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BEST-FIT FOR COMPLEX STRUCTURES

SHIVJIT SIDHU
Principal Architect, Apostrophe A+uD

QWhat are the major advantages of using steel vis-à-vis conventional materials?

The primary focus of Apostrophe A+uD is to find the right solutions for each project and each aspect of a project. We believe that each construction system has its own advantages when applied to the appropriate situation. There is no one material system that is always appropriate, but, is dependent on the requirements and concepts for the project. Structural steel construction offers us tremendous flexibility in terms of volumetric form and massing.

We are able to use non-orthogonal geometry in the building, including walls that are not vertical and roofs that undulate and cantilever projections that would be extremely difficult and expensive to create in other materials. In these complex architectural forms, steel fabricated structural systems are not only less expensive to create, but, in many instances the only way to create the primary frame.

Further, in projects where time is of the essence, Apostrophe A+uD will turn to steel fabricated structural frames as we can have simultaneous construction of the frame in a factory, while the foundations are being cast on site with a methodical erection that saves huge time. This may be slightly more expensive than traditional RCC construction, however, we find that the overall cost after factoring the interest in construction loans, site/labor costs, site wastage, etc. may in fact be at par with RCC construction. Ultimately, it is not the system, but, rather the overall factors in application which will determine whether we will go for RCC, steel or some other system.

QHow structural steel can be innovatively used in construction to provide design aesthetics and at the same time offer economical solution?

Apostrophe A+uD is excited about the new systems of CADD/CAM manufacturing in the steel fabrication industry that are becoming more prevalent in India. The ability to precisely modulate, for example, the depth of a beam offers tremendous control from a design flexibility and cost perspective.
Now, we can shape each beam to be unique. This may be due to precise engineering of the beam, to create unique architectural profiles or due to complex architectural forms that are part of the design. Using CADD/CAM systems in forming the frame element profiles and creating exact points of attachment are some of the variables that are now entirely under the control of the architect or engineer using CAD systems so that there is no deviation from vision to reality. This means no site re-configurations, fixing mistakes or wastage of material leading to huge savings in time and material.

QWhat is your take on the variety of sections/grades provided by our steel producers for various demands of creativity?

It is exciting that the choice for architects has grown, as the industry has matured, so that we can now create built forms based on our requirements and vision rather than compromising on that vision. It is upto architects to better educate themselves, to take advantage of the techniques and materials that are available.

QWhat trend are we going to witness in next 5-7 years, as far as designing structures with steel is concerned?

I see three primary aspects of application of steel in evolving to meet the needs of architecture in the next decade. These are:
Urban Re-Development: In cities like Mumbai, we are coming up to the second and in some cases third stage of re-development of mid and high rise projects in extremely dense environments. These could be existing worker housing colonies, for example, that are nearing the end of their 30-40-year life cycle and need to be reconstructed. Steel construction will be suited to these areas as the staging of RCC system causes challenges in dense areas whereas steel frames can be site constructed and simple erection at site can take place.

Iconic Architecture: As discussed earlier, steel offers flexibility in formal massing that allows architects to create iconic and innovative buildings that would either not be possible in traditional systems or become cost prohibitive. As the Indian architectural environment becomes more mature, clients both in the private and public sector, are increasingly demanding unique and innovative solutions from architects for their projects which we feel will lead to greater adoption to CADD based steel fabrication techniques.

Rapid Urbanization: Governments at the state and national level have stated priorities for rapid urbanization ranging from Smart Cities to mass housing schemes. Steel fabrication, offers the ability for speed, quality, durability and consistency that will be required so that the projects built for these mass schemes are done in a manner that is both adherent to the schedule, and is durable in the long term for the users. Unfortunately, rapid systems of typical construction, at times lead to use of sub-standard material at sites, which can be better monitored and controlled in steel fabrication which will also be essential.

QWhat should be the strategy of industry in promoting structural steel construction in India?

The focus so far has been on the utilitarian; warehouses, factories, industries, etc. It will be beneficial for the steel industry to work with innovative architects to create some demonstration projects that showcase application of steel as a material and as a complete solution in projects that range from single houses to commercial and instructional buildings.

QWhich are the iconic steel-specific projects executed by you?

We are currently working on a commercial building in Gurgaon that uses steel framing in key areas of the project such as roof-top cafe. We have also used steel in our design of the Golf Club at Kharghar and for several villas. We have planned an International Convention Center in Vizag for the Govt. of Andhra Pradesh which we are planning to use steel due to the long spans and as it is a hillside we can keep the foundations lighter and achieve the architectural forms necessary.

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