BIG INTERVIEW

Breaking the Monotony…

Being one of the proven players over the last six decades in the construction field, K Raheja has dug its roots deep successfully across all the segments of real estate. They only believe in moving ahead with times and they do so by adapting the new technologies. Elaborating more on the brand’s enormous success and future plans, MOHAN ABHICHANDANI, DIRECTOR-PROJECTS, K RAHEJA CORP spills the beans in this candid interview….

 

With six decades of legacy as a leading real estate conglomerate, how has been the Journey so far?
Founded in 1956, K Raheja Corp is one of the most renowned names in the real estate industry and has successfully diversi­fied into commercial and residential real estate, hospitality and the retail sector.

The real estate industry in India has witnessed a significant transformation, owing to internal and external factors, especially over last two decades. Whether, it is related to policy interventions such as DC regulations, MOEF and other statutory approvals like RERA, GST, etc., K Raheja Corp is and will always be committed to ensure that best practices are followed in the interest of employees, vendors and customer while running the show.

In India, real estate is the second largest employer after agriculture and is slated to grow at 30 per cent over the next decade. The real estate sector comprises of four sub sectors – housing, retail, hospitality, and commercial. K Raheja Corp is proud to have Mindspace, Shoppers Stop, Vivarea, J W Marriott Brand Hotels and Inorbit Mall as their brands representing the entire gambit of real estate sector under its umbrella.

What strategic measures are taken by K Raheja to be one step ahead of its competitors? How are you different from the rest?
We have taken several measures over a period of time to keep us ahead of the curve, however, the focus was always to keep us vibrant, and, energetic as a united team, and being an efficient leader was just a result of that process.

On the environment front, we signed a MoU with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) & Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) for the implementation of green building measures for all its projects in 2007, and have remained committed to it.

The company currently holds a total registered green building footprint of 4.07-cr sq. ft. On the HR front, K Raheja Corp endeavors to create and maintain a strong people-friendly culture that is inclusive and diverse. For the same, various initiatives were implemented to take care of the employees at all locations which has been a key measure for our success.

Keeping site offices hygienic, weekend offs for site personal, parental leave, abolition of prefix-suffix norms; the HR department is continuously involved in all aspects of making work-life balance, and, enhancing the skills of employees for making them more confident and energetic about their work.

The company also generates green power, which is the energy / electricity generated through renewable sources thus reducing carbon emission. We have set up one of the largest solar rooftop plants at Mindspace Madhapur, Hyderabad; with a capacity of 1.6 megawatt generating 25 lakh units annually. We have always endeavored to reduce carbon footprint and today, we are successfully able to save around 5000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

In a quest to give back to the society, K Raheja Corp actively takes up CSR Initiatives. The company in partnership with GHMC took up the challenging task to transform Hyderabad’s iconic Durgam Cheruvu from a marshy water hyacinth covered lake into a beautiful water-body.

Additionally, through Sadhana Education Society’s (SES), a charitable educational institution known for imparting quality and affordable education to marginalized students without any bias, and at affordable rates, has empowered over 50,000 students with the gift of knowledge in its five decades of existence.

Being developed and promoting eco-friendly building construction, what is your take on green building construction in India?
Green building is a popular concept in the commercial real estate segment in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities and is still gaining acceptance in the residential business.  However, with more awareness, introduction of new concepts such as wellness standard, and net zero concepts, the industry is taking adequate steps keeping in mind the commercial impact, and, financial viability. Going forward with government initiatives and developer’s intent, the measures can be brought well within the affordability index for people at large resulting in s greater adaption of green measures for all segments.

Can you highlight some steel or composite structures that K Raheja has constructed or are going to construct in the near future?
We have undertaken special projects such as extension of our head office, wherein, we have used steel structures that are light in weight and easy to install compared to concrete structures. The project was executed in Bandra Kurla Complex, and, hence the commercial feasibility allowed us to go for steel structures to complete the work at a faster pace.

Additionally, for one of our South Mumbai high-end residential projects, we opted for composite columns to reduce the column area thus increasing the net usable carpet area. Presently, we are in the process of evaluating the commercial impact and long-term benefits of using structural steel vis-a-vis concrete structures for our commercial projects.

What are the key challenges faced by developers in our country?
With steel structures, the execution timelines can be reduced with meticulous planning however, in India due to uncertainty of various approvals, the advantage of using steel structures get nullified, when, a project gets delayed and on the other side the budget receives positive commercial impact up to 30-40 per cent.

Other challenges faced by developers is with regards to the pool of good contractors, who, can execute quality job for steel structure fabrication and erection. Currently, efficient contractors are very expensive as compared to small scale contractors.

What are the main advantages of steel structures when compared to the conventional structures?
Steel can accomplish extremely long spans in structures, and, open-bay footprints without intermediate columns. The material is flexible in different ways to address design requirements, which makes them very good at resisting dynamic forces such as wind or earthquake. It can bend without cracking, which acts as a warning in seismic zones.

RCC structures can take up a good amount of compression but is not good enough for tension, whereas, steel structures can take up both compression and tension. Due to the dead weight of RCC, the foundation design is heavy as compared to steel structure.

