Specialised contractors play a significant part in making buildings better, smarter, savvier, and more world class. CW connects with speciality contractors in key categories and related associations along with developers, architects, consultants and engineers to explore the role and potential of these specialists in India.
The room was open for discussion and a photo studio set up with the perfect props. What a magnificent gathering it was of the specialists of the building sector. Contractors specialising in paints, MEP, waterproofing, HVAC, civil or PEB, were all there at CW´s head office in Mumbai last month - spiffy in their formals, posing for us as the ´true construction men´. ´Achhe din´ was the ´say cheese´ for the day. Everyone agreed though, that the good days are yet to arrive, that ´something is missing´. Nevertheless, they concluded on a note of optimism.
Today, the construction industry is entering a new unprecedented era that requires much more than the conventional skills and capabilities available in the past two or three decades. To keep pace with the demands of these complex developments, innovative, green and sustainable building systems and solutions are required. Where innovation is the norm, execution within a set timeframe is the need and precision is a given, India´s building sector is experiencing a new epoch of speciality contractors.
Demand is at an all-time high. CN Raghavendran, Managing Director, CR Narayana Rao Architects, says, ´The scale of building operations has enlarged substantially in the past decade and this includes tall buildings, specialised
IT parks and
data centres as well as large residential complexes. Also, a number of super speciality hospitals are being designed and built across India.´ Further, large-scale investments and policies are being planned towards the promotion of new smart and green cities in addition to large-scale urban rehabilitation in existing towns and cities. The public sector is also vigorously promoting several public infrastructure building projects. And what are the expectations for these developments? Raghavendran responds, ´There are high expectations from clients, developers and end users that the buildings should be high performance, far exceeding conventional standards and quality.´ This is where specialised contractors make a significant contribution. According to Neeraj Bansal, Partner and Head, Real Estate and Construction, KPMG in India, today´s construction methods, scale and complexity, and changing customer preferences are driving the need for speciality contractors. He suggests, ´There is a need for a high degree of coordination between these contractors - electrical, plumbing, fire or HVAC - with the civil services and interior set-out contractors.´ Digant Kapadia, Managing Director, BE Billimoria & Co Ltd, echoes the need for smooth coordination. ´At times, speciality contractors work for a client or builder directly and sometimes through a main contractor like us. This leads to lack of coordination and internal discipline.´
For their part, developers know what they want. ´With more and more skyscrapers being built, getting specialised manpower with the skills to work in these upcoming high-rise developments has become a challenge,´ says Rajendra Varma, Director, Omkar Realtors & Developers. ´Hence, the industry is going for rapid mechanisation to carry out construction with increased efficiency, speed of construction and better quality.´
Despite the demand, Vijay Mattoo, Executive Director-Building Engineering, AECOM India, points to the unorganised sector. ´There used to be no focus on the pricing aspect,´ he says. ´Companies would take up projects at any cost just to bag them and would then find it challenging to deliver quality.´ However, he agrees there is a wave of change. ´Speciality contractors are recognising these facts and trying to be selective about the jobs they do. They are also offering combined services.´ These include mechanical, electrical and plumbing, popularly known as MEP services. Demand for a single turnkey contractor is coming from large and medium-sized developers, hoteliers, or those building hospitals and corporate offices. To this, Varun Raje, Director, Raje Project Management Consultants (RPMC), adds, ´There is increasing awareness among the entire fraternity to get desired results for a particular job, which may directly or indirectly affect a project. Likewise, speciality contractors have identified their skill sets through their experience and expertise to position themselves as experts for a particular skill required in a project.´
Pick and choose
Besides the growing scales of project size, efficiency and sustainable performance are becoming the benchmarks for expectations by designers and end users. As Raghavendran says, ´In the sectors of HVAC, MEP and waterproofing, conventional systems are found to have limitations in meeting expectations and new systems are being demanded.´ He adds that in the fields of MEP and HVAC, energy-efficiency is playing a crucial role and integrated operations through building management systems (BMS) are becoming a norm in almost all buildings. This system combines with the security and fire alarm, in addition to monitoring and controlling the performance of the building.
