“Today, cementing, false roofs and other methods are being used to cover shoddy workmanship and even mistakes,” says Ravi Kesaravalli, chief architect of a well-known design and architectural firm in Pune. “When constructing a wall, if the bricks are precisely kept and cemented, you do not need more than half an inch of plaster on the walls. This translates into extensive savings as cement is expensive.”
This opinion is reiterated by Mahalakshmi Jayaram, principal architect of Mahalakshmi and Jayaram Associates, a well-known architectural firm that focuses on building sustainable homes. In fact, she goes a step further. “If concreting is done well, with perfect shuttering and casting, you can actually save on ceiling plaster. The convenience of plaster has actually increased the use of cement to hide mistakes made by workmen. Similarly, well measured and planned spaces for doors, size of windows, wardrobes and showcases can save the cost of knocking down or re-doing walls.”
According to Jayaram, well-constructed and properly erected walls can save as much as 20-25 per cent of the construction cost, due to savings on cement. This is a considerable amount as construction budgets tend to go beyond almost 90 per cent of the times.
Some steps to take when constructing a house:
"Building a house is generally a once in a lifetime process. I strongly recommend a daily visit to the site, when the workers are at their job,” says Kesaravalli. “This way you will be able to put pressure on the contractor and keep the workers committed.”
“At the beginning stage itself if you notice a wall is not being constructed properly, get the worker to take it down and re-do it,” says Jayaram. “This way they know you mean business and will be careful when laying bricks/stones. Never allow it when they say, ‘we can cover it up with cement’. A well-constructed wall means less cementing and hence, lesser cost burden.”
“As far as possible have rectangular rooms,” says Jayaram. “Even an 11x15 ft ratio is good. You require less steel rods to support and strengthen it.”
“You can have a strong staircase with two support beams. With Saadarhalli stones and 2RCC beams as support, your staircase is strong. The extra thick layers of cement are more a habit done out of fear, by the contractor,” adds Kesaravalli.
Other cost savers:
Bricks of clay/Valapattanam bricks or cement blocks, all of them require less cement
Use of clay tiles or Mangalore tiles as roofing and Meyeder filler tiles which can give a flat roof
All broken bricks and `stone malba’ can be used for weathering the terrace and/or constructing the compound wall. “Insisting on this will save cost and give you a good feeling as you are recycling as well,” says Jayaram.
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