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RANJANI GOVIND
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Dry magnesia internal walls allow buildings to be taller and lighter, finds RANJANI GOVIND

Internal walls are today constructed with concrete bricks or blocks. The major disadvantage is the inconsistencies in the cement-sand-water blend at each site. Also, they are heavy and require stronger and costlier columns and beams that eat into space, time and money. To avoid these problems with the ‘wet wall’, the concept of ‘dry wall’ came in, which is lighter, avoids water, and uses far less steel.

Dry walls help increase the height of buildings by 20 per cent, and provide savings of 20 per cent in cost and 80 per cent in time.

Dry walls are of various kinds. Some use wood-based panels in plywood and particle boards. Although these are not termite, water or fire resistant, they are used in commercial spaces as light partitions.

There are also non-wood gypsum and cement-based dry walls in the market.

Now, a new option, the magnesia dry wall, has been introduced, which reportedly gives you the best of both wet and dry walls.

Although magnesia walls cost 1.25 times more than other dry wall material and 1.5 times more than brick walls, they are expected to bring in savings in the long run.

They use boards made of magnesia, rugged white cement that is well suited for India’s tropical climate and heavy use.

According to Sandeep Mittal, MD of Bangalore-based Anutone Building Systems, which makes the product in India, the walls are lightweight, allowing buildings to be lighter and taller. They are also faster to install, as each 4’ x 8’ module or 32 sq. ft is the equivalent of 170 bricks of 3” x 9” size. The time taken to lay and cure 170 bricks and plaster them is replaced by one module of magnesia drywall.

They are best for non-load bearing internal walls, but Mittal says they are strong enough to support geysers, televisions, or AC units. The modules come with light steel frames and joints. They can be painted, wall-papered or clad with any material.

Globally, there are exterior-grade magnesia walls as well, and they are expected to be introduced in India in future, along with magnesia flooring, doors and furniture. The material is expected to replace wood-based panels and other dry material in a few years.

China has the largest deposits of magnesia in the world and is the biggest manufacturer, consumer and exporter of the product. The US, Canada, the UK, Russia, South Africa, and Australia are large consumers of magnesia boards. India has adequate deposits of magnesia in its raw form but lags behind in the processing.

The first plant is now coming up outside Bangalore, strategically close to magnesia mines.

Magnesia is expected to soon replace wood-based panels and other kinds of

dry building material

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