Pre-engineered Building (PEB) Vs Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC)

Juxtaposing ‘this’ and ‘that’ always invites a debate, and, it won’t be wrong to consider it a law of nature. Deliberately or not, whenever two giants of the field are placed together, opinions always make way in all walks of life. Today, we are doing a similar thing. However, instead of going in circles continuously, we would drop the mic once we are done analyzing the difference between RCC structure and steel structure (pre-engineered).

What is Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC)

RCC is a composite construction material. It is formed of structural concrete and a reinforcing element, steel. It has been a preferred choice for permanent construction for a long time. Since it is initially in liquid form, it can be molded into various shapes. Concrete consists of cement, sand, boulders or gravels and water which solidifies into a strong mass on drying. Concrete alone is strong but not entirely and has a low tensile strength. It cracks when subjected to bends. When reinforced with steel, this problem gets solved. Steel can bend due to its high tensile strength. Thus, when the bending force is applied to an RCC structure, the steel bears the major workload. Like the human body in which bones and muscles work together, steel and cement combine to ensure adding strength and flexibility to a building.

What is a Pre-Engineered Building (PEB)

A PEB is a prefabricated structure that is composed entirely of steel, preferably galvanized. They became widely popular during the Second World War and haven’t looked back since. The components are made in the factory and then transported and bolted together at the site. PEB manufacturers fabricate the framing and roofing systems as well as wall panels to precise measurements and specifications for meeting space, energy, insulation and other requirements. PEBs score in speed, precision and reusability, which has seen them gain popularity over the past few decades. Today, pre-engineered steel buildings are the preferred choice for major industries globally due to their versatility and advantages.

A comparative analysis of RCC and PEB

PEBs and RCCs are poles apart. One very notable aspect comes right at the start — making. While RCCs are made on-site completely, a PEB structure manufacturer takes care of the making process entirely in the factory. This means that the construction of steel structures is the only thing happening on-site when it comes to PEBs. A comparative analysis is given below:



ShapeCan be shaped into any form.Can be shaped into any form.
ManpowerIt requires more manpower, especially because all the process happens on-site from preparation to structuring.It requires less manpower and is more of a machine-aided process. Manpower is needed mainly at the time of erection
Earthquake resistanceSince concrete is brittle, its earthquake resistance is very low.PEBs are strongly earthquake resistant and hence safer.
CustomizationsIt is customizable only up to a point.  It is easily customizable given that it’s a fit-and-fix system.
ModificationsAfter solidification, the only way to customize RCCs is to break and redo them. Modifying an existing RCC structure is expensive.Modifying a PEB is relatively simple. For example, you can add or remove mezzanine floors. The only thing you need is space for expansion. 
PrecisionSince it involves handwork, precision varies from project to project. The material used and the skill level of the labors impact quality.PEBs are made n factories that follow international standards to assure quality. Since a large part of the making process is automated, the chances of error are less.
TimeRCCs are clearly a lot behind PEBs in this perspective. They take a lot of time from foundation to construction, finishing, painting and drying.PEBs can be constructed within a few hours. In fact, a 10-storey building in China took just 28 hours and 45 minutes for erection. 
Scrap valueThere’s zero scrap value for RCCs as the debris behind them is completely useless.PEBs have a high scrap value. Steel, being up to100% recyclable promises better scrap value.
Eco-friendlyRCCs are not green buildings. Plus, they leave behind a lot of landfill mass.Steel doesn’t cause much impact on the environment. Plus, with a recycling value of up to 100%, it qualifies for a green building.
Span and areaRCC buildings require supporting pillars at regular intervals. Consequently, the usable floor area reduces.PEBs can span from one end to the other without any support in between. This accounts for more usable space.
Load-bearing capacityThe load-bearing capacity of any RCC structure is almost equal to its weight.Steel can carry up to six times its own weight. Thus, PEBs are stronger.
Self-weightConcrete structures are very heavy.PEBs are up to 60% lighter by weight as compared to RCCs.
Cost overrunsIn most projects, there are multiple revisions in costs during RCC construction due to delays and site conditions.Since all components can be precisely engineered, no change is required during erection. 
Fire resistanceRCCs are highly fire-resistant without losing their structural traits and hence at an advantage here.PEBs are less fire-resistant unless treated and modified specifically.
ImpactRCC structures can endure high wind speeds and can withstand flying debris too.PEBs are wind resistant too but not as much as RCCs.
AvailabilityConcrete structure ingredients are easy to source locally and hence save transportation costs too.For PEBs, unless and until you find a trustworthy vendor, availability is an issue.
SuitabilityRCCs are the only option for some structures such as dams and atomic buildings.PEBs are a big no for atomic structures due to radiation hazards.



The verdict

As is evident, PEBs have emerged as a clear winner under most circumstances. This is the reason why we have a surge in demand for steel building manufacturers. Large companies usually insist on assigning plant and office construction to established PEB structure manufacturers. The ability to dismantle and transport PEB structures and even rent them (as happens for godowns or warehouses) has also opened doors for new businesses. In most industrial and public construction projects — factories, godowns, R&D centres, metro stations, bus stops, auditoriums, stadiums, etc. PEBs are steadily gaining ground. Even in the residential sector, PEBs are becoming popular among developers. As technologies and costs improve, there is little doubt that pre-engineered buildings will become the norm for most standard structures.