Varma informs us how his company, Omkar Realtors, engaged a 25-member Turkish team to successfully implement tunnel form technology in two 23-storey rehab buildings in Goregaon East (VJS) in Mumbai in an all-time record timeline of five months. ´Developers today are increasingly engaging specialised contractors for quick turnaround, increasing dependence on them,´ he says. Also, one of BE Billimoria & Co Ltd´s specialities is the high-rise segment and the company has been among the first to introduce aluminium formwork in India. As Kapadia says, ´We were one of the pioneers in doing high rises in Mumbai.´ What´s more, the company has also been among the pioneers to import self-climbing cranes to India, something that is common today.
Meanwhile, with an eye to convenience, Mattoo says, ´Dealing with specialised contractors who offer a complete umbrella of services becomes easier on a day-to-day basis.´ He points to MEP, which includes HVAC, electrical, fire, plumbing and low voltage, as the new trend and expects to see more contractors on the ground in times to come. With this, the inter-department coordination with the contractor is easier, and cost and manpower are optimised.
Specialised contractors cannot operate in a vacuum. They have to integrate with the entire system of main contractors and subcontractors and work as a team. Additionally, they need to bring in their specialised knowledge, experience and products into effective planning, integration and execution. ´It is also important for specialised contractors, after completing the job, to create sufficient documentation and an operation and maintenance (O&M) manual for the benefit of continued performance levels as prevalent at the time of commissioning,´ says Raghavendran. Indeed, training of O&M personnel is becoming important as large buildings are professionally operated and maintained through property managers. Hence, the major role of specialised contractors in the execution of projects is quite evident.
Raje puts it simply when he says, ´The role of a speciality contractor is to identify the requirements of a project and perform in the most appropriate manner.´ As he explains, the role begins with identifying various requirements such as design parameters and expectations, constraints, schedule and expected outcome. Keeping in mind all these points, speciality contractors prepare their work plan, methodology, schedule and quality plan to perform a specific task. This can be done by preparing specifications, method statements, shop drawings, checklists, etc, for a systematic way of working.
Building contractor Kapadia advocates the use of a specialist contractor within his purview. ´For sanitary and plumbing work, I would prefer a specialist plumbing contractor to work for me rather than getting it done on a labour basis,´ he says. ´That provides a better product with a better timeline and gives a better sense of responsibility to the main contractor and answerability to the developer.´
The specialist steps in
As building contractors can be considered specialised in their own field, Kapadia believes the² should be involved at the planning stage as they can contribute by suggesting cost-effective ideas and recommending designs and techniques to save time. However in India, contractors are only involved when designs are more or less frozen. ´Building contractors have vast experience as they execute dozens of projects,´ he points out. ´Hence, they can offer solutions from their exposure to different developers, clients, architects and designers.´ He also believes it is crucial to involve an MEP contractor at the design stage, unlike the case of painting and waterproofing. As MEP work is need-based, involving the contractor at the design stage would certainly help.
Raghavendran agrees that the specialised fields of solutions and contracting have to be decided upon at an early stage for proper integration. The architect, specialised sub-consultants and client would initially set the project goals and standards. So it becomes clear at the design stage itself how the specialised solutions will be integrated with the architectural and services design. ´Finding an ad-hoc solution midway through the project would only mean a patchwork of solutions and have drawbacks,´ Raghavendran says.
Coordination between specialised contractors needs to be done at a nascent stage. Bansal estimates two months from the early stage of planning as the ideal time to rope in the contractors. ´Adoption of technology and finalisation of the design before construction begins will save on the current time and cost overruns that developers experience,´ he says. Mattoo adds to the facts, telling us that contractors are usually roped into the project after the civil construction starts. For instance, once the building comes up to the ground or basement level, MEP contractors are generally appointed at site. They take two-to-four months to prepare their short drawings and make submissions. Following this, they pick up the work slowly and start execution.
