The just concluded budget has made is clear. It is the infrastructure sector that holds the key to achieve $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. The government has allocated enough funds for the infrastructure development of the country and to complete this infrastructure development within the timeline, precast industry holds the key
It was just five years back. The government envisioned making India a USD 5 trillion economy and a global economic powerhouse by 2024-25. To achieve this, the government needed to connect the dots. Infrastructure development was the need of the hours. The country needed to connect its cities, town and villages much faster than before to ring in economic prosperity to the last citizen. Bridges & tunnels were to build at a break neck speed. The traditional way of brick and motor construction would have taken past the deadline. Now, the fastest way to construct to within the stipulated time mandated by the authorities is to go for precast concrete. Now, what are precast concrete? We all have seen real estate construction site where concrete is poured in to a mould (either wood or other type of materials) to create walls, slabs, columns, and other types of cement structures required for real estate construction. This type of construction takes longer time to complete the project; whereas precast concretes are made in factory. To put it in simple terms, precast concretes are concrete structures, such as walls, slabs that are made in factory and then transported to the project sites. With the help of construction equipment such as tower crane, these walls and slabs are lifted and then placed in the required place. For eg, required slab lifted by crane to sixth floor. As far as the definition is concern, precast construction technology is defined as the construction of walls, slabs and other required cement structures which are produced by casting concrete in a reusable mold or "form" in a factory which is then cured in a controlled environment and transported to the construction site.
The prime mover
Nowadays, owing to stringent deadline and penalty for missing deadline under RERA act, real estate developers prefer precast concrete. By doing so they not only save on labour cost, but get better quality and the project gets completed before time as structures built using this technology do not need plastering. In fact, according to real estate analysts the use of precast technology, real estate players can complete project at least four months ahead of schedule. A few of the real estate players we spoke plans to use precast for roofs, walls and floors with pre decided space for electric, plumbing, etc. These precast concrete can be bolted together by steel connectors which are embedded in the concrete at the time of casting or can be grouted or concreted together. In this method, loops of steel reinforcement are left protruding out of the precast concrete members. Two members are placed in position, and reinforcement is threaded between the loops. Fresh concrete is then poured around this reinforcement, in a space left for this purpose.
“Use of precast in real estate not only speeds up construction but also gives aesthetic appeal, furthermore it increased the carpet are too” said a Mumbai-based real estate player. In real estate project precast concrete is used as beams, columns, floor slabs, foundations, wall or cladding panels and other structural members for buildings. These can be custom-designed in shape and size with a variety of surface finishes and colours. Elematic India, a leading precast concrete player has 3 levels of technology adoption along with BIM design for making building structural design in 3D virtual platform. The first level is SEMI for Start up plants for production up to 1.5 million sq ft/ year with minimal automation – suitable for site-based plants and project specific off-site installation; Next comes PRO for medium level automation for projects up to 3.5 million sq ft/ year suitable for site-based plants and factory installation and the third is the EDGE for high level automation for projects up to 10 million sq ft/ year and above, suitable for site-based plants and factory installation.
According to Grand View Research, the global precast concrete market size was valued at USD 92.14 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3% from 2021 to 2028. The research attribute growing investments in infrastructure development projects in the Asia Pacific region as the primary factors driving the product demand over the forecast period. If we go by the global precast concrete market projection by Global market research and consulting firms, India too is expected to register CAGR of 5-9% at least for the next two-three years. Our assumption is based on the increase spend on infrastructure project by the government and uptick in demand for both commercial and residential real estate. “Even though there is high volatility in business, clients have evolved and many have adopted technology as an extension to their business. In search of arriving at correct response to the opportunities that need to be addressed in such a situation, precast technology arms our clients to quickly respond with a shortened project time line and hence we see improved prospects for business in 2022 and beyond,” says Shridhar Rao, Sales Head India, Elematic India.
Like all other sectors, precast concrete sector too was badly hit by the Pandemic. But with relaxation in lockdown the sector started to gain pace. “With the 3rd wave progressing here in India and worldwide we have understood that we have to learn, adapt and live along with the Covid situation and we have been evolving our systems to cope up with effects of the Pandemic. Many of clients have migrated to construction solutions that are technology driven and precast technology by Elematic has been at the centre stage of all such developments. Use of technology is all forms of reach out to client and communications has taken the centre stage and BIM solutions has been one of the solutions that client has found to be of big advantage in this volatile situation,” says Shridhar Rao.
