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Real-LeadThe construction of pre-engineered buildings (PEBs) is gaining traction in Pakistan. Unlike conventionally constructed buildings, PEBs are created by assembling a frame made of steel ‘I beams’, which are joined by welding steel plates. The ‘I beams’ are then assembled on site using bolted connections to create the structure that is built on top of a concrete foundation.

Once the frame is erected, a variety of materials can be used to clad the building including roll-formed, profiled steel sheets, wood, tensioned fabric, precast concrete, masonry blocks and glass curtain walls.

PEB frames are substantially lighter than conventional structures and do not rely on columns for support. They are therefore ideal for buildings that require large spans (open spaces) such as banquet halls, factories and sports complexes. The assembly and construction of a PEB is usually overseen by an architect, who ensures that certain aspects of the building (such as dimensions, occupant comfort, fire safety and aesthetics) are taken care of and up to par.  A number of suppliers in Pakistan provide materials required for PEBs; complete building kits can also be imported.

The advantages of PEBs include:

  1. An efficiently designed PEB uses less steel which translates into lower costs; it is also up to 30% lighter than conventional structures.
  2. Since the components are manufactured at a factory, the need for formwork, shuttering and scaffolding is significantly reduced; this ensures strict quality control and easier manageability at the construction site.
  3. Faster to erect, PEBs require less construction time and hence are cheaper to build; an earlier return in capital can therefore be achieved.
  4. PEBs usually feature skylights and therefore use natural light which makes them energy efficient.

However, there are some disadvantages with PEBs. The most crucial thing to remember is that components must be assembled precisely; loose joints can lead to water seepage, heat induction and wastage of air conditioning. If the components need to be transported a considerable distance from factory to construction site, costs can be relatively high especially in the case of imported building kits.

– Adil Kerai
The writer is an architect and partner, Habib Fida Ali Architects.

First published in The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 5, 2013.