It’s Time to Relook Codes

Dr. Vinod Jain, Managing Director, Vintech Consultants

Once you get the design from an architect, what measures you take to further enhance the productivity of that project?

After the project is conceived by the Architect, as Structural Engineer, we assess the architectural drawings and decide the structural system. In order to augment the productivity, we suggest whether the structure should be made in traditional RCC structure, structural steel or composite construction. An effective choice of the structural system, column layout, placement of shear walls/bracings and the framing leads to the complete project efficiency and cost savings. An optimum framing maximizes the carpet area and compliments the architecture even more.
For RCC structure, we also make sure to suggest the best mode of construction i.e. mivan shuttering, slip form, precast etc. For steel structures, we optimize the connections and member sizes so that the beams, columns, bracings and connections are typical, and further time can be saved in fabrication and erection.

What does structural engineering with respect to steel mean to you?

A decade ago, steel was just used by us for large span structures, industrial buildings, rehabilitation of old structures or just in façade. Moreover, the steel building used to cost more than 40 per cent than the RCC structures. But now, with the advent of high strength steel options, reduction of steel costs, evolution of Indian Codes, rise of multi-storeys – structural steel has emerged as a perfect tailor-made solution. It liberates the structural engineer a great deal to follow their design, as it does not have site constraints like the traditional RCC structure. The detailing of connections is of utmost importance in steel, as a structure is as strong as its connections.

Since BIM aids in handling multiple fabrication drawing on multiple projects at a time, what is your take on this solution?

Building Information Modelling is a sort of virtual construction which predicts all the discrepancies in drawings, conflict with services and other construction related problems, as it merges all the disciplines of the building construction. Hence, after preparation of the fabrication drawings, if the 3-dimensional model is merged with BIM, it will lead to a near flaw-less construction.

Being associated with many large-scale projects, what is your take on high rises in steel?

Composite construction is the perfect alternative for high rise buildings. Having composite columns, steel beams with composite action and shear walls in the structure is an optimum option for design. It eliminates the weaknesses of both the materials i.e. the buckling and fire protection issues in steel, especially columns, and slow construction issues in traditional RCC structures. The structural steel can be designed to take up the construction loads and then concreting can be done. This way, both, economy and efficiency can be achieved, leaving to shorter project completion timelines and larger carpet areas due to thinner sections.

As a Structural Consultant, what would be your preferred choice – steel or concrete? Your reasons?

The choice of material is project specific and client specific. For a residential project, I would still suggest going for traditional RCC structure due to the project viability issues. For commercial and industrial buildings, structural steel is the preferable choice. If the commercial project consists of high rise buildings, then I would suggest going for composite construction.

What should be the much-needed measures taken by the government to promote steel construction?

The government should encourage the use of steel in government projects. Upgradation of old design methodology should be there, especially for government projects. Government should promote the usage of structural steel by developing the Indian Standards with respect to the new developments. The codes are very restrictive and stringent for using higher grades of steel and for detailing in accordance with seismic design. This should be made more transparent rather than just directives. Furthermore, there are no codes for the designing structures having composite sections i.e. composite columns and beams. This concept has been widely accepted throughout the world and the construction is followed. This, in turn, demotivates the Indian structural designer to go with this option.

Moreover, in the educational institutions, RCC design is paid more attention than steel. An awareness should be raised so that even the fresh graduates are motivated to foray in the arena of steel design.

Which would be the project that has touched the cords of your heart and why?

I believe, be it an architect or a structural engineer, all the projects are equally important for us. However, within the course of time, some of the projects have challenges and to conquer them gives a great deal of satisfaction. One of the projects in RCC is ‘Delhi One’ located in Noida. It has a vast area. One of the biggest challenge was that the framing of the structure was changing massively at certain levels. For that, we had to design for transfer floor which is India’s largest transfer floor having a height of 3.5 m supporting 40 storeys above. For that a lot of research and consultation had to be carried out. Another project is ‘Alphathum’ in Noida which is a composite construction. The beauty of the project is the optimum usage of material. The construction is exceptionally fast, and the structural steel usage is less than 4.5 kg/sq.ft. which is very efficient for composite construction in a 33-storey building lying in a high seismic zone as NCR.

What is your success mantra as one of the leading Structural Consultants of India?

I have always felt that in any consultant-driven profession, the involvement of the principal consultant in each project is of utmost importance. Even today, each drawing is issued at site after my inspection. Moreover, maintaining strict quality standards, availability to the client and adhering to the promised timelines is very important. Sincerity, devotion and time-bound delivery is a pleasing trait and takes one to the peak of success. Lastly, I feel being updated with the latest design changes, technological improvements and maintaining ties with academics and research is the final mantra for success.