Thursday, June 10, 2010: 02:03:07 PM



Prominent among the western innovations making a mark in Indian construction is drywall technology. Venkat Subramanian discusses the changing winds in this sector


The Indian real estate sector has always used traditional resources and materials for the construction and development of various commercial projects. However, over the past decade, there has been a visible shift in the quality of construction, architectural design and the overall development process. This has been stimulated by the growing economy, expanding corporate sector and increasing tourism.

In developed countries, building solutions are fairly advanced from a performance point of view. The projects are completed on time and the work environment sees continuous innovation. In contrast, the Indian market is at a nascent stage, but is evolving at a steady pace through the use of advanced building technologies.

An Innovation in Building Technology
A drywall, as the name implies, is a dry construction technique to build walls which are lighter and faster to construct. For example, a drywall consists of a steel framework (studs, floor and ceiling channels) fixed to plasterboards on both the sides. The framework is then finished using a joining compound and paper tapes for a monolithic finish. The metal stud partitions have an air gap which can be filled with glass wool insulation to enhance acoustic performance and fire resisting properties.

Aiding Speedy Construction
Simple sequencing is adopted in the case of drywalls, which involves ready-to-fit products and a ready conduit to pass the services. Time is money and this can affect the project cost. For example, a hotel which takes two years to build using masonry construction can be built in a year and a half.

However, in masonry construction, a lot of water curing is required and structures are prone to earthquake damage as well. The six months’ grace period offered by drywalls  allows the hotel to start operations earlier and generate revenue. In the last few years, industrial units, five-star hotels, airports and hospitals have also started using this technology. The trend is catching on and very soon we may see the residential sector adopting drywalls on a large scale.

The advantages of drywalls are most noticeable in the following cases:

Tall Buildings
The development of tall buildings is governed by groups that consist of the fire and civic departments and architects and civil engineers. With Mumbai as a reference point, it can be clearly seen that most safety norms (most importantly fire safety) have not been followed stringently.

The key requirements for erecting tall buildings to tackle the space constraints in urban areas are materials that are lightweight, eco-friendly and meet fire safety requirements. This makes traditional construction materials obsolete, but gypsum plasterboard-based drywall solutions stand up to the requirements.

Superior Acoustics Performance
The right room design and the right building material go hand in hand to deliver acoustic comfort. Studies have shown that acoustically  designed spaces can increase the ability of employees to concentrate, allow clear communication among individuals, increase the effectiveness of teaching at schools and allow a quieter environment in hospitals, thus aiding recuperation.

Noise produced by appliances, airconditioners, television, sirens or extreme weather conditions is among the major reasons for inhabitant dissatisfaction and lack of comfort in homes, hotel and office buildings. Designing buildings to control noise effectively can make homes and offices pleasant places to live or work in. Given the fact that masonry walls (brick, block or concrete) offer poor sound insulation, it is important to look to alternative lightweight construction forms like drywalls to achieve high levels of sound insulation.

The Gypsum Edge
Formed as a result of evaporating sea water in massive prehistoric basins, gypsum is light in weight and has excellent insulation properties— both thermal and acoustic. It offers fire protection, moisture-resistance, and vapour control when used in combination with the right systems.

Around the world, reinforced gypsum wall panels are used as a replacements for brick and mortar construction and for screeds to be used on floors. It is also used to create false ceilings and delivering superior finish to brick walls. In addition, gypsum plasterboard systems, being lightweight, can save on the labour cost as well. 

The author is Managing Director, Saint-Gobain Gyproc India Ltd.

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