The next level
So what will it take to leverage the current role of specialist contractors and take it to the next level? CW lists some points after discussion with various stakeholders:
With levels of warranties and avoidance of liabilities being spelt out these days, general contractors engage specialised agencies who, in turn, bear the responsibilities of performance of each discipline. This is the only way to meet expectations on warranties and avoidance of liabilities in the field of contracting.
There needs to be some consolidation. Almost each specialised segment today û electrical, plumbing, HVAC, fire-fighting, fire alarm system, building maintenance system - is an unorganised sector. If brought together under one umbrella, there could be a lot of cross-sharing of resources, time saving and avoiding duplication of work.
A specialised contractor can be engaged based on the requirement or from the point of coordination. So the way of drawing contracts, managing coordination and how sensibly the developer gets his own team to manage these challenges or get through a good agency will lead to quality delivery.
With delivering projects on time being the major challenge, speciality contractors can provide technical support as a value-added service and play a lead role in saving costs and coping with timelines with quality on par with international standards.
Speciality contractors employ better material usage and methodology for construction to enhance quality of construction with speed.
They can also offer to be a part of specific maintenance for service-related jobs and vigilance after repairs to check if the scheme has worked or needs some improvement.
To grow, specialised contractors need to focus on in-house engineering because once the contractor is on board, they are supposed to deliver a lot of shop drawings and engineering submittals.
Speciality contractors have to get their own house in order in terms of how they are programmed to a suitable delivery. It is not only about servicing but creating an opportunity for themselves and educating the market about available services.
The best strategy for contractors is performance. Good performance will pave the way for future opportunities.
Quick Bytes Speciality contractors have identified their skill sets through their experience.
Demand drivers: Tall buildings, specialised IT parks, smart and green buildings, data centres, large residential complexes.
Ideal approach: Involving specialised contractors, especially MEP, at the design stage.
"Building contractors can offer solutions from their exposure to different developers and designers.´
- Digant Kapadia, Managing Director, BE Billimoria & Co Ltd
"Developers today are increasingly engaging specialised contractors for quick turnaround.´
- Rajendra Varma, Director, Omkar Realtors & Developers
"In the fields of MEP and HVAC, energy-efficiency is playing a crucial role.´
- CN Raghavendran, Managing Director, CR Narayana Rao Architects
"Two months from the early stage of planning is the ideal time to rope in the contractors.´
- Neeraj Bansal, Principal Director-Advisory, KPMG in India
"Dealing with specialised contractors with a complete umbrella of services becomes easier.´
- Vijay Mattoo, Executive Director-Building Engineering, Aecom India
"The speciality contractor should identify project requirements and perform appropriately.´
- Varun Raje, Director, Raje Project Management Consultants
HVAC: The chill factor
HVAC contracting, which falls under the category of building services, has been a specialised field for over 50 years now. In a building, you have multiple engineering services, such as air-conditioning, electrical, plumbing, fire-fighting and low-voltage services, including CCTV, BMS and security. ´In India, until recently, HVAC was probably the only organised speciality contracting in building services,´ says Vir S Advani, Executive Director & President-Electro Mechanical Projects Business, Blue Star. With four to five organised HVAC contractors, there are a large number of small ones. Companies such as Blue Star have traditionally undertaken the engineering followed by procurement and execution, which continues even today. ´HVAC contractors like us have always been organised,´ adds Advani. ´We have the engineering and execution competence and so it is easier for us to deliver value-added service.´
´HVAC has always been a field of speciality contracting,´ affirms K Ramachandran, National President, ISHRAE, and Director, Lead Consultant, ESKAYEM. In the built environment, it is an integral part of building systems along with electrical installations, plumbing, fire protection and other services. Demand for air-conditioning in India has been increasing by a healthy 15 per cent year-on-year. Of the total amount of energy consumed in the country, air-conditioning accounts for about 30 per cent. And in a building, it contributes to well over 50 per cent of the energy consumed. ´Things have changed now,´ says Ramachandran. ´The government as well as the people have realised the importance of air-conditioning to raise productivity.´ In fact, many industries such as pharma, healthcare and electronics are completely dependent on air-conditioning.
