MARTIN KRIEGNER asserts that challenging times call for innovations from construction companies to change their status quo. As India and most countries battle a tough economic environment, it is equally important to keep long term challenges in sight. Cities will, as has been the case in the past, continue to see a rapid increase in their population.
This situation means meeting significant new challenges: improving the living conditions of city dwellers, making sure they have access to decent housing as well as to energy and raw materials without depleting resources.
Localising solutions: Making urbanisation a success is a challenge of this century. Cities will not flourish if we do not build them with more innovative solutions.
It is therefore imperative for companies to support the metamorphosis of the cities and contribute with solutions. Innovation needs to be directed at creating high value added products, new building systems in ´partnership´ with players in the construction chain and create solutions and services that will help to meet the enormous challenges of cities. I stress on the word ´partnership´, as construction innovation needs to evolve in the local context. Solutions, practices or systems cannot be simply transferred from the developed world into markets like India. The knowledge of those international best practices can however be adapted to the specific needs of India through partnerships between the different stakeholders. In this direction, Lafarge has instituted a Construction Development Lab (CDL) in Mumbai tasked with understanding the existing construction practices and evolving innovative products, services and solutions with the objective of delivering building solutions for enhanced performance like durability, thermal comfort, energy-efficiency, weather-proofing and aesthetics. It also develops solutions for affordable and speedy construction through innovative products and systems and for environment-friendly construction.
New launches: To improve the lives of densely built neighbourhoods in Mumbai and to help them build decent, solid and watertight homes, concrete is the best solution. But the first difficulty to overcome has been delivering the concrete through alleyways that are too narrow for trucks. We have recently launched ´Concrete Master´ a range of specialised concrete and mortars that can be transported in 30 kg bags. This solution will be rolled out in other cities of India. It will help construct decent long lasting homes and ensure that some of the most deprived people are not left without a quality home.
Lafarge benefits: Lafarge CDL has also concluded a study on comparative construction methods pitching conventional methods against the efficient use of metallic formworks combined with specialised concrete solutions from Lafarge. For a six-storey building, Lafarge´s concrete solutions offer an opportunity to reduce the total cost by up to 5 per cent through use of lesser material and labour. In addition, there is a significant reduction in generation of waste material on the construction job site, which is environment-friendly. Another example is the use of high strength concrete. Lafarge in India is supporting leading builders by supplying M90 plus grade concrete on a consistent basis. This allows the builders to make taller structures, use limited land resources more effectively, so that the total material cost is also reduced. And most importantly, as the wall and column width reduces, the end consumer gets the advantage of a higher carpet area.
In conclusion, the tough economic environment is an excellent opportunity for companies in the construction sector to challenge the status quo and explore opportunities in adopting efficient and effective construction solutions.
About the author: Martin Kriegner, Country CEO, Lafarge India, is responsible for all business lines. He joined Lafarge in 1990 as Assistant to CEO of Lafarge Perlmooser AG, Austria, and was designated CFO in 1995-1998.