The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Steel showpiece in Calcutta
- Rajarhat among two spots picked by global consortium

Calcutta, March 25: The next world revolution in the way people build their dream homes may start from Calcutta.

A global campaign looks to lure people to live in houses of steel rather than concrete ' and Calcutta is one of two cities, the other being Warsaw, chosen for the first two showpiece block of metal flats to come up.

The project, promoted by a consortium of 11 global steel giants, has united even the heavyweights Mittal Steel and Arcelor, who are fighting a bitter war in Europe over a hostile takeover bid.

The consortium, Living Steel, which also includes Tata Steel and Posco, is holding a contest between 10 leading architecture firms of the world to draw a design for the Calcutta housing project, which will come up at Rajarhat.

The designs will be judged in May this year at Brussels by a glittering international jury: Charles Correa of India, Glenn Murcutt of Australia, Andrew Ogorzalek and James Berry of Britain, Jaime Lerner of Brazil and Nicholas de Monchaux of the US.

The best design ' which will win 50,000 euros (Rs 26.73 lakh) and a commission ' will be handed over to Bengal Shrachi Housing Development Ltd to erect the apartment building.

The raw material will be provided mainly by Tata Steel, which today signed a three-way memorandum of understanding with Living Steel and Bengal Shrachi, a joint venture between the Shrachi group and Bengal Housing Board.

“We have chosen Calcutta since it is in the middle of a development boom in the real estate sector,” said Sheetal Chabra, project manager, Living Steel.

“We are looking at six to eight apartments in the building. It will be a G+3 (ground floor plus three other floors) or G+4 structure. The flats will be between 1,200 and 1,800 square feet. They will be targeted at the higher income groups,” said Hem Mishra, president, engineering, Bengal Shrachi.

The company wouldn’t hazard a guess on the prices of these flats, but said they would be competitive with those of the usual concrete apartments.

The flats will be built with steel sheets of various colours and shapes. The Living Steel programme director, Scott Chubbs, hoped the showpiece building would encourage more companies to build houses of steel.

“We will participate in such projects in India and abroad,” said Anand Sen, vice-president (flat products), Tata Steel.

Steel is now used mainly to reinforce the concrete buildings’ structure. The Living Steel programme ' which gives shape to a movement begun by the Brussels-based global steel body, International Iron & Steel Institute ' aims to promote the use of the metal in roofing and framework, too.

Architects say steel houses can be completed faster than those of concrete, and are likely to last longer.

The Jamshedpur Utility and Services Company, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Tata Steel, has built a steel bungalow in Jamshedpur as an experiment. The technology was provided by Minaean Habitat India, the fully-owned subsidiary of Minaean Ventures Inc, a Canadian company specialising in low-cost housing solutions.

It took just about three months to build the bungalow, whose walls and roofs are made of cold-rolled steel sheets with thermocol insulation in between. It’s fire- and storm-resistant and cooler than concrete houses.

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