandi on Mumbai-Nashik Highway. Tata BlueScope´s strong credentials in delivering engineered steel building solutions were instrumental in the company bagging this project.
The main challenges in the project included:
Prakhhyat Infraprojects released repeat orders for six buildings with total area of 105,752 sq m, out of which four buildings of 73,417 sq m have been completed.