Infrastructure industry is the biggest growth driver for the precast industry. It is in infrastructure sector where the demand is maximum for precast. According to India & U.S. based market research and consulting company, Grand View Research, “The infrastructure segment has been the major driver for the growing product adoption as the product has enabled the infrastructure companies to significantly reduce the overall project timelines and generate significant savings, in terms of labor and raw material costs. Major infrastructure components, such as girders, pillars, and bridge sections, are fabricated at an offsite location and transported to the project site at the time of installation”. As far as India is concern the government is keen on faster transportation to connect the cities with the market and employment hubs. In this endeavour the government has encouraged setting of metro rails. According to Ministry of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, a total of 34 Metro Rail projects are at various stages of progress in the country including Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS).The Ministry has also received proposals for another 16 Metro Rail projects from various States and Union Territories for implementation which are in various stages of appraisal and approval. These metro rail projects are turning out to be the biggest growth driver for the precast sector. These metro rail projects are to be completed on time. The construction of metro rail passed through congested part of cities which not only disturbs the traffic but also cause inconvenience to the residents. To overcome these challenged the metro rail developers prefer precast concrete. The National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) employed precast construction technique for timely completion of Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut passageway. NCRTC deployed pre-cast primary and secondary beams, pier arms and other precast structures for construction of all elevated RRTS Stations of Sarai Kale Khan, New Ashok Nagar, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Guldhar, Duhai, Muradnagar, Modinagar North, Modinagar south and all elevated stations of Meerut, including concourse and platform level. In a statement, NCRTC informed that more than 70 to 80 per cent of the structural elements are being pre-casted and erected on with auto launching gantries and advanced high-capacity cranes for viaduct and stations. This whole process runs parallel to on-site construction which reduces overall project duration significantly. These beams and arms were casted at the casting yards and joined together at stations and viaducts using high-capacity rigs and cranes. Not only for elevated section of metro projects precast concretes are also used in underground metro rail tunnels as lining rings.
In Pandemic time
In the first Covid wave, it was race against time to save precious lives from the onslaught of Covid-19 virus. Hospitals have to completed and up in a record time. It was not possible with traditional brick and motor construction. The other building materials had it own disadvantages. The onus was on precast concrete to rise to the occasion and it did not disappoint. In record time hospitals were constructed. The Capital city which was badly hit in Covid waves and was gasping for want of bed to serve the patients went for precast construction technology. During the peak of Pandemic the Delhi government constructed seven hospitals deploying precast technology. In Tamil Nadu’s Erode district the 69,200.56 sq ft Government Erode Medical College and Hospital in Perundurai was constructed in just forty five days thus earning a place in the Elite World Records, Asian Records Academy, India Records Academy and Tamilan Book of Records as the “largest hospital building constructed by precast concrete technology in the shortest period”.
Potential market growth
It is the infrastructure projects that are going to be the growth drivers for precast industry. The recently concluded Union Budget 2022-23 has allocated plenty for the infrastructure sector. The roads and highways sector has received Rs. 1,18,101 lakh crore to provide a significant boost to construction of highways. In this sector, precast technology is widely used in construction of bridges, flyovers, viaducts, tunnels, etc. As per experts, implementation of precast technology for road construction saves on maintenance costs, strengthens roads and brings down the overall cost of road construction. For metro rail development in the country the government has allocated Rs. 19,130 crores. This allocation will help in increasing the metro rail network to 1,000-km from the existing 723-km. This offers huge opportunities for the precast sector.
Not to be ignored is the real estate sector. For the precast industry, housing sector is a gold mine. And this time too the government has not disappointed the precast and other allied industry connected to real estate sector. The precast sector can reap rich harvest form extended tax holiday for one more year, till 31st March 2022 for affordable housing, proposed new tax exemptions for notified affordable rental housing projects and government grant of granted Rs 54,581 crore to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
As far as the real estate sector in concern it is gaining momentum. Residential real estate which was limping still now is back to normal so is the commercial real estate. Realty players have lined up projects for execution be it affordable, residential or commercial. Precast is the answer for quality and timely delivery of projects. “A few of our ongoing projects are Aurobindo Realty and Infrastructure Hyderabad: in commercial IT buildings; PSP Ltd in residential and Infra Projects; My Home Construction Hyderabad in commercial IT buildings and B.E Billimoria Pune in residential for Police housing corporation,” says Shridhar Rao. Urban infrastructure is one more area where precast holds the key. These include Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban), urban public transport through expansion of metro rail network and augmentation of city bus service, modernisation of ports, provision for faecal sludge management and wastewater treatment to improve urban hygiene and augmenting the urban healthcare system.
It is a well know fact that precast works well with PEB, glass curtain wall, steel buildings. The galloping warehousing sector and data centers too will act as a catalyst for the growth of precast sector in India.