How GFRG Technology Helps To Reduce Construction Cost

Cost of construction going up and paucity of skilled labour are resulting in high outgo for infrastructure. Besides environmental factors are also making people to look for alternative materials that will reduce energy consumption or result in lesser utilisation of precious natural resources. Pre-fabricated glass-fibre reinforced gypsum (GFRG) walls provide an alternative that allows faster construction saving time, using eco-friendly material and at a lesser cost as well. GFRG is made by using gypsum, a waste produced while manufacturing fertilizers. It piles up at fertilizer plants and its disposal is a big problem, he says. The material for the pre-fab walls is made by reinforcing it with glass fiber. The Kochi unit makes 12-metre-long panels with 3 metres of height.

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How IIT Madras Innovates Eco-Friendly Low-Cost Houses


The need for low-cost houses in India is gigantic in proportional calculations. Exact estimates are still to be worked out but government sources say that two crore dwelling units are required in the country, 90% of which are low-cost houses. As per the provisions, 100% deduction for profits to affordable housing schemes, under which homes will be built up to 30sq m in the four metropolitan cities and 60sq m in other cities.

There have been numerous efforts to build low-cost houses across the country. Most innovative among them is the method created by IIT Madras students, who have built low-cost, eco-friendly houses by using ‘Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum’ (GFRG) panels. They have successfully built a housing unit, which was constructed within a month using pre-fabricated GFRG panels made from waste gypsum.

These panels are cut into required sizes using a computerized machine at at the factory and brought to the construction site to used for all parts of the building, right from walls to staircases to roofs. Trenches are first dug at the construction site and the bottom surface is plastered with cement.

The foundation is made of conventional fly ash bricks and plinth beams are cast on it. The entire gap is filled with soil and then plastered with cement. This process takes 11 days to complete. Then walls, staircases and finally the roof are built using gypsum panels. The hollow gaps between two panels of the roof are filled using the concrete mixture and they are also reinforced. Special structural design is prepared for the building to withstand lateral loads such as earthquakes and storms.

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Technology For Economic, Rapid, Mass Housing

In the sprawling IIT-Madras campus I came across a swanky two-storey building with four flats. It looked sleek, elegant and was cooler inside. The interesting aspect was that this building wasn’t there a few weeks ago! The whole construction, including the finishing, had been done in less than a month! India has a severe housing shortage problem, which is well known.  In particular, there is a need to address the shelter needs of the lower income groups and their aspirations.  The challenge is to make these aspirations a reality, by providing for an affordable solution.  Ideally, the solution should be scalable – to reach the masses – and should be quickly built, and at the same time addresses issues of sustainability and quality.  Clearly, we need a ‘game changer’ in the housing industry.

The GFRG technology and its panels may be unfilled, partially filled or fully filled with reinforced concrete, as per the structural requirement.  Experimental studies and research have shown that GFRG panels, suitably filled with reinforced concrete, possess substantial strength to act not only as load-bearing elements, but also as shear walls, capable of resisting lateral loads due to earthquake and wind.  It is possible to design such buildings up to ten storeys in low seismic zones (and to lesser height in high seismic zones). However, such construction needs to be properly designed by a qualified structural engineer.

The GFRG demo building also demonstrates the use of an innovative waterproofing treatment using a nano-technology based solution, developed by Zydex Industries, Vadodara, for the specifications evolved by IIT Madras.

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Solution For India’s Tremendous Housing Shortage

Researchers in the Civil Engineering Department of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT M) have developed a method of design and construction to make use of Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum (GFRG) panels to build rapid, cost-effective mass housing. To showcase this technology, a ‘model housing apartment’ comprising four flats in a two-storeyed building, has been constructed inside the IIT-M campus. The ‘GFRG demo building’, constructed in just a month, was inaugurated today by Sri TKA Nair, Advisor to Honourable Prime Minister of India, in the presence of Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras.

High speed of construction: GFRG demo building with four flats in two storeys (total 1981 sq. ft.) built within a month!

— Less built-up area for the same carpet area: wall panels are only 124mm thick.

— Less embodied energy and carbon footprint: significant reduction in use of cement, sand, steel and water; recycling of industrial waste gypsum.

— Lower cost of structure: savings in materials; no plastering.

— Lower building weight (panels weigh only 43 kg/m2), contributing to savings in foundation and reduction in design for earthquake forces, particularly in multi-storeyed construction.

— Buildings up to 8-10 storeys can be designed using this load-bearing system, without the need for beams and columns.

— Excellent finishes of prefabricated GFRG panels – used for all the walls, floors and staircases, with minimal embedded concrete: no need for additional plastering.

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