By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka can now build eco-friendly homes for low prices with the introduction of the 100 per cent natural Durra panels.
The Durra panels, which have been in the market for the past three years, are making a comeback this year with a lineup of publicity events to create awareness of the product among the general publicity.
The Durra board, a unique solid building panel manufactured from densely compressed rice straw using extreme pressure and heat in the manufacturing process, aims at reducing the time, effort and cost of building a home. Manufactured under Durra Building Systems (Pvt) Ltd., officials of the company said that an 850 square feet house can be made with Rs. 2,100 panel per square foot.
The product, fully made in Sri Lanka with support of Australian technology, is the brainchild of Ortec Industries of Australia. The company has been producing the panels for the past 30 years and has manufacturing plants in Australia, Texas, USA, Philippines and Sri Lanka. Locally, the plant is situated in Minneriya, which is known as the heart of paddy cultivation. The factory has a production capacity of 6,000 boards per month and uses some 3,000-4,000 tonnes of rice straw and hay annually for production.
One year’s growth of straw is needed for one unit. “The initial investment for the plant and production was Rs. 400 million,” General Manager Durra Building Systems Gunasiri Abeysinghe said. He stated that annually an investment of Rs. 12 million was injected into the company.
“The product is of high quality since we have implemented international technology and has the features of a cost saving, speedy and simple instalment erection with reduced labour time,” Abeysinghe revealed.
For the construction of buildings or houses with the Durra panel, only a minimum of unskilled labour is needed. A 65-day construction could be done within seven days, he said.
Business Promotion Manager of the International Construction Consortium Kamal Munasinghe who was also present at the event said that to build a 320 square feet temporary building, the company used seven unskilled labourers and completed the job in 10 days.
The panels are fire, thermal and impact resistant and have a lifespan of 30 years. “It has the ability to withhold fire for three hours,” Munasinghe said.
It does not need any extra frameworks, is self supportive and comes in different types of finishes of paint, wallpaper, fabric, texture paint and granular, in a general price range of Rs. 800 to Rs. 2,400 per square foot. The panels can be used for internal walls, partition walls, insulated panels, office partitions, ceilings and sound proof enclosures. In Sri Lanka as at now the product is used for carious ‘easy kit’ solutions by the Defence, Health and Education Ministries. However, its key project has been the Hemas Hospital in Wattala and Ulagalla Resort in Anuradhapura.
The factory in Sri Lanka has received the manufacturing rights of the panel and distribution rights to the whole of Asia and exports to Thailand, Qatar, Malé and Uganda. “We have rather encouraging inquiries from the Middle East and especially India,” he asserted.
On a more global perspective, Durra panels have been used for the construction of Gold Coast Convention Centre in Queensland, Australia, Hilton Hotel in Melbourne, Darwin Convention Centre in Australia, Video Phone Arena and Cinemax Movie Theatre.