Services offered: Blue Star produces detailed and coordinated drawings at the engineering stage before moving into the site. An HVAC contractor is expected to do what is called ´value engineering´. ´This involves taking the consultant´s design, optimising it based on our knowledge and then providing a value-engineered design that is of commercial value to the client,´ explains Advani. ´So we understand the design, factor in the building´s condition and then seize the opportunity to value-engineer the design without compromising on the design intent.´ He further adds that clients expect us to bring down the cost of the total system without compromising on performance. Ultimately, HVAC contractors are relied to select the right equipment, which is an engineering capability. So the contractor is expected to finalise the right equipment - Chillers, AHUs, Pumps, and so on û based on his knowledge. Finally, HVAC being a mechanical service that consumes 50 per cent of a building´s energy requirement, the quality of after-sales service throughout the life-time of the system plays an important role in enhancing the life while reducing the running cost of the system. Clients rely on the HVAC contractor who understands the system inside-out, to maintain the system in most cases.
The business: In the absence of any reliable industry statistics on the specialised HVAC contracting market in India, Advani says, ´The market today is about Rs 5,000 crore and we enjoy about 20 per cent of the market share.´ To this, Ramachandran adds, ´The overall volume of HVAC on an annual basis is Rs 300,000 million. This involves HVAC equipment manufacturers as well as large and small contracting companies.´
The challenges: The biggest challenge is lack of skilled and trained manpower. ´India is a ready source of skilled manpower to the Gulf and the domestic industry suffers because of migration,´ says Ramachandran. ISHRAE is at the forefront of training personnel at various levels, starting with basic skill training to high-end certification courses for special applications. Another challenge is the development and implementation of sustainable technologies. Air-conditioning typically consumes 50-55 per cent of total building energy and energy optimisation is a major focus area. Coupled with this are concerns about ozone depletion owing to refrigerants and global warming. ´There are also challenges owing to frequent changes in government policy and indeterminate time for building approvals,´ says Ramachandran, adding that these lead to crisis in cash flows and working capital management.
HVAC SECTOR´S CALL The skills of HVAC contractors are continuously tested and challenged by high-rise buildings as well as special applications such as data centres, healthcare facilities, the hospitality segment, pharmaceutical manufacturing and the electronics industry.
Close control on temperature and humidity as well as cleanliness levels are becoming more and more important.
An increasingly apparent concern is the cleanliness level of outside air. Traditionally, outside air was taken in to ensure air quality levels inside conditioned spaces. Now, in many areas, outside air itself is contaminated by dust.
