A two-floor structure adjacent to the police officers’ mess in Egmore may not attract your attention, but did you know it is made of thermocol? No, it’s not an art installation promoting recycling, but a house the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation (TNPHC) has built-in 40 days.
It is the government’s first ‘modular panel’ structure constructed using reinforced thermocol panels instead of bricks.
The building cost ₹15 lakh, which is 30% less than what is spent using conventional construction methods. The technology involves manufacturing of individual modules or panels at an offsite facility and then assembling them at the building site, said Reddy Udaybaskar from Beardsell Limited which has taken up similar projects for Karnataka, IIT-Jammu and Indian Railways.
“Unlike conventional buildings, the load is evenly distributed in modular buildings. Also, the entire weight is 25% less thereby eliminating the need for columns and beams,” he said.
Construction for the building began in February 2017 when the realty sector was hit hard by a shortage of sand. M Kumar, chief engineer, TNPHC, said soon after the foundation was laid, vertical panels were erected as per the building plan alongside scaffolding and edge confinement work. Subsequently, the floor and roof panels were erected parallel to the ground and were coated with concrete.
Within a week, a team of eight workers supervised by two engineers laid the concrete roof and arranged slabs to enable construction on the first floor. After 20 days, the plastering work began. Inner wall putty work, partition, plumbing, electronics and other finishing work was completed within a span of 15 days, said Kumar.
The building was inaugurated in May 2017 and now accommodates drivers of top police officers during rest hours.
In a conventional building, walls are 250mm thick, but walls of the modular structure are 125mm-130mm thick leaving more carpet area for the users, Kumar said.
Since thermocol is an insulator, the room remains cool during summers and vice-versa, said engineers involved in the project. Kumar said the building is flame-retardant and resistant to earthquakes and drilling.
On the flip side, alteration work cannot be carried out in the last minute. This means the position of fans, lights, and kitchen and bathroom accessories cannot be changed once the individual thermocol panels are assembled.
Also, columns and beams become inevitable in case of multi-storeyed buildings. “The technology has become popular but is yet find takers in Tamil Nadu where most see thermocol as a packing material. Very few consider that thermocol is reinforced with high tensile steel for this project,” Reddy said.