Add-ons for your home

Want a children’s room just for five years? Or a home office for only two years? It’s now possible to make value additions to your home almost whenever and wherever, and for only as long as you want.

By Rakesh Rai | Print Edition: December 14, 2006

What would you say if somebody told you that a room could come up within 24 hours on your terrace? And that too without any legal hassles and at roughly a third of the cost? You can also do away with the hazards that normally accompany a full-fledged construction process.

Pre-fabricated housing is catching on. In the hills, where landslides and flash floods wreak havoc, and also in cities where house prices keep moving north. “There are two major problems in construction in the hills. One is the high construction cost and the second is the terrain,” says Anil Bansal who runs a resort near Mussoorie and has installed a pre-fabricated unit.

Says banker Sandip Saxena, who got a portable unit erected on the terrace of his residence in Delhi: “We wanted a children’s room but could not construct one because we live in a rented accommodation and the landlord was against the idea. Now the kids have a place which they call their own.”

Portable units can be useful not only if you live in your own house but even when you are staying on rent. And when you decide to move on, these units can be easily dismantled and installed at the new residence. Pre-fabricated and portable structures have been around for years, but what is different about these units now is how closely they replicate the look, feel and comfort of a permanent construction. It’s often difficult to differentiate pre-fabricated units from regular concrete structures. Right from the walls to wooden flooring and tiled bathrooms they have it all.

These structures are based on pre-fabricated panels and preengineered steel structures that are specifically designed for easy construction and dismantling. They can be installed anywhere: in your garden, pucca floor or raised modular floors without destroying the existing floor.

Each unit is independent with its own floor, ceiling, walls, doors, windows and its installation does not involve any construction at site and comes with its own pre-fabricated floor which can be rested on any surface. The walls are then put up and screwed on the floor. And finally the roof is rested on the walls. Location of doors, windows and AC are planned as per your needs. Accessories like fans, lights, and computers can be easily fitted into these structures.

The insulated sandwiched panels are tough and light. In case of outdoor installations, the units can be erected on raised platforms to avoid flooding during the monsoon. Insulated cement fibre board panels are not only weather proof but also termite proof and water and fire resistant. The bigger advantages, however, are the cost-effectiveness and portability of the structures.

“The structure gives people the option to move to some other location if their business does not do well in a particular area,” says Amit Kumar of Porta Cabin, a Delhi- based company which specialises in the construction of portable living units.

Starting from Rs 200 per sq ft the cost varies depending on your requirements and specifications and can go up to Rs 500 per sq ft. However, getting a branded product is always helpful even if that means paying a bit extra. After-sales service and regular upkeep of your unit is very important. But how long do these structures last? “If the maintenance is regular one can easily use these units for 15-20 years,” says Kumar.

Since most of the units are knocked-down and come under the category of “temporary structures” you don’t need any building permission from civic authorities. Businessman Sanjeev Gupta got a pre-fab room erected on his terrace because he did not want a permanent structure which he could not dismantle. “This is my own house so if I wanted I could have got a permanent room made but once the kids grow up and leave we would be left with an extra room with no use,” he says. Gupta’s two sons are budding Beethovens so he wanted a separate room for them so that their music does not disturb his parents.

V.N. Saroja, a management consultant, works from home. Her reason for getting a portable unit: “I needed a place where I could meet my clients without having to bring them into the house. But my first priority was speed of construction. I got the whole structure completed within six days.”

Pre-fabrication can add value outdoors too. If you have a small not-so-often used space in your housing complex or home, you can get a portable pool built in less than four hours. Ranging between 3x3 m and 10x5 m in size, the pools cost between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakh. Erected on the ground, such pools are child-safe and can be dismantled when not in use. Be it indoors or outdoors, the appeal for portable structures is the same: they provide temporary solutions for temporary needs—with the look, feel and comfort of permanent constructions.

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