"The overall volume of HVAC on an annual basis is Rs.300,000 million.´
- K Ramachandran, National President, ISHRAE and Director, Lead Consultant, ESKAYEM
"An HVAC contractor is expected to do what is called ´value engineering.´
- Vir S Advani, Executive Director & President -Electro Mechanical Projects Business, Blue Star
Turnkey age: Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP)
Until about 10 years ago, HVAC was a standalone field. However, the recent trend has been for contractors to offer complete Mechanical (HVAC and Fire-fighting), Electrical and Plumbing services (MEP contracting). Vir S Advani, Executive Director & President-Electro Mechanical Projects Business, Blue Star, which has moved from just being a specialised HVAC contractor to a turnkey MEP contractor, says, ´The ecosystem has developed. We have become turnkey contractors where we are bundling multiple engineering services in a building.´
When bundled together, MEP services address the major energy consumed in a building. As running cost is the major worry for clients, expectations from specialised MEP contractors are high. Thus, the segment is getting more organised with a larger engineering focus built around delivered and running costs. Referring to specialised plumbing contractors, Sudhakaran Nair, President, Indian Plumbing Association, and Chairman, World Plumbing Council, says, ´Projects today are larger and more complex where architects and project management consultants advise the client to engage reputed plumbing contractors. However, experienced, large specialist plumbing contractors are still few. Three or four large companies who hitherto undertook HVAC and electrical contracts have now added plumbing to their portfolio to offer a total ´MEP package´.´ Speaking of electrical services, Vishnu Agarwal, President, Indian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association, adds, ´The wiring in a house has undergone so much change. Now, the effort is also being made to offer formal training to enhance electrical contracting skills.´
Services offered: All services provided in MEP are above the false ceiling or below the floor, such as ducting, piping, cabling, alarms and sensors, and require thorough coordination. As a turnkey contractor, Blue Star coordinates the layout of all these services using 3D engineering and clash-detection software from the office rather than the site. ´You need drawings in place so coordination on site is smooth,´ elaborates Advani. This reduces execution time and increases quality. That´s the value proposition an organised turnkey contractor can offer.´ In MEP, while HVAC continues to be the most technically challenging system to design, the challenge is to coordinate and install a varied number of services usually in very tight confines above the false ceiling. There is tremendous opportunity to optimise the layouts for both upfront cost reduction as well as serviceability. As Advani says, ´It´s a corridor with pipes, ducts and cables - install them and the job is done.´
Models of business: There are three models in the market today. There is an individual services-plus-civil model where the developer works with multiple contractors across civil, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire-fighting, LV systems, etc. Then, there is the civil-plus-MEP turnkey model with the client plus civil, where MEP services is given to one contactor and civil to another. In the third model, developers are relying on the civil contractor to do a turnkey job including civil and all services, but the client retains the right to ´nominate´ subcontractors for speciality services to work under the civil contractor. So MEP comes in as a nominated specialist service here.While the developer reserves the right to define commercial terms and pricing with the speciality contractors, subcontractors are nominated to the civil contractor. So a speciality contractor has to sign terms and conditions with both the client and the contractor.
The business: Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics available as the bulk of plumbing works in India is handled by the unorganised sector. The cost of plumbing in a building can range from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent of the total construction cost, depending on the nature of occupancy and specification of works. Advani draws some rough estimates where the MEP specialised market is estimated to be Rs 200 crore. Of this, Blue Star as an MEP contractor has about 15-20 per cent market share. For him, the new market is industrial, which has not been a major buyer of MEP services. But with higher productivity norms, many factories are being air-conditioned or ventilated and this opens up large MEP opportunities in this segment.
The challenges: Individually, plumbing contractors have their own challenges and this could impact a turnkey contractor as well. As Nair emphasises, ´Plumbing contractors are generally small organisations with the majority handling annual turnovers within Rs 10 crore.
The current trend of requiring submission of bank guarantees towards performance bond and mobilisation in advance compels many good plumbing contractors to decline large projects as their financial capabilities and banking facilities are limited.´ On the electrical side, Agarwal does not see large companies taking up the role but he certainly anticipates stringent quality control as equipment and materials gets more sophisticated and expensive. Also, certified skilled manpower trained as per national and occupational standards will be in demand.
MEP SECTOR´S CALL
Working drawings should be simple and detailed enough for site staff with limited exposure to sophisticated systems.
The client can benefit with the advantage of the consultant´s knowledge and the contractor´s practical skills.
Competition will be fierce and people will demand the best quality ûexcellence in services is a must.
