Home >Industry >Infrastructure >Construction firms rely on prefab tech to bypass covid hurdles

Large construction firms have turned to the use of prefabricated structures as a stringent lockdown slowed the movement of men and material to work sites. Project consultants and executives working on large EPC projects said that even when the number of workers fell by nearly half, the use of prefab structures kept project work going at a steady pace.

In prefabricated construction, entire structures such as beams, slabs, columns and walls are built and transported to work sites, where they are put together. As the bulk of the work happens at an off-site location, it increases construction speed, ensures consistent quality and reduces wastage.

While prefabs are typically used in mass housing projects or where on-site construction is difficult, such as building an offshore oil rig, its use is now expanding to other areas such as Metros, roads and highways.

Prefab structures have helped build new hospitals and quarantine facilities in record time amid covid-19. Tata Projects Ltd, for instance, is building a 400-bed medical facility at Kerala’s Kasargod, with the prefabricated structures coming by truck from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

“One of the recent developments is increasing usage of prefab technologies for putting up faster, high-quality and cost-efficient structures," said K. Satyanarayana, chief operating officer - industrial systems at Tata Projects. “Unlike traditional technologies, which depend heavily on on-site construction, prefab structures are delivered as a finished product from manufacturing facilities to the project site. It involves a structural steel framework attached with factory finished cladding and roofing component."

This is also faster than conventional construction because different functions can be performed simultaneously. “For example, in conventional construction, the walls cannot be set until floors are in position, and ceilings and rafters cannot be added until walls are erected. But the advantage of off-site manufacturing facility production allows walls, floors, ceilings and rafters to all be built at the same time and thereafter be brought to the site for assembly," Satyanarayana said.

“Pre-cast construction is less labour-intensive and ensures better quality, but there is a threshold size of project beyond which only it makes economic sense," said Pankaj Vatsa, executive director at engineering consulting firm Egis India. “Wherever there is large requirement and there is a standardization of construction elements, prefab is best option, like in mass affordable housing projects."

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