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Home > Business > Special

Buildings made of steel soon!

Gargi Gupta in New Delhi | April 21, 2007

When completed, Bharat Petroleum's one-stop trucker's shop in Gopalpur, just after Singur on National Highway 2, will be a milestone in more ways than one. A retail outlet, a dhaba and a resting area adjoining the petrol pump, with provisions for healthcare and emergency services, the facility will fulfill the needs of a mobile clientele.

The Gopalpur outlet will also be unique in that it will be made largely of steel. The roof will be made of glavalum sheets supported on steel trusses, with concrete used only for columns and the foundation.

The advantages, according to Rajeev Mondal, senior manager, retail engineering, BPCL, of such a hybrid construction are many - easy maintenance, protection from natural calamities and better aesthetics, to name just a few. The company has adopted this steel-intensive design for three more truckers' facilities coming up in the state, in all 20 all across India.

According to R K P Singh, director general of Institute for Steel Development & Growth, attempts are being made to get Reliance Petroleum to adopt a similar design.

Hybrid steel structures have also found favour with a few dhaba owners along the Bombay Road. The Azad Hind Dhaba in Uluberia has a galvalum roof, fixed on steel trusses. "It keeps the place cooler," says its manager, Satish Sharma.

Soumyabrata Dalil is the owner of Hotel Dreamland, one of the first dhabas to be seen along the expressway. Now, with highway traffic booming, Dalil wants to build an extension, a steel structure. Hotel Midway, further down the road, has an entrance arch of "steel tubular truss" with coloured corrugated sheets. Its owner, Y Singh, wants something similar for a new unit in Burdwan.

All this is good news given that India's per capita consumption of steel is just 38 kg, far less than the global average of 170 kg or China's 230 kg, not to speak of the developed countries' 500-1,000 kg.

INSDAG, modelled on the Steel Construction Institute, UK, was set up by the Union steel ministry and principal steel manufacturers to correct this imbalance, especially in the construction industry - a major consumer of the alloy.

INSDAG has taken several initiatives - developing a design manual for steel dhabas and a workshop with dhaba owners in Kolkata earlier this year. However, as Singh admits, steel dhabas have "not succeeded in mass numbers".

He adds, "RCC continues to be the mainstay of our construction activities, while the world has moved on to steel-concrete composite construction technologies."

INSDAG recently launched a mass-media steel promotion campaign to emphasise the importance of steel. With JWT as the advertising agency, the year-long campaign envisages spending Rs 20 crore (Rs 2 billion) - contributed by the steel ministry and steel manufacturers.

INSDAG is also propagating multiple use of steel construction for infrastructure and mass housing projects by the government. It is working on designs for rural culverts for the National Rural Roads Development Agency.

It has come up with three designs for 1,000-odd hospitals, health centres and sub-centres in select rural areas. These structures will have steel framing with no brickwork, says Singh, with walls of ferro-cement panels or bamboo-matting covered with a light plaster. The costs are now being worked out.

The government of Bihar wants to build 443 gram kutcheheris, and has agreed in principle to INSDAG's design of an eight-room steel structure. The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority too had asked INSDAG to design 300-400 houses and shops on a plot on the banks of the Hooghly, where Kumartuli artisans would be lodged.

The artisans would stay for the duration of the Kumartuli Urban Renewal Project, but later the tenements would be used as LIG housing. INSDAG has also come up with similar designs for multi-storied urban LIG housing for the Delhi government.

Unfortunately, none of these projects have got to the construction state yet. Now India's steel companies have directly stepped into the fray, creating model steel villages around their factories. These would have steel houses and toilets, steel schools, panchayat-meeting space, water-tanks, bus-stops and so on.

SAIL has adopted five villages and so has Jindal Steel, but it will be the RINL project near its Vishakhapatnam works which will be the first off the ground. RINL has already placed orders for a 200 sq ft rural house, 1,200 sq ft school, 900 sq ft panchayat hall, and a bus shelter.

When completed, and inhabited, these model villages will be the best showpiece for steel construction in India.

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