Reducing the construction costs

Cost of project or value engineering is the most common term used in monthly review meetings. Every builder wants to save money and increase his profits. The intent of this blog is to give a few design and detailing tips on how to reduce the cost of construction without hindering the aesthetics of the structure. Currently a lot of material manufacturers have joined the market from all over the world. The benefit of this competition is that you can now get good quality product with comparatively reduced prices. To add to this, certain minimal design interventions can additionally bring down the cost.

1. Basements

Basements are vastly expensive and ingest major chunk of project cost, time and space. Construct it only if it is extremely essential and try to use the slab top wisely for productive activities like clubhouse, play area, landscaping etc. You can go for Multi level car park or mechanical parking as an alternative. Mechanical parking can be easily achieved by  increasing the stilt height.

2. Height of building

The higher the building the more expensive it gets. The columns become thicker and overheads are added for high-speed lifts and fire fighting equipment.  The disadvantage in this case is you lose on green spaces. So remember to choose wisely.

3. Brickwork

The thinner the red brick, the lighter it is, the less load it will put on the structure and will subsequently reduce the cost of RCC structure. If there is a thermal plant close by, then go for fly ash bricks as it might turnout to be cheaper and much lighter.

4. Plaster

Incase the brick is less porous; go for POP punning directly on the wall instead of plaster and then punning. This will save time, money and effort. Beware of structural cracks and use wire mesh at important junctions specially while laying electrical conduit pipes.

5. Doors and Door frames

Door height can be increased to avoid lintels. In this case the beam directly touches the doorframe and will save money, time and effort of casting insitu lintels. Use PVC doors for bathrooms and pre-laminated flush doors for other rooms. These are cheap, visually appealingly and good quality doors. Instead of wooden door frames go for granite, RCC or metal door frames. Wooden door frames are expensive and are not eco-friendly.

Building door with and without lintel

For small bungalow projects, doors and windows from demolished old structures can be re-used.  By doing this, the wood gets recycled and can be re-polished.  Do a favour to nature and nature gives it back to you. Same thing can be done for columns, girders and wooden false ceiling if required.

6. Grid plan

Layout Plan of Kanchanjunga Apartments following grid discipline

Architect should make sure that proper grid is followed in aligning the walls. This is very important as it can considerably reduce the cost of RCC construction. You can workout an economical and viable column span in consultation with the structural consultant.

7. Architectural projections/cantilevers

Balcony created by massing

Do proper daylight study and climate study to design projections. Avoid unnecessary projections just for the sake of aesthetics. Similarly avoid cantilever slabs and go for balconies that are simply supported or are created by massing of surfaces.

8. Toilets

Toilet sanitary fittings on one wall

Make sure all sanitary fittings are on one wall to reduce cost of plumbing and if ‘P’ trap is used for WC then it can open straight into the duct. With this you can avoid constructing the ledge wall to conceal the pipe. A builder in Pune has gone one step ahead and provided sunk only in 450mm along the length to carry the plumbing pipes, thereby saving cost of backfilling and brickbat coba.

9. Flooring

These days you get good quality and economical vitrified tiles, but you can also look into local stone flooring (eg Kota, granite or marble) and polished IPS flooring. These are all weather, eco-friendly and highly durable options.  In toilets, dado tile can go upto lintel level and in kitchen upto 600mm above the platform.

10. Exposed brick finish

Electric room with exposed brickwork

For commercial buildings, you can choose to avoid plaster or POP in service rooms like electrical or AHU rooms. Leaving the brick exposed can also be looked as an option. Do not conceal the wiring, this way it will be easy to maintain and replace.

Staircase railing

11. Staircase railing

A good option for Staircase railing can be 600mm brickwork with MS pipe and painted section on top. You can also overlap the staircase flight and lessen the length of railing. This also reduces the staircase width which will add up to total cost savings.

12. Exposed concrete

Exposed concrete

If the concrete is finished properly, then it is not a bad idea to leave it bare in basement and stilt floor level.  You can also look into an option of painting it directly and thereby avoiding the plastering work. Similarly the slab can be cast and polished to avoid any flooring layer on top, this will also help reduce weight on the slab thereby reducing the structural cost as well.

13. Inspection

Make sure that proper inspection is done by architect and site engineer at every level and necessary action is taken at the right time as taking effort to hide bad quality job also comes with a price.

14. Avoid changes

Client should avoid changes at the time of execution as rework has huge impact on time and money. Design should go through proper process and sign-offs should be taken at every milestone. This will keep the client feel involved at each stage without ignoring key issues.

15. Space Planning

Place furniture before finalising the layout plan, this will help in avoiding wastage of space. Also, avoid having long corridors and passages.

16. Steel wastage

Pre-bent Rebars

Bar bending schedule is considered very essential in laying of steel bars which in turn helps us reduce wastage of steel. The maximum permissible allowance in any project is 3%, which can be further reduced considerably if the client opts for pre-bend bars. Pre-bend bars also helps in reducing labor cost and time.

17. Filler slab

Filler slab

Filler slab is one easy way to reduce concreting cost in slabs. It works on basic principal of removing concrete from area where it is not structurally required. This can be achieved by using clay pots,  Mangalore tiles etc. Jack arch slab can also be used to significantly reduce the cost of slab.

18. Compound wall

This is where you can use the site waste or any other waste and come up with a creative solution. One should not stop at using conventional material but try and assess how can waste material, like bricks, steel, tile pieces, stone pieces, bottles, tyres etc be reused to come up with a wall which looks beautiful and serves the purpose. My appeal to builder community is not to give up on materials like stone and mud and try and get the technology back in fashion and yes it is not bad to start it with a compound wall.

19. Glass Fibre reinforced Gypsum or GFRG

GFRG Construction © Bounteous Builders Developers Pvt Ltd

Civil engineering dept of IIT Madras came up with this solution of combining gypsum with glass fibres to manufacture light weight pre-fab building panels. This widely used technology can reduce cost of construction by 20-30% and duration by 50%.

20. Porotherm smart bricks

Porotherm Smart Bricks © Wienerberger AG

This natural, green and easy to install brick can save time and cost as it can be left exposed thereby reducing cost of paint and plaster. But extensive use of this can lead to loss of fertile top soil thereby having devastating environmental hazard. So use wisely.

About the author:SidharthSingh

Siddharth Singh, is the principal architect of Green Hat Studio, Pune. Since starting his own practice, he has tasted a fair bit of success since then. Recently he won an award in the prestigious Delhi Architecture Festival Awards 2016.


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