PV Rao, Director, Pennar Industries, Hyderabad, elaborates on the concept of Pre‐Engineered Steel Buildings and their advantages over conventional buildings.

Pre-Engineered Steel Buildings

The pre-engineered building technology, which entered the Indian construction arena during the late ‘90s, has gained widespread acceptance among the end-users and is steadily advancing with construction of infrastructure projects across the country. The major segments catered to are industrial buildings, warehouses, retail super-markets, aircraft hangers, power plants, high-rises, commercial buildings, defense installations, railway stations, workshops, etc.

The increasing acceptance of PEB-based construction technique is because it is innovative, high-tech, and faster, ensuring efficient, cost-effective, and timely completion of projects (which is the pre-requisite for the construction sector to meet tight construction schedules).

A PEB occupies only 20 to 25% of the total ongoing industrial and warehousing construction in India, compared to 95% in the Middle East, Far East, and USA. In India, we expect the growth rate of 10 to 15% on year-on-year basis in the PEB segment.

We have a huge shortage of skilled workers like masons, carpenters, rod benders. As against the current requirement of 4.25 crore of skilled workers for civil construction, we have only 2.75 crore. Hence, many major projects are getting delayed.

In view of shortage of skilled manpower, the most preferred alternative to concrete construction is the PEB. Consultants, architects, and institutional customers have understood the benefits of PEB concept in terms of project timelines, economy, aesthetics, etc and have started promoting PEBs.

Drawing overwhelming response from construction and infrastructure builders due to the heightened construction activities going on across the country, global players in the PEB industry have launched multi-pronged brand building initiatives by holding technical seminars, exhibitions and workshops displaying their products to popularize the benefits of PEB and thereby have created more awareness of PEB systems.

Advantages of PEB over conventional and concrete methods
  • High strength to weight ratio: The weight of the structure made of steel will be less, resulting in less member sizes and foundations.
  • Uniformity in strength: Properties of steel do not change as opposed to concrete.
  • Ductility: Steel can withstand extensive deformation without failure under high reversal of stresses especially during earthquakes.
  • Toughness: Steel has both strength and ductility.
  • Additions to existing structures: New bays or entire new wings can be added to existing frame of buildings and steel bridges can easily be widened.
  • Ability to span long distance: Steel is good for clear and longer span, and, with steel, providing column less space is more economical than RCC.
  • Faster occupancy: With PEBs, one can save 20 to 25% time in the construction of industrial buildings and around 40% time for multi-storeyed buildings. Early occupancy generates early returns.
  • Cost-efficiency: Optimised design results in less usage of steeI and cost.
  • Flexibility of expansion: PEBs are easy to expand or modify.
  • Low maintenance: PEBs need very minimal maintenance. They are designed to withstand impact of earthquakes and hurricanes.
  • Single-source responsibility: In PEBs, responsibility starting from design till erection lies in a single hand, so there is no hassle of multiple agencies.
  • Factory controlled quality: From raw material till finish, at every stage, quality is controlled.
  • Relocatable: PEB buildings can be dismantled and re-erected at another location.
The width of a building can be predominantly more without intermediate support. This also substantially contributes towards open and free space under the roof. Heavy EOT cranes can be installed effortlessly to make material handling efficient and easy. Conveyor belts can also be incorporated at the apex of the roof that is for pyramidal structure for ease in process. Arch type of roof provides much wider span and provide clear storing space.

With the boom in e-commerce, manufacturing, domestic consumption, FDls, and international trade, warehousing in India is seeing a lot of scope for growth. Unlike the conventional storage process, the warehouse industry is coming up with many value added services, and the industry is growing over 20% annually.

Lack of space due to exponential rise in population in urban areas has not only given way to taller buildings with more floors, but also increased demand for fast construction.

Building a high-rise or any multi-level building demands use of light-weight yet strong materials. Steel, by virtue of its high strength to weight ratio enables large spans and light weight construction. Steel structures can have a variety of structural forms like braced frames and moment resistant frames suitable to meet the specific requirements of high-rise buildings. Taller buildings also face higher wind loads, and hence steel being flexible, allows the building to move and deflect with the wind forces, rather than making it rigid, like concrete.

Building tall with steel also allows more floors per total height of the building. This is due to the fact that the building structure in steel is lighter and more efficient, and has beams that are not required to be as deep as those of concrete to support the floors. The ability to have lighter sections, allowing the same load bearing capacity per floor, allows space for almost 1.5 extra floors in the same over-all external height of the building.

The level of awareness about the benefits of new eco-friendly materials in the construction industry is growing and the industry is moving forward from traditional methods of construction to the environment friendly methods (Green Buildings). As a result, the PEB system is today the most preferred choice amongst architects, builders, developers, and industrialists.
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