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The Ďuníreal estate wakes upto reality... From necessity to luxury a housing revolution?
a housing revolution?
Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, 175 kilometers north of Chennai on NH16 has for long been a high quality rice granary. A few decades ago, it earned fame as the shrimp capital of India. And itís now all set to herald a housing revolution, if the pilot project for mass housing using the GFRG technology hits off.

Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, is adding another dimension to the endowments of Nellore. A new technology developed by IIT-Madras has been piloted at Nellore by the Building Materials Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) for building 36 residential flats.

Dr Meher Prasad and Dr Devdas Menon of the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-M, have been working on glass fibre reinforced gypsum (GFRG) as a new building panel product. This product is based on gypsum, a by-product of fertiliser units, available in abundance. Two well-known public fertilizer companies – RCF and FACT – have set up a manufacturing plant for producing these panels in large sizes –

12m x 3 m and 124mm thick. Detailed engineering and design have enabled pre-fabricating the panels to the requirements of the buildings. These are erected, assembled, water-proofed and converted to housing complexes in quick time. Interestingly, even the roofs are made of GFRG! Dr Prasad certifies to the high load bearing capacity of this material that will lend for constructing multi-storeyed buildings to even 10 floors!

The major advantages of this technology include savings in construction costs by minimising the use of conventional materials like cement, concrete, and steel. More important is the enormous savings through speed of construction. Prasad points to the pilot project constructed in five months flat! With adequate funding and procurement of materials in advance, he is confident of compressing the time of construction to three months.

A major problem affecting plans of mass housing relates to the continuous increase in construction and finance costs incurred during  construction. Look at the unrelenting increase in the price of cement, blue metal, steel, even river sand and the dozens of other construction materials that massively impinge on plans of rapid additions to the housing stock. In this light, the new technique holds great promise.

The NDA government has impressive plans for providing housing for all. With this new technology there is enormous potential for scaling up production. Set up manufacturing plants adjacent to fertiliser plants in various states, and you would have a revolution on hand.  With large volume and de-centralised production, costs of construction can be substantially reduced.

This technology also has the promise of scaling up.

 – S Viswanathan


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