I write for Quartz India, on how India can build a better future by focussing on doing things better.

We pay too little attention to building things better, so that they last, and they cost less to maintain. So that they stay built, and free us up to focus on building other newer things in the future. We often don’t address the “better” piece in a budget and, in order to protect the incumbent, established and inefficient industries, actually disincentivize newer technology.

Here are a few things that we can change.

Making better roads and bridges with high-density polystyrene

The very material that we call “thermocol” is very rigid and tough, at a higher density. It has been used since 1972 in Norway to construct roads, as a filler that can replace soil or gravel, while we widen or build new roads. It resists compression, but the most important part is that it is very light and easily transportable (and can be cut on site). Also called Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) or Geofoam, it has been used to build fills for bridges, for stadium seating and even for constructing houses.

EPS is light and so doesn’t load the underlying soil, and its rigidity allows for roads that don’t sink easy. And because it’s easy to cut and place on site, it reduces construction time and labour cost by not involving earth moving machinery, doing area-constrained expansion of existing roads and also for building in any weather.

The cost savings might be substantial in terms of reduced labour requirements (more road per person employed)—a highway in the US saw a cost reduction from $1 million to $160,000.

Read the whole piece. Do let me know what you think!

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