Riding high on formwork

August 2013
Growing takers for innovative products and customised offerings are defining the new shape of the Indian scaffolding and formwork market, finds CHARU BAHRI.

With time management and cost control gaining focus, construction companies are paying greater attention to labour and time saving techniques. Modern formwork and scaffolding is one such method - it constitutes less than 5 per cent of the project cost but can usher in considerable savings especially in the face of increasingly scarce and expensive labour. As a result, the fortunes of formwork and scaffolding vendors are looking up.

Growth mode

Already a sizeable market, the formwork and scaffolding industry is clearly in expansionist mode. Anupam Sharma, CEO, Doka India Pvt Ltd, conservatively pegs the market for system formwork in India at around Rs 800 crore.

"Demand for organised Indian formwork and scaffolding is around Rs 2,103 crore and it is growing at 10 to 15 per cent annually," says Sushil Sahani, Managing Director, Pranav Construction Systems Pvt Ltd, a player in the system formwork industry.

"Based upon recent successes, we expect our business in India to grow by 25 per cent in 2013 and predict similar growth over the next three years," estimates Paul Grant, Head-Scaffolding & Access, HARSCO Infrastructure, India.

"Recent recessionary trends have impacted the construction scenario in the country. Still, formwork has been maintaining a steady pace of growth even in the face of volatile market conditions. Continuing emphasis on infrastructure development is good for the formwork industry," says Anibrata Routh, General Manager, PERI India Pvt Ltd. Notably, the biggest uptake of overseas branded formwork and scaffolding is for large infrastructure projects and landmark high-rise residential projects. According to real estate developer Mahesh Rathi, Managing Director, Windsor Shelters Pvt Ltd, "Branded scaffolding from overseas companies is technologically advanced but beyond the financial reach of smaller construction businesses. We prefer locally made cuplock systems with adjustable telescopic props and spans for framework. A few such providers around Pune are Tejus Engineers, Saluja, Diamond Scaffolding, Shivraj & Orient Scaffolding, etc." Rathi believes the influx of overseas brands is creating a new segment in the market, which is otherwise constituted of local brands and pan-Indian brands, which also export, such as ACME Overseas, HIM Overseas, Veer Scaffolding, etc.

Boost factors

No doubt - mammoth proposed investments in infrastructure bode well for providers of formwork and scaffolding industry. Sahani foresees tremendous growth in the next couple of years as these fast track projects unfold and as construction companies adopt cost-effective system formwork. Adequate and attractively priced equipment loans from government sources and other financial institutions are also proving to be a boon in helping contractors opt for system formwork.

According to Routh, "Greater awareness of safety and quality, and emphasis on sustainability would enhance the adoption of automated formwork systems. Of course, this will present another challenge - the availability of skilled manpower to operate these systems. As companies push the boundaries of imaginative construction, the need for customised formwork solutions will rise. For instance, PERI has gained considerable experience in executing twisted high-rise buildings and inclined climbing procedures, thanks to its involvement with the Turning Torso in Sweden, the two Absolute World Towers in Canada, and now the Evolution Tower in Moscow."

Widening scope

So far, the greatest uptake of modern formwork systems has been from large and medium construction firms. However, a salient trend in the market is increasing interest from smaller outfits engaged in standard projects for attractively priced, easy-to-use branded formwork. As an example, Doka India launched framed formwork Frami Eco and slab formwork Dokaflex 15 in India last year. According to Sharma, "These two eco-line products are helping extend the ambit of modern formwork to small contractors, who are becoming as conscious about saving labour and time while ensuring quality finish." While Frami Eco facilitates the crane-free, quick and economical forming of foundations, walls and columns, Dokaflex 15 is a new formwork solution for thinner residential concrete floor-slabs (10-15 cm thickness) supported by a larger number of downstand beams. Sturdy components make up these formwork systems - Frami Eco combines a hard-wearing powder-coated hollow steel-section frame and a 15 mm Dokaplex form-facing to ensure an optimised product with a long service life and dependability over many reuse cycles.

Scaffolding for hire Another interesting development is suppliers turning into service providers, offering clients scaffolding as well as trained workforce. Grant sees great scope for Harsco's internationally certified products manufactured in India, which the company makes available on hire - "We can hire to clients on a short term basis, which enables them to utilise capital for core activities rather than for the purchase of equipment. Our internationally certified workforce trained in India at our purpose-built training schools, handles the scaffolding."

Harsco is attracting an increasing number of international and Indian, industrial and construction companies for its hire and installation services, safety management and supervision of works. According to Grant, "These are typically companies with high levels of expectation regarding health and safety and productivity. Traditionally in India, clients purchase sub-standard material and employ sub-standard and untrained labour to install their scaffolding, but this is changing."

"It makes sense to hire scaffolding for small projects and buy it for larger projects," says Rathi about this trend.

