In just 48 hours, workers assembled the prefabricated structural-steel subassemblies and other components—without any interior finishes—of a 10-story building in the industrial town of Mohali in northwestern India. The still-unfinished building holds the nation’s speed record for superstructure-plus assembly.
On Dec. 1, the deputy chief minister of the state of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal, inaugurated the 25,000-sq-meter building. For two days, a 200-member team worked around the clock to finish erecting the subassemblies and exterior wall panels. Less than 20% of the work was done on-site, according to the company. The builder claims the structure, designed to resist earthquakes, has a 600-year life.
Harpal Singh, the catalyst behind the project and chairman of the local company Synergy Thrislington, envisions the technology speeding up construction for commercial towers, hotels, hospitals, educational institutions, universities and stores.
Though the company declines to reveal details about its subassemblies and other factory production, it appears from a YouTube time-lapse video that the structural-steel platforms, approximately the size of large truckbeds, are picked by crane onto awaiting steel columns. Workers then add all the other elements.
"All the components have been manufactured already: doors that can be prefitted, water-supply components, wiring, sanitation, air-conditioning ducts and everything else," said Singh in a statement just before construction began.
Avneesh Gupta, general manager of business development at Synergy Thrislington, says the concept for the building, named Instacon, grew from discussions about the long duration of construction schedules in India. "The concept was aimed at developing ultra-fast, efficient and user-friendly techniques," he says.
Claims Gupta, the building is energy-efficient because of its smart features, including thermal-insulated, double-skinned polyurethane-foam (PUF) panel exterior walls and double-pane windows with automatically controlled curtains.
Synergy Thrislington specializes in precision sheet-metal fabrication. A few years ago, the company took over Thrislington Products Ltd., one of the oldest manufacturers of movable steel partitions in the U.K., where it was based. Synergy Thrislington manufactures prefabricated buildings, PUF panels, demountable office partitions, fire-rated and non-fire-rated doors, and ceiling panels, among other products, according to the company's website.
The building, which will be used for offices at first, is designed to resist earthquakes in seismic zone five, India’s highest zone. It has been tested and certified by India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Not everyone is impressed. Some architects and consultants who witnessed the erection race have little regard for breaking records. They maintain that these building speeds may prove detrimental in a country such as India, where corners are cut, corruption mars even high-level projects and safety often takes a backseat.
"While this is a very impressive achievement and they've definitely set an example," says Surinder Mohan Mittal of SM Mittal and Associates, Mohali, "there will also be others who follow, who will not be as careful or as vigilant."
Mittal sees the trend as an unwelcome advance. "Instead of the concrete jungles we're seeing today, I can imagine steel jungles in the future," he says. "And I don't know which is worse."