How is technology changing the construction industry and the way we execute buildings?
While we are trying to explore many more technologies, we have used large-span formworks, jump forms, cranes, passenger elevators and custom-made aluminum shuttering. Our use of technology is not specific only to the core, and shell of the building, but we use it to maximize other trades as well and try to leverage those technologies in completing the building. We try to capture anything that increases productivity.

With BIM, we can now reduce the amount of efforts put in by consultants for coordination and the rework happening at site due to the coordination done earlier in 2D drawings. With the use of ERP modules such as SAP, the complete project solution; from planning to monitoring, contracts, billing and budget control can be available as 1-point solution.

With costing softwares such as Cost X, extraction of quantity for large scale projects can be done at a fast pace. Aconex helps in design coordination with mapping of changes over earlier layout. We also have a 3D scanner which can bring any heritage building with special shape onto the drawing table for planning the upliftment.

The usage of Drone in surveying and mapping out the specified area has become quite popular. Their value lies in being able to go where humans and heavy machinery can’t, monitoring progress in real time and the ability to make changes to the plan according to the drone footage.

Drones can also play a role in monitoring and promoting safety practices, as the surveillance shows whether best practice regulations are being adhered to, regardless of whether a health and safety official is on site. Our philosophy is to use technology optimally to achieve efficiency and reduce time and not just use them as replacement of human efforts.

Do you believe we have right kind of structural steel supply to cater various demands of clients?
This depends on the supply-demand ratio. We know that there is a wide use of structural steel for industrial and factory buildings, however, for the large-scale commercial, residential and hospitality segment, the volume is still not comparable with conventional structures. Going forward, we need more good suppliers and contractors to provide economical solutions with good quality products. The real estate industry is still evolving in India.

How does K Raheja plan to contribute to bring in a change in the real estate sector in the coming 5 years?
As stated earlier, keeping ourselves on toes is the motto we work with. Other than continuous improvement measures, we are keen to learn new technologies, upgrade the skill of labours by skill development programmes under our CSR initiatives, work towards more eco-friendly solutions while carrying out the construction, improve living standards by adapting wellness and other international standards.

With REIT, the next revolution mechanism in the real estate segment, we are ensuring that all our products are being upgraded and maintained to enter the segment with all the requirements. With that said, we are confident that K Raheja Corp will also contribute significantly in setting the tone for future of the real estate industry in India.

What message do you have to give to our leaders?
I would like to emphasize on having a wide range of suppliers and contractors to provide more economical solutions for making adaption of steel structures for the real estate segment. Unless the financial barrier is broken, it is going to be very difficult to promote steel structure buildings for commercial projects.

More government initiatives are needed to promote steel structures. Also, awareness among people at large for accepting steel structure buildings for residential usage needs to be created. High end residential units can reap the benefit of speedier construction with steel structures as the affordability is not the issue with that segment.

Transformation is Cardinal for us

Having fledged with its own identity, today this construction giant is a front-runner in the Indian real estate sector. The group not only brings newness in every project they undertake, but, leave their identifiable legacy in every single job they do. With a touch of finesse being a hallmark of their works, Phoenix Group has added quite a few precious gems in their crown within the past few years.

In a candid interview, the nucleus of the group, SRIKANTH BADIGA – Group Director, shares his insights on the changing phases of construction industry; enlightens how the use of steel has actually been the game-changer for them; and how they are known for doing things differently when compared to its contemporaries.

Read more of his perspectives and analysis on steel…

 

Q Being one of the key players in the real estate sector. How does Phoenix stand out among the rest?
A Phoenix was established in the year 2002. From the day of inception, we have had our own identity. We are and were famous for swimming against the tide. We always believed in trend setting, and, were the first to launch premium residential apartments also the first to venture into IT SEZs.

We always believed in transformation, and, are famous for our construction of our IT buildings in steel structures and pre-fab.

We could deliver maximum space in minimum time. Likewise, believed in giving back to the society and our Chairman took up the re-development of crematoriums which is a nation-wide movement now. So, even though we are in the business of property development, we are known for doing things differently when compared to our contemporaries.

Q What is your take on the growth of steel in the Indian Building segment?
A The take is direct. We prefer practicing than preaching. We are developing all our buildings with steel structures. We are planning to develop around 20 million sq. ft in the next three years. The development of properties using steel structures saves time and resources. Moreover, it is safe in comparison with the conventional construction.

Q How would you analyze the advantages of steel over conventional materials for Commercial, SEZ & Residential?
A Steel is the most convenient and safe material. As mentioned above we prefer steel structures over the conventional methodology. It is most adaptable, and, our customers also prefer the same technology. The Implementation of design modification is also possible with ease when using steel structures.

Q What are the key challenges faced by the developers in our country?
A Delays in obtaining construction permits for project development, increasing cost of raw materials and limited availability of land in urban areas are some of the challenges that Developers in India face. Other issues, such as complexity of projects owing to increasing demands from customers, increasing land prices etc.

Q Steel structures are boon for the Developers. Can you explain this statement?
A Steel structures are economical for high-rise builders like us. They also weigh less compared to RCC and Composite structures of the same design, which is good and energy efficient. Steel enables lesser disruptions to the environment, improved aesthetics, increased inner (interior) flexibility are the other benefits that steel structures offer. The time-savings these steel structures offer is the most important benefit, not only for controlling project construction cