Steel Augments Aesthetics

Steel is a preferred material for the construction of large scale structures as well as large span structures such as bridges, industrial buildings and even residential buildings because of the unique properties of steel as well as advances in the steel design as a construction material as against other conventional materials. Steel structures have very good tensile strength, and, it has a high strength to weight ratio. This helps us to achieve visually slender sections which can be a decisive factor for design aesthetics,
says, Ar. Sharada Seshadri, Co-Founder, Architecture Continuous…

What are the major advantages of using steel vis-à-vis conventional materials?
Steel is a preferred material for the construction of large scale structures as well as large span structures such as bridges, industrial buildings and even residential buildings because of the unique properties of steel as well as advances in the steel design as a construction material as against other conventional materials. The unique properties of steel construction system offer many advantages which have been compiled below:

Tensile Strength
Steel structures have very good tensile strength and it has a high strength to weight ratio. Steel structures have a good load carrying capacity unlike concrete structures, which have a low load carrying capacity.

Foundation
Steel structures can be made without a foundation, but this is not applicable to concrete structures as they are heavy.

Large Spans
Its ideal for Structures that require large column free spans.

Construction Time
The construction process is faster with steel structures as they are easy to erect. This contributes to faster project completion.

Versatility
They are so versatile that they can be easily assembled, disassembled and replaced. Another advantage of steel structures is that they can be constructed off-site by professional steel fabricators and then assembled on site. Steel structures can be easily fabricated, and mass produced.

Transportation
Steel structures are easy to transport as they are lightweight.

Recyclability
In today’s context of serious concerns over waste management, having a good scrap value also makes structural steel a better option than concrete which has practically no scrap value. They are easily recyclable, and this increases its life cycle quotient.

Seismic performance
In the context of an earthquake, Concrete structures tend to be brittle compared to steel and can withstand a considerable amount of external pressure. Steel structures are generally less susceptible to structural failure due to the ductile nature of steel and they’re ability to dissipate energy. However weak links like poorly designed braced/moment frames, connections, or soft story behavior with slender columns, can all compromise a steel building.

How structural steel can be innovatively used in construction to provide design aesthetics and at the same time offer economical solution?
Steel structures have very good tensile strength, and, it has a high strength to weight ratio. They weigh 60 per cent lesser, than concrete making the construction light. This helps us to achieve visually slender sections which can be a decisive factor for design aesthetics. Steel structural systems allows us to explore and generate innovative designs for large span truss, cantilevered truss, Staircases, Bridges, gates etc. Since we are also involved in interior projects, we love to use steel as a primary element to design furniture such as cots, chairs, tables, and TV and crockery units etc. to generate amazing results at a reasonable cost.

Sometimes the visual drama can be accentuated in any space by appropriate design of steel pergolas and skylights which create a magical dance of light and shadow in the indoors; experience of awe and wonder can be created by large span floating structures to small scaled floating tables, beds and furniture. We believe that some of these psychological experiences are priceless.

What is your take on the variety of sections/grades provided by our steel producers for various demands of creativity?
We, are quite happy with the current palette of steel sections that are available in the market and try to creatively incorporate them in our designs after it’s corroborated by our team of structural engineers. We work extensively with rectangular HSS for trusses and round HSS for columns. As far as furniture design is concerned, in addition to rectangular sections we also work with flats to generate interesting products.

What trend are we going to witness in next 5-7 years, as far as designing structures with steel is concerned?
According to the industry experts, structural steel construction industry has not yet achieved its full potential and is expected to grow in coming years because of adaptation of newer technologies in the construction industry. It is believed, that many initiatives and reforms taken up by the central government have revived the growth in Infrastructure sector. The Make in India campaign, development of 100 Smart Cities, Mass Housing, etc. is intended to give a boost to the economic growth and mainly infrastructure development and construction industry as well.

Steel construction was associated with industrial buildings, till recently in India; with the rising economy, new buildings whether residential, commercial, retail, hospitality or IT parks are all changing in terms of construction and façade treatment and visual experience which is driving the demand for steel structures. For example, top down construction technique using steel composite structural systems have been used in fast track projects to complete high rise buildings in short time spans in IT buildings such as Intel building in Belandoor, Bangalore. Such trends have opened doors for greater and better possibilities as far as designing structures with steel is concerned.

What should be the strategy of industry in promoting structural steel construction in India?
According to various reports, construction industry accounts for more than 66 per cent of total steel consumption and in advanced countries more than 2/3rd of the buildings are made in steel. In India, our industries pundits believe that structural steel construction industry is not growing to its optimum potential due to lack of awareness vis-à-vis conventional building materials. Sometimes the cost of construction may be another important prohibiting factor for its wide spread usage. Structural Steel construction systems offer many advantages as it is faster, environmental friendly, earthquake resistant, lesser maintenance; provide higher column free space, high resale value, green benefits, dry construction, saving of natural resources, etc.

Citing all these advantages, industry can seek some kind of policy push from the government and local bodies. Awareness workshops, responsive campaigns and online as well as print publications are various platforms that can make a considerable difference to create awareness among the construction professionals. The government initiatives along with enterprising construction professionals and other private players can help in promoting steel as construction material for speedy implementation of the projects and avoid cost overruns and project delays. Most notably, adapting new innovative methods across design, fabrication & construction will also help in long term growth.

Which are the iconic steel-specific projects executed by you?
We have worked with steel structural trusses specifically when the design demanded large column free spans. Reunion Mall in UP commissioned by Hindalco Industries houses a mini-theatre with 13 m span. This facility has become a major attraction not only for the Hindalco employees and their families but for the nearby communities. It has a composite structural system with RCC columns and structural steel truss.

Right 0’, a Food court on Bangalore-Mysore highway is one-of-its-kind project where we could achieve column free large spans at a reasonable cost. The client brief demanded minimal yet vibrant interiors, hence an innovative design was generated and interestingly the structural truss was integrated with the interior décor. Also. North light which was a part of the structural truss brings in tremendous amount of daylight which creates an exuberating experience for the visitors. The column free large spans also helped us in the design of a unique façade which is an organic white seamless skin wall that wraps the various programmatic requirements.

We have also designed, and, integrated a steel bridge 3m wide and 5m span connecting 2 blocks when we were involved as architectural consultants for Adithya Birla Public School, Harihar. Currently, we are designing a Yoga School for Art of Living, Bangalore which is a composite construction with rammed earth walls and 65 feet span truss.