Modular steel framed homes, developed using technical know-how from Tata Steel’s Swinden Technology Centre in Rotherham, could be a rapid and cost effective answer to the housing shortages in economically weak areas of rural India.
Scientists from the centre have risen to the challenge set by its Indian owners by creating homes that can be put up by unskilled labourers in a fraction of the time it takes using traditional materials and cost no more to build.
Technology Centre principal researcher Simon Vaughan says around 30 million households in India are in economically weak circumstances, many living in ramshackle homes, which can have an impact on health and often won’t stand up to monsoon conditions and high winds.
Researchers from Rotherham have worked with industry, builders and steel suppliers in India to create the modular system, which enables a single home to be built in just over a week and can be used to build blocks up to five stories high.
Each home costs no more than a home built entirely using traditional methods and materials, which are still used for cladding and flooring.
Local labour is used to build the homes, but economies of scale help to keep costs down and reduce waste, while the use of standard, but versatile, factory made components makes it easier to ensure repeatability, manage building sites and avoid nuisance.
What’s more, the modular units have been designed to incorporate flues, allowing inhabitants to cook inside, using wood, without the health problems resulting from traditional unventilated structures and a special sanitation pod also helps to reduce risks to health posed by traditional lean-to shacks.
“Pilot sites are being built and we have already seen that our safety standards are rubbing off on contractors,” says Mr Vaughan.
Construction industry specialists at the Centre are also working on cladding and systems to reduce the energy losses and improve the fire protection and sustainability of buildings.
‘Hush-hush’ research at the Swinden Technology Centre has been helping railway bosses and residents in London, Sydney, Oslo and the Rhine Valley to sleep sounder in their beds.
Researchers from the centre and Southampton University joined forces to develop special dampers that reduce the noise made by trains passing over the track by up to 50 per cent.
The patented SilentTrack system has been installed at test locations in Australia, Norway and Germany, as well as at Blackfriars station in London, one of the capital’s busiest stations.
Scientists at the centre have also been developing a high performance rail and special coatings for locations where wear rates and distortion are likely to be highest, including where the track bends and at level crossings, where salt put on the roads in icy conditions increases corrosion of the rails.
Steels developed by researchers from the centre have helped to boost the efficiency of turbines by up to 45 per cent and make high performance gears, used by World Championship-winning Formula 1 Teams.
They have reduced the wear on bearings and boosted the strength of steels used to make structures like North Seal oil rigs and bridges by 50 per cent, while also increasing their resistance to low temperatures and high winds.
Drilling an array of holes in a sheet of armour plate sounds counter-productive - but not when the sheet is made from a special steel developed and tested by Tata Steel’s Swinden Technology Centre.
When the perforated plates are bolted on to vulnerable areas of a military vehicle, the holes cause high velocity bullets to topple and shatter, preventing them penetrating any further.
Back at base, after the hostile encounter, the plates can easily be replaced and the vehicle, which would otherwise have had to undergo extensive repairs, can be sent out in the field again.
Technical and biological research by Tata Steel scientists could help to cut carbon dioxide emissions from steelmaking.
Tata is part of a consortium which is developing breakthrough technologies that could replace conventional methods for producing iron, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 50 per cent.
The company is also investigating ways of using algae to remove CO2 produced in steelmaking, digest effluent and generate power.