Eco-friendly dwelling unit built of gypsum aims to solve country’s housing problem
A 500 sq. ft. house could cost a Rs. 1.25 lakh less to construct, and be built in less than a month, if a new technology developed by IIT-Madras delivers on its promise.
The first model of such a house — built with Australian technology that was taken forward by IIT-M students and faculty — is currently on display on the campus.
See infographic at left.
Instead of bricks, sand, cement and steel, the two-storey flat is made of gypsum — a waste by-product of the fertiliser industry — and reinforced with glass fibre.
This housing technology costs just Rs. 1,250 per square foot, compared to Rs. 1,500 for concrete structures.
The model building is made of panels, known as glass fibre-reinforced gypsum (GFRG). These panels are made of gypsum, combined with special additives and glass fibres. For construction, the panels are cut to desired sizes based on room dimensions, with openings made for doors and windows. This makes the construction process faster, said Devdas Menon, professor, civil engineering department.
The house does not even require columns or beams, and its ceilings, floors and staircases do not require plastering, Prof. Menon said.
The technology, said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director, IIT-M, was an attempt to look at ways to provide affordable solutions to India’s housing problem. “The use of prefabricated light-weight panels not only implies faster overall construction time, but also a safer working environment,” he said.
RBS Australia, the firm that pioneered this technology, uses gypsum only to construct vertical walls. However, the IIT-M research group extended the application of this product for the entire building system — including floors, roofs, and staircases — significantly reducing the consumption of reinforcing material such as cement concrete. A water-proofing material, especially for roofs and toilets, has also been developed by the team, and the building has also been made earthquake resistant. The house has the same levels of strength and durability as other regular houses, team members said.
Also, the weight of construction is reduced by half, with this design, said Prof. Menon. “This reduces foundation costs too,” he said.
The challenge however, is to find trained workers and planners for projects such as these.
This, Prof. Menon said, could be addressed with time. IIT-M sources said some companies have already come forward to adopt this technology, and the ministry for human resource development has already asked educational institutions to use this technology for their construction work.
“Builders also need to come forward because there is a huge demand for this kind of construction. It will not only bring down the use of energy-intensive material such as sand or cement, but will also provide sustainable, affordable housing to people,” Prof. Menon said.