BAI working on construction technologies, sustainability, standardization

S. Narsimha Reddy, President, Builders’ Association of India
According to S. Narsimha Reddy, President, Builders’ Association of India, modern construction technologies, use of sustainable building materials and standardisation are important for achieving project completion timelines and quality, but real estate developers and builders must also focus on efficient project management.

As President of BAI, one of India’s oldest associations, how do you reflect on India’s infra development over the past 30 years – from two-lane to 16-lane expressways, 100-storey skyscrapers, transition from 90% labor-oriented construction to highly mechanized solutions, etc?

It is indeed an honor to be the President of Builders’ Association of India (BAI), the only national apex body representing civil engineering construction companies working for the betterment of the construction industry. The evolution of India’s infrastructure over the last three decades has been truly remarkable. Observing this growth is not only encouraging but also indicative of a significant shift from labour-intensive methods to advanced mechanized construction techniques. This shift towards technology has not only sped up project timelines but also improved construction quality and safety.

BAI: Working on Many Fronts

The projected growth rate of 8.2% in the infrastructure sector by 2027 underscores the pivotal role this industry plays in India’s economic development. The government’s allocation of INR 10 lakh crore in the 2022-23 Union Budget demonstrates its commitment to fortifying infrastructure, emphasizing a sustained focus on progress.

As members of the BAI, we are dedicated to supporting industry growth, promoting innovative practices, and maintaining high standards of quality and sustainability in construction. This is an exciting time to be part of this transformation, and I’m optimistic about India’s future progress in shaping its infrastructure.

India is investing heavily in building its infrastructure and executing projects at record speed, but, on the other hand, there are hundreds of major projects being delayed from one year to 20 years, which increases project cost. As a prominent builder, what factors and issues do you identify for causing these delays, and what measures do you believe the government should take to overcome them?

BAI is working on various fronts and communicating to the government about the problems being faced, and also suggesting remedial measures. BAI was quite influential during the Vivad Se Vishwas campaign and the Mediation Bill that was recently passed. There are other concerns and certain procedural issues pertaining to the tender process, road laying and construction, financials, taxation, etc, which BAI is working on to resolve. Builders and developers are also facing issues like price hike in cement and steel, labor reforms, contract uniformity, litigation/arbitration, etc for which we are seeking immediate attention from the government.

Today, technology is playing a major role in the construction process from planning and design to execution and maintaining and monitoring projects. What steps is BAI taking to collaborate with tech companies and raise awareness among its members to encourage adoption of new technologies?

Technology is always for the betterment, and it is advisable to adopt technological innovations in construction for reducing human errors, among other benefits. We are creating awareness for its adoption as we believe that no matter how much technology advances, we still need humans for manning the systems, so we need to focus on being human and following safe construction practices.

How is BAI addressing the important aspects of sustainability and the circular economy (waste-to-wealth) and is it working with the government to implement green building practices?

Following the national infra vision it is essential to implement green building practices, such as using energy-efficient materials and systems, adopting energy-efficient designs, and using renewable energy sources as sustainable construction practices to help improve the quality of life.

BAI regularly conducts seminar and workshops in its endeavour to create greater awareness. The government’s mission is to assist and augment the Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities projects by leveraging science, technology, and innovation to create circular economic models to streamline waste management in the country. As far as I know, India’s Construction Sector is ready to embrace the Circular Economy principles, which are being driven by government policies, innovative entrepreneurs, and responsible businesses.

How can the construction industry help India achieve net-zero emissions by 2070?

There are different definitions and types of net zero buildings, but it remains to be seen how much can be really achieved. The golden rule is to implement measures that will reduce energy demand and ensure that buildings are highly energy efficient. Theoretically, one can reduce demand on virgin materials by repurposing waste materials, use fossil fuels, incorporate circular economy principles, design for adaptability, reuse eco-friendly and waste materials of demolished buildings, and build responsibly so that there is minimum damage to the environment.

India’s infrastructure is growing, and it is good to see the modernized equipment, techniques and solutions improving the quality and pace of construction.

BAI: Working on Many Fronts

According to a report, the size of India’s Residential Real Estate Market is expected to grow from USD 182.14 billion in 2023 to USD 550.83 billion by 2028, and one trillion by 2035. There is a massive demand for affordable housing in many parts of the country, driven by rapid urbanization. To meet the demand for such extensive real estate construction, builders and developers need to focus on standardization, precast construction, and mechanization. Where do you see the industry standing today, and what collective steps should be taken in this direction?

To achieve faster construction, standardisation is inevitable. The adoption of modern construction technologies can play a key role in achieving the desired goals. It is also important that the real estate developers focus on effective project management and project integration.

As mentioned earlier, the government has set an infra structure vision for India and the industry will follow the procedural mechanisms in due course of time. With the government focus on Housing for All, it will definitely boost demand for housing in cities across the country. Already, India has made headway in building national highways connecting all passenger, trade and freight points. About 13,800 km of highways construction is envisaged with an outlay of Rs 2.81 lakh crore in 2023-24 alone, up 33% from a year ago.

We believe that no matter how much technology advances, we still need humans for manning the systems, so we need to focus on being human and following safe construction practices.

Financing and investment pose challenges for real estate developers and infrastructure project owners. How are you engaging with banks/NBFCs, tapping into foreign direct investment (FDI) and exploring ways with the help of the government to address these issues?

Several reforms undertaken by the Central government have helped but there is need for making a paradigm shift from conventional financing mediums to institutional financing. BAI is deliberating on making this shift from over-dependence on banks, customers’ advances to Private Equity (PE) funds, pension funds and Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs).

What potential do you see in a platform like CII-Excon for assisting contractors and developers in selecting the right equipment and technology for use in complex infrastructure and real estate projects?

CII-Excon platform has grown over the years and is playing a catalytic role in showcasing innovations in the Construction Equipment and related industries, which is supporting infrastructure development of the country. Excon is a platform that connects all infrastructure stakeholders, including policymakers, investors, and developers, and engages them with the exciting construction industry.
NBM&CW - December 2023
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