One of the benefits of blogging is connecting with a community of other folks interested in the latest innovations in structural panels. We’re engaging in conversation, sharing ideas, and creating new partnerships – and that engagement is happening on a global scale.

Through this blog, I’ve met Anuj Dayama in India, who’s just as excited about MgO panel applications as I am (good to know I’m not the only one in the world all worked up about magnesium oxide!). Through our conversations, Anuj has shed light on the current construction situation in India – and how the latest panel and building technology could solve some of their challenges. Over the next two weeks, I’ll share Anuj’s answers to questions I asked. He’s also taken some great photos, which I’ll post. So without further adieu, here’s question #1…

Post 1 in a Series of 4: Challenges in Indian Construction

The Panelman Man Asks: We have our fair share of new construction challenges here in America, what sorts of challenges does India face in new construction?

Anuj Answers: Most of our commercial and residential new construction utilizes full density concrete-rebar for structural work and concrete blocks or red clay brick masonry with Portland plaster for walls. These materials require a lot of curing at various stages. Now, one of the main problems we face in India is a steadily growing potable water shortage in a lot of areas. This makes the curing process very difficult, expensive, and not very energy efficient. Curing results in pollution and wastage of our precious potable water, which is at dangerously low levels or already depleted in some regions. The increasing salt levels in our decreasing underground water table deteriorate concrete and plaster mixes while accelerating rebar rust.

Another challenge we face in conventional new construction is that concrete and brick yield little or no insulation, so we are forced to increase energy use to stay cool in summer. We have rising annual temperatures, which makes this an urgent issue. It is a challenge to stay cool in un-electrified rural areas as well as urban centers, where frequent power cuts reduce access to air conditioning.

concrete rebar flat roofs in India, SIPs would work better

Pictured are flat rebar-concrete roofs in India. These roofs account for maximum solar gains and very hot top-floor temperatures. A 4" SIPs roof structure would work much better...

To make matters worse, conventional construction creates the “heat island effect” by absorbing heat all day and then releasing it at night. Remember, in India we have nearly six months of extreme heat, and three peak months with average peak temperatures between 105 and 120 Fahrenheit. New construction is also very time consuming. Unfortunately that time is often wasted when an earthquake occurs as most conventional structures are not very earthquake resistant. We can never forget the 2001 Gujarat earthquake that took thousands of lives of people who were living in such structures.

One of the greatest challenges is the weight of concrete building; it requires so much energy to work with Portland concrete – both in transportation and labor. Until a decade ago, the other challenge was getting the building community to open up to new materials, and invest in testing (I know that Fred faces this issue, too.) Lately, thanks to government encouragement of alternative building methods, this has changed considerably. New materials like aerated concrete blocks, steel framing with boards, SIPs panels, and PU sandwich metal skin structures are steadily gaining popularity. Tomorrow, I’ll answer Fred’s question about ways we might overcome our challenges…

Leave a Reply