Developers Must Start Using Alternative Building Materials: Anand Narayan, COO, Puravankara Ltd
At a time when the government is making all possible effort to providing housing to all, the real estate sector must look for ways to cut down costs and building time, say experts. At a roundtable discussion held jointly by Housing.com and Track2Realty, Anand Narayanan, COO, Puravankara Ltd, said that homebuyers were still not considering new and unconventional materials for their homes. “The last five miles in terms of delivery and quality need to come from the use of alternative material. As a country and a consumer point of view, we are still some distance away from it,” Narayanan observes.
“If you see the western market, the columns and beams are concrete and steel, the walls are gypsum boards, for instance. It gives you factory finish, you could fit in it, spray paint it and you are done. But the Indian consumer is still not ok with it. They need a heavy-duty wall even though it is not a necessity with respect to our climatic conditions. Even if you look at the flooring it is either carpet or wooden flooring, the Indian consumer still wants to mop their floor,” he adds.
For this to change, both buyers and developers should take the leap of faith, he says. Developers must start using these products and buyers should start to accept it. With change also comes the responsibility to make homebuyers feel safe. Therefore, developers will need to add information about these alternative materials in their brochures and inform the homebuyers about its benefits. “Don’t surprise them,” cautions Narayanan.
The shift is also important, considering the pricing will come down sizeably. As for its strength, Dr PR Swarup, director-general, Construction Industry, says that technology and use of alternative material such as form work is reliable and there are no disadvantages. Despite this, market penetration has been quite low and less than seven per cent. It also takes some intent on behalf of the developer who must start using substitutes, but most of them are still hanging on to their stock of steel.
Are homebuyers open to experimenting with construction materials?
For a lot of homebuyers, familiarity is the key. If they are familiar with the material or have used it before, they feel safe. They are skeptical about anything new.
Take for instance Benita Bajaj, who is a working professional in Kolkata. She is comfortable with the idea of traditional homes because it saves her from an extra heap of research. “May be alternatives are just being tried out and being experimented with. What if it doesn’t suit our climatic needs? What if it is not seism-proof?” she asks. Bajaj’s spouse Vikrant says that perhaps if reputed developers introduce substitutes and make homebuyers aware of this offering, it should work.
Sakshi Awasthi, who has lived abroad for over five years, says that it is more to do with the mass mentality. “If my neighbour or my brother-in-law goes for it, I am ok with it, too,” she says.
Challenges facing new construction methods
Alternatives always face challenges in the beginning. One of the reasons being it will surely go by a different construction methodology. For example, hempcrete is popular in Europe. The same is not true in India. Much also depends on where this alternative is brought in from. It is always profitable and feasible if the product is available at an optimal cost within the country rather than importing at a high cost.
Other problems include issues like seeking valid certifications. If the government doesn’t encourage, there is no chance that it could thrive. Experts are of the view that manpower and skillset are still not up to the mark when it comes to the Indian real estate sector. Although skill development has been at the centre of the government’s initiatives, for the majority of workers, it takes years to upgrade their skillset which is still rooted to the traditional modes of construction.