Most masons are not receptive to new techniques or reorientation
Use of substandard material alone does not lead to a building developing cracks.
The durability of a building has more to do with some sensible construction practices.
It is a general belief that life of a building depends on the type of material used in the construction.
We often come to a conclusion that the builder must have used substandard material whenever we find that a structure develops cracks or fails to last long.
But not many reckon that along with using better quality material, following good construction practices define the life of a building.
Engineering design and quality of materials hold the key to construction, but it is the masons who play a critical role in determining the sustainability of a building, says construction material expert L.H. Rao of Hyderabad.
“Construction techniques, though complicated, are based on common observations and adhere to simple principles. By taking small steps one can ensure the durability of a building, or any structure for that matter.” But most masons are not open to new concepts or new techniques, he observes.
Most swear by their long experience and argue against the need for retraining or orientation.
“Construction technologies are constantly developing and there is a need for retraining even among the engineers, and more so for masons and workers,” he says.
Take foundation for a building, for example. Dr. Rao points out that the foundation should be laid within an hour of digging the pit, but this is never followed.
“The soil layers are usually well settled due to the action of various factors over the years. When we dig up the foundation pits, this balance is disturbed. To avoid further damage due to the loss of moisture and loosening of the soil layers, the foundation stones and cement concrete should be laid within one hour of digging.”
“Masons usually consider foundation to be just stone walls that are built as per the plan and hollow spaces filled with low grade debris. Foundation is very important and the material used, even to fill spaces, should be of good quality,” he says.
Even the joining of steel rods, which forms the basic skeleton of a building, has a major impact on stability, Dr. Rao explains.
“Not many masons or workers understand that joining all steel rods at one place, even though sufficient overlapping is allowed, can prove fatal. For maximum stability, steel rods should be joined at uneven lengths and sufficient over lapping should be allowed.”
Another common error is to construct the slab with an angle to allow draining of the rain water and in consequence the whole building is destabilised.
“Original slabs should always be perpendicular and a slant will reduce a building’s life. To allow the rain water to clear off from the slab a separate top line should be laid with micro concrete,” he says. So educating the masons on these simple errors is of top priority.