Homes and gardens

Building without bricks

How it shapes up

How it shapes up  

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New research has thrown up composites for construction that are lighter, eco-friendly and can outlast the concrete edifices. By M.A. Siraj

Think of construction and bricks will be the first among the myriad inputs to pop up in our imagination. For several millennia, bricks have been the most basic unit of any structure meant for living. Could the builders have a choice for an alternative material that could replace bricks?

Recent research has come up with composites and methodology that can build homes — both temporary and permanent ones, without bricks. Though individual house owners go for such structures only as add-ons for their concrete buildings, several government and non-governmental entities have been opting for such structures for use as civic facilities such as shelter homes, hospitals, schools and centres meant for temporary stay.

Nearly 70 hospitals were built in areas devastated by floods (2009) in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region using the technology. Similarly, a police housing colony in Koramangala was put in place with induction of the composites developed as alternative to cement and concrete. According to Sathish Kumar M., President, Karnataka Chapter, National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO), the structures thus raised are eco-friendly, lightweight, and can last longer than concrete buildings. However, their USP is fast tracking of construction which could get a home ready within three days.

Sathish says concrete has ageing factor, but homes raised using anodized steel members and a variety of other materials have better capacity to withstand elements and corrosion.

Sathish, who is also Managing Director of Phoenix Infrastructure, has been into fast track construction for the last 25 years.

The company has developed the methodology in partnership with Society for Development of Composites (SDC), a Government of Karnataka undertaking based in Kengeri.

According to him, homes or structures raised with light steel have better thermal efficiency, are elegant in appearance and can be raised in quick time. He says the company can raise 30 houses or approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of space within the span of a day.

The SDC has put up several such structures on the premises of Composite Technology Park in Kengeri for display. While these structures use concrete for foundation upto plinth level, the over-the-ground structure comprises metal frame which can be erected speedily with nuts and bolts. The roof is a ferroconcrete slab which allows ground plus two storeys. The steel members come with provision of utility ducts.

Dry walls

The walls and partitions take thermocole boards which are held in place with steel mesh and get covered on either side with fibre-cement boards. Joints are sealed with mats that leave no scope for crevices and moisture to penetrate. These are dry walls. However for feel of smooth plaster, the walls could be shotcreted (high velocity spraying of concrete).

Says architect Likhith Raju, the technology has been patented by the SDC and is finding wide application in building of homes. “Though the popular mindset still prefers use of concrete (the more the better and stronger, they feel), people now seem to be increasingly inclined to give the new technology a trial for rooftop structures or for extension to existing homes.

R. Gopalan, CEO, Composite Technology Park, (a scientist who has worked on LCA of the NAL for several years), dispels the popular notion that concrete is best suited for construction. He quips, “Weight does not mean strength. Rather weight is the source of all troubles. The lighter the weight, the better, hence the experimentation with composites across all industries. It is time for people to go for lightweight alternatives.”

According to him, the new composites are far lighter and sturdier alternatives that could provide a boost to mass housing. Quoting studies he says 23% of the air pollution is because of construction with conventional material, which is also responsible for 50% of climate change and 53% of water pollution.

Sathish says the new technology is also coming handy for construction of military barracks, container cabins at large construction sites and mock-up units (prototypes built at expos and property exhibitions) for an authentic representation of the final products by developers and builders.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 5:38:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/building-without-bricks/article30213664.ece

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