"Companies with HVAC and electrical contracts have now added plumbing to their portfolio.´
- Sudhakaran Nair, President, Indian Plumbing Association and Chairman, World Plumbing Council
"There will be stringent quality control as equipment and materials get more sophisticated and expensive.´
- Vishnu Agarwal, President, Indian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association
Paints: The colours of tomorrow
Initially, while awarding a painting contract, the material was purchased from one place and the labour would execute the work. But now there is a shift û mega projects are increasingly looking to specialised contractors to take one-point responsibility and deliver the job with better final finish and durability. Further, there is growing awareness of eco-friendly paints and textures that enhance the life of a building by protecting it.
Services offered: Godavri Paints, established in 1972, started as a manufacturer and added the contracting business around 2004-2005. ´Paint is a wide subject,´says Aneel Parakh, Managing Director, Godavri Paints Pvt Ltd. ´It starts from Rs 8-9 per sq ft and goes up to Rs 130-140 per sq ft.´ He is technically qualified to understand the developers´ needs and offer them the right product mix. ´For exterior paints, the developer might require a product with a three or five-year lifecycle,´ he adds.
´Then it boils down to economics - cost per square feet - which differs from project to project. And we suggest the apt product accordingly.´ Meanwhile, three-decade-old Painterior is an expert in external and internal painting in all surfaces and structures. ´Different paints need different surfaces,´ says Aasim Merchant, Partner, Painterior. ´If involved in the initial stage, we can suggest the surface required for a particular paint. Speciality contractors like us know exactly the type of paints available in the market. We can update clients on options from Rs 10 per sq ft to Rs 500 per sq ft along with different performances of various paints and different life expectancies.´
Marketing contracting services: While breaking in to getting a new client would be tough, Godavri Paints has systems in place where it maintains direct contact with its clients. And for Painterior, with 95-per-cent repeat clients, it is evident that its work speaks for itself.
Strategies to growth: Painterior is eyeing niche coatings.
´I can offer paints that resemble and perform like stone and are much cheaper and faster to apply,´ says Merchant. ´Similarly, there are textured products that perform aesthetically and protect as well.´ The challenges: ´The rate and margins are tight and it has become a volume game now,´ rues Parakh. Merchant offers his solution to ensure quality: ´We have a structured and defined training programme, organised once a year every monsoon.´ To this Parakh adds, ´It is simple. To survive and grow, everybody will have to improve their working or fall in line.´ For Merchant, the key is awareness. ´To break the norm of assigning work to general contractors, developers should be made aware of the benefits of specialised paint contractors.´
Paints SECTOR´S CALL
Consider automisation if there is substantial work to be executed at a stretch.
If sequencing of activities on site is managed, automisation can take place leading to cost savings.
Spread awareness about what paint contractors can offer.
Contractors should be involved in the planning stage for easy retrofit; execution cost could be high if not planned properly.
"If involved in the initial stage, we can suggest the surface required for a particular paint.´
- Aasim Merchant, Partner, Painterior
"For exterior paints, the requirement would be a product with a three or five-year life-cycle.´
- Aneel Parakh, Managing Director, Godavri Paints Pvt Ltd
Waterproofing: Protect and defend
Initially, many projects avoided waterproofing as a cost-cutting mechanism. But the need to protect structures paved the way for the market to grow. Although conventional membranes and easy-to-fix products still hold sway, there is a growing trend towards waterproofing contracting. As mechanisation takes root, the need for specialised waterproofing applicators will increase.
Services offered: ´The project size has scaled up from, say, 10,000 sq ft of roof in 1965 to 100,000 sq ft roof today,´ says Mehul Parikh, Managing Director, Nina Waterproofing Systems Pvt Ltd, which was established in August 1965 as a partnership and became a private limited company in 2001. Further, one is moving from conventional cementitious techniques to advanced techniques in terms of chemicals and membranes with demand for high durability and service life. ´We waterproof buildings from basement to roof,´ he adds. ´So it becomes crucial to interact with stakeholders from day one and offer inputs on selection of waterproofing and create method statements and drawings.´ Pidilite Industries Ltd, a major stakeholder in Nina, has a stake in two waterproofing contracting companies and an arrangement with applicators it works with. ´When basement waterproofing is to be done, it is rolled out at the preconstruction stage,´ says Sanjay Bahadur, Group CEO, Construction Chemicals Business, Pidilite Industries Ltd. ´We are seeing a transition to more mechanised and specialised waterproofing systems because the demand is for leak-free buildings and, in India, there is a huge amount of leakage that needs treatment.´
Strategies to grow: Efficiency needs to be improved with time to deliver larger projects. ´If one moves from a labour-oriented to a system-oriented approach, it would translate into larger business and better quality management,´ says Parikh. The requirement in a steel and concrete composite structure will be different from a regular RCC-framed structure. So, waterproofing specifications need to evolve. ´We do that, and it keeps us ahead of the market in a leadership position,´ he adds.
From unorganised to organised
´Who would like to be a specialised waterproofing applicator?´asks Bahadur. He proceeds to answer: ´If the need is an engineer with problem-solving skills, he would also like to do specialised waterproofing. So, it becomes important for builders to shift from conventional waterproofing to spray-applied systems and more.´
Automatically, the right people will get into the business. For Parikh, it begins with regularising construction and waterproofing players following suit. Suggesting the formation of a Waterproofing Contractors´ Association, he says, ´Contractors like us can discuss ideas together and the industry will benefit.´
Waterproofing SECTOR´S CALL
Create and develop specialised applicators and techniques to ensure quality construction and installation.
In developed countries, waterproofing contractors use spray and mechanised applications and are 10 times more productive. Develop this in India.
Set up a specialised training programme.
Create standards; then everyone will automatically fall in line with specifications.
"For chemicals and membranes, the demand is for techniques with high durability and service life.´
- Mehul Parikh, Managing Director, Nina Waterproofing Systems Pvt Ltd
"We are seeing a transition to more mechanised and specialised waterproofing systems.´
- Sanjay Bahadur, Group CEO, Construction Chemicals Business, Pidilite Industries Ltd
PEB: Factory made and easy fit
Traditionally, India has always been a country for smart construction. From living at lower levels, our homes have grown higher with a shift in preference to high-rise construction. However, this has raised concerns about the method of erecting load at these dizzying heights. In a business where the need for safety is paramount, Alakesh Roy, Managing Director,Zamil Steel, informs us that the company has recorded zero incidences at most of its sites. ´We are the contractors in 90 per cent of the projects that we take up,´ he says. ´We supply along with playing a key role in erecting the structure.´
Planning for growth: PEB is a terminology that came to force in the early 2000s. Today, for a warehousing company, land is the appreciating asset while the building is the depreciating asset; thus, they opt for cheaper construction. Zamil Steel basically focuses on companies planning for the long term. ´We have also modified our structural stability certificate,´ shares Roy. ´Our norm is 20-year structural services and, on the customer´s requirement, we can offer 50 years as well.´ Also, augmenting designs through software is in vogue. For instance, companies like Zamil Steel are doing projects with 2D and 3D modelling to ensure easy detailing. The company is also opting for parallel construction.
Residential scope: There is 100-per-cent scope in using PEB in residential buildings but the buyers are missing. Steel construction is the best form considering India is a seismic zone - especially the north and east. ´Had there been steel construction in Nepal, such loss of humans and properties could have been lessened.´ Strategies to grow: ´Zamil Steel´s share of speciality work vis-a-vis total supply has been around 25 per cent´ says Roy.
This year´s target for the specialised market is 40 per cent, expected to grow to almost 50 per cent by next year. ´We hope for around 40,000 tonne or equivalent in speciality fabrication by 2016-17,´ says Roy. The company has already started taking turnkey contracts including civil. ´I do the building above ground level, the foundation and part of the civil work that goes into flooring, etc.´ Such offers are sure to a go long way in growing the market.
The challenges: Design and fabrication can be achieved; the challenge lies in erecting the structure. In India, clients are not willing to invest in the technology required to erect structures at heights. ´Why 19 days, this can be done in nine days,´ says Roy. ´But is anyone willing to pay for the nine days, which would amount to Rs 1 crore per day?´
PEB SECTOR´S CALL
For 100-m high-rise construction, developers should venture into complete steel.
India is a 250-grade steel country and PEB caters to 350 grades. So as the strength of steel increases, new ventures can be launched.
Grow awareness and educate customers so they know what´s best for them.
There is 100-per-cent scope of using PEB in residential buildings.´
- Alakesh Roy, Managing Director, Zamil Steel
Restoration and retrofitting: High on heritage
A highly niche market with few players, heritage contactors in India enjoy strong potential for growth. ´In the government sector, large-scale funds are allocated to heritage conservation,´ says Divay Gupta, Principal Director-Architectural Division, INTACH. ´And with the launch of government schemes like HRIDAY and smart cities, there is renewed interest in the private sector towards restoration and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings for personal and commercial use.´ The majority of work is related to historic building conservation and upgrading heritage buildings to current service standards. Another imperative in working on a restoration project is to revive skill. As Kruti Garg, Director-Conservation, Abha Narain Lambah Associates, shares, ´I have only been passing through oral tradition as many skills are not even documented in the form of drawing books or detailed books.´Hence, specialised skills are a must.
Need for services: It is important to have the selection criteria in place before taking up a project. ´If you are working on a project in Rajasthan, for instance, and restoration involves lime plaster, it is extremely important to source contactors who have worked with lime,´ says Garg. With cement coming in, lime work is not as prevalent as it used to be. But a conservation job entails work with older materials; hence, speciality contractors are required. In restoration, there are two approaches: Hire an agency with various skills sets or hire different skill sets independently. As Garg adds, ´An agency with various skill sets should be good with wood carving and carpentry, offer brilliant lime work and would know the process of handling material.´ In retrofitting, where existing buildings are fitted with modern-day requirements, it becomes important for speciality contractors to understand that they cannot just puncture a hole anywhere in the building - structural integrity has to be maintained.
Current trends: If contractors tap their strengths to deliver exclusive or high-end product delivery or services, they can really get their businesses going. ´Contractors should highlight their skill sets in providing services of that nature not just for conservation firms but newer structures for people who have similar requirements,´ advises Garg.
The challenges: There has been a steady increase in demand for specialised services, especially in Mumbai, Rajasthan and Delhi. Even Tier-II cities like Amritsar, Ranchi and Gwalior have specialised contractors doing heritage work. But challenges remain. Citing ´unregulated contractors and lack of accreditations of specialised contractors´ as problems, Gupta says, ´Another major challenge is limited availability of skills for dying traditional building construction techniques that are generally used in heritage conservation, unlike the use of modern materials and techniques in greenfield projects.´
Restoration and retrofitting SECTOR´S CALL
Specialist retrofit or restoration contractors can advance themselves by citing service upgrade in their portfolio.
Specialist contractors can make themselves more acceptable in terms of cost - much does not get done owing to financial implications.
To establish themselves, contractors can form a system, get empanelled with agencies and provide services that are more qualitative than quantitative at a non-prohibitive cost.
"Many skills are not even documented in the form of drawing books or detailed books.´
- Kruti Garg, Director-Conservation, Abha Narain Lambah Associates
"There is renewed interest in the private sector towards restoration and adaptive reuse of heritage buildings.´
- Divay Gupta, Principal Director-Architectural Division, INTACH
According to Kruti Garg, Director-Conservation, Abha Narain Lambah Associates, speciality contractors for heritage conservation work should have the following skill sets:
Structural retrofitting expertise with historic materials.
Masonry and stone work.
Timber work and joinery.
Working with lime - plastering, stucco, etc.
Decorative wall and ceiling finishes.
Having machinery to achieve specialised work.
- Shriyal sethumadhavan