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Julius Thomas Paul-TALES

Talking About Life’s Engineering Saga. ‘TALES’ is a segment that exclusively focuses on the top Project/Structural Consultants across the globe sharing their engineering journey in their own words.

He has over 30 years of experience under his belt… his knowledge is vast & his understanding of his profession is impeccable… he has projects scattered across India & abroad… yet he never forgets to be humble…

Mr. Julius Thomas Paul, Chief Consultant & Director of JTP Consulting Engineers Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, getting candid with us…

Your College Name & Place : GCT Coimbatore
Total Years of Experience : 30+ years
Your Idol / Mentor : SJ Stephen & T Minakshi Sundaram from L&T,
Prof R Vaidhyanathan
Your mantra for success : Be sincere and honest
You want to be remembered as : Sincere and true to the clients

Steel Projects that you are Currently Working on 

  • ILNVT Spaceframe shed
  • Talchar, Odhissa
  • Various projects for Ultra Tech Cement,
  • CHPs for EPC contractors
  • ISJEC Railway Wheel Factory
  • ISJEC Pipe Conveyor Structures

What inspired you to take up engineering as a profession?
What I learned from Dr. Srinivasa Gopalan in UG and Dr. R Vaidyanathan in PG inspired me to take up structural engineering as my profession after a random choice of civil engineering.

How was your learning curve from a student to a pro today?
After completing my post-graduation, I joined the design department of L&T. I worked on quite a number of projects while there under the mentorship of S.J. Stephen and T. Minakshi Sundaram. The trust that my mentors showed in me during this time imbued me with a great deal of confidence.

Also, in the initial days, the library at L&T helped me a lot. For many design challenges that I faced at the time, I got solutions from the books there – solutions, which, when presented to my mentors, were able to satisfy them. So, I would say my time in L&T played a very significant role in turning me into a pro in the form of my mentors and the library.

Later, it was a five-year stint in the Gulf as head of structural departments in GEC, Oman and QDC, Qatar, that gave me confidence in designing large international projects.

What are the various challenges that you face as a structural consultant in India?
Technically, on many occasions, the codes in India are not very clear. When faced with a query, we have to refer to international codes to look for an answer. For example, we (our company) are experts in material handling structures. For conveyor gallery supporting trestles, there is a clause in Indian mechanical codes/ IS 11592 which says H/1000 is the limit for deflection. This specification is not used in international practices that I have followed for reputed clients. We have done certain private Indian projects also with maximum restriction set to H/300 and that has been performing well for decades. So, when you follow H/1000 criterion (as expected in government projects), you are using about three times more material than required!

The logical reasoning to avoid such conservative/erroneous clause specification would be for somebody to think of such conveyors performing at 50m and 10m height. For 10m height, only 10mm deflection is possible, whereas, for 50m, 50mm is allowed. That means the same conveyor which can perform with 50mm deflection can easily perform at 10m as well with 50mm deflection. There is a disconnect in these kinds of logical questions when the structural specifications are prepared by those working in the government sector and these kinds of practical knowledge/ confidence gained by practice should be applied to industry usage and linked likewise. Similarly, of late, section 12 IS 800 is being insisted on for steel design. In AISC, if R=3, one can bypass this conservative detailing. However, IS 800 is not clear about it, particularly, when all member design is governed by wind loads, do we really need to apply section 12.

Another challenge is time. Consultants need to be given time to prepare 3-4 alternatives to get an economical structure. Adding to the time constraint is the low pay which in turn compels us to push with only one iteration. Work is done in haste working overnight with a lot of stress. This is a big issue. At least 2 percent of the civil structural cost should be paid to the consultant for them to be able to come up with a viable economical solution after a suitable study number of alternate systems and iterations.

How do you see the adoption of the rolled section in the Indian construction community?
About 30- 40 years ago, there were only six or seven sections in I-beams, channels and angles. During my stint in the Middle East, I got to work with UB/UC /WPB, etc. sections/thin gauge sections and got familiarized with them which were not there as common usage in India at that time. Now that these ‘efficient’ sections are readily available in India, I would prefer to work with rolled sections over built-up plate sections from a quality point of view and fabrication time savings. I think we should choose to start with the economical rolled sections and while building up, chose additional alternate sections according to the requirement. This will help economize a project while sticking to the rules.

If you can change one thing in our construction practices in India, what would that change be?
The one change I would like to bring about is more usage of tubular sections/ non-slender sections. With the present code, a good economy can be achieved using tubular sections. Additionally, usage of cold-formed/ thin gauge sections for secondary members. I have seen galvanized Z sections near seashores for over 20 years without any corrosion when covered with sheeting/ protected from exposure to the direct wind in Qatar. However, there is still some inhibition in adopting cold-formed sections and I want the industry to use such sections more often.

How has your relationship with steel been?
For the last 15-20 years, I have always pushed my clients to use efficient sections to get better solutions and replace tall and large spans RCC buildings placed with light loading as steel systems. In my experience of material handling structures, where there is no other alternative like concrete; one needs to use only steel when it comes to optimum benefit.

Which is your best work in steel so far and why is it so special?
There are several structures that I would call some of my best. Recently a large shed structure for LNVT Pvt. Ltd. Chennai with a 90 meter clear span area, which is proposed for Talcher Fertilizers. Using ball-jointed construction, we brought about a good economy in the project. Another one is a 2500 ton large hopper-supporting structure at Mangalore port (ESSAE/Chettinad) that stores coal and loads it into wagons as a rapid loading system (RLS). A trendsetter structure was a pipe conveyor structure, particularly made for cross-country conveyors, which transport material from a mine to a power plant or from a port to a plant without intermediate transfer towers and can twist and turn along the way. Traditional conveyor galleries/ structures weigh around 500 to 1000 kg/m, whereas these pipe conveyor structures weigh only about 200 kg/m. For a conveyor of around 15 km, the saving was tremendous.

Which international steel project truly inspires you for its structural elegancy and why?
I find the dome structure arenas quite fascinating. When I was in Qatar about 25 years ago, there were indoor stadiums covered with ball-jointed spaceframes. Of late, these kinds of structures are being built more and more in India.

How do you update and upgrade yourself with the changing times?
Codal practices are more or less the same; what is evolving is the software availability/ capability. There are good softwares available with their own specialty. We need to pick the ones that are best suited to our purpose and are comfortable to work with. Also, by updating knowledge of efficient sections introduced in the market.

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