Lightweight predominance

Across the industry, aluminium formwork is making very fast inroads because it is durable, readily available and lightweight. Pranav Construction Systems is seeing greater takers for its aluminium formwork for column - beam-slab casting and for monolithic casting - especially for easy-to-use and economical craneless systems. "Customers have appreciated revamped versions of Alvert for vertical casting and Aludek for horizontal casting with drop head methodology, which offer a smooth finish and a five to seven days cycle. Now these systems can be used in slabs with beam grids. Another well received development is Almon, a lightweight, flexible, twist proof, durable system used primarily for monolithic casting. With this, each typical floor can be cast in four to five days instead of 15 to 18 days as required by a conventional system with better finishes, higher repetition and almost halving the labour cost," notes Sahani.

Real estate developer PBEL Property Development India Pvt Ltd is using aluminum formwork for its large PBEL City Hyderabad project. Surya Pulagam Reddy, Managing Director, PBEL India Property Development Pvt Ltd, explains the choice - "Aluminium formwork can be custom-designed to suit the needs of a certain project, and thereby facilitate the rapid construction of all types of architectural layouts. It is a total system forming the complete concrete structure with a high quality finish. Also, it is cost-effective, panels can be reused up to 100 to 200 times and the form system can be erected using unskilled labour."

As greater numbers of construction companies set their priorities for success, opportunities will continue to grow for providers of formwork and scaffolding.

Quick Bytes

  • Indian formwork and scaffolding industry is growing at a healthy 10 to 15 per cent annually.
  • Modern formwork and scaffolding constitutes less than 5 per cent of the project cost.
  • As recommended: hire scaffolding for small projects and buy it for larger projects.

Biggest uptake of foreign brands: large infrastructure and high-rise residential projects.

Case: New Product Acceptance
Project: The Address, Mumbai
Project features: Ten 28-storey residential towers in Ghatkopar, Mumbai.
Contractor: L & T
The offering: Globally, Topec slab formwork is widely used for construction. It is a simple, lightweight aluminium formwork that can be safely handled by three men, without a crane. Significant reductions in cost and increase in productivity can be achieved as compared to conventional table forms because safe erection and dismantling can be done from the ground and Topec's large 1.8 sq m panels can quickly cover areas and support slab thicknesses of up to 400 mm. Smaller panels can be used to support thicker slabs of 500 to 750 mm. Topec needs no secondary or primary beams and clamps. Its main components are simply panels, props and bearings. Panels can be supported by tubular steel props with quick release mechanism. Propping heights up to 3.5 m are possible.

Acceptance: L & T contracted Harsco to apply Topec for flat slab and drop beam construction. Dr Andrew Dent, Head-Health & Safety, L&T, elucidates the rationale behind this decision, saying, "From choice, I would engage Harsco on all of our projects as their level of commitment to health and safety sets the standard for the industry. Harsco's professional approach gives real value and, as we often observe, there should be no compromise on safety. Engaging them delivers on this promise."

CASE: Customised Formwork

Project: Signature Tower, part of Techno Park, an upcoming IT park in Chennai
Project features: A commercial project consisting of 28 stories; 130 m tall, designed by Carlos Ott Architects and Carlos Ponce de Le=n Architects
Contractor: Larsen & Toubro, Chennai
Salient challenge: To provide automatic climbing formwork and horizontal working platforms for sloping core walls, which are decreasing in width with height.
Solution: Automatic climbing formwork SKE50 has been used in the interior of the shaft (the structure is E-shaped, with one wall stacked inside the other). Doka's horizontal working platform Top 50 is increasing the efficiency of workers and saving time.
Customisation offered: Due to heavy rebars, L&T was forced to introduce self-compacting concrete. In response, Doka experts designed Top 50 formwork, which could resist the high concreting pressure of 90 kN/sq m and also helped provide a good finish.

CASE: Customised Formwork, Global Trends

Project: Evolution Tower, Moscow, Russia
Project features: A 249 m high 52-storey tower part of Moscow's International Trade Centre, Moscow City.
Contractor: CJSC Renaissance Construction, Moscow
Salient challenge: Each completed floor is arranged around the central core of the building, and twists 3¦ in relation to the preceding one. The overall rotational (clockwise direction) effect of the skyscraper from the base to the top is more than 150.
Solution: Combined climbing formwork for the vertical core walls and twisted corner supports in connection with the obliquely climbed protection panel and landing platform.
Customisation offered: PERI GmbH developed a crane-independent formwork based on RCS and ACS self-climbing technology. A special gallows construction accelerates the shuttering and striking procedures. Additionally, the climbing formwork system for the rectangular columns fulfil two other tasks: in the area of the building corners, the external formwork system serves as slab edge formwork when forming the floor slabs, while the RCS formwork system also acts as a climbing protection panel and thus part of the building enclosure.

Forming price expectations

The cost of formwork depends on various parameters such as the desired number of repetitions, cycle time required, project completion time, project cost, the type of construction, etc. "Under regular circumstances, the cost of formwork varies between 1 and 3 per cent for residential and commercial projects and is about 2 per cent for infrastructure projects," estimates Sushil Sahani, Managing Director, Pranav Construction Systems Pvt Ltd.

According to Peter Baxter, General Manager, Harsco Infrastructure, "As a general rule, the formwork on a project runs at between 1 and 1.5 per cent of a contract's value."

Anupam Sharma, CEO, Doka India Pvt Ltd, approximates the cost for a high rise building at between 4 and 8 per cent and at about 3 per cent for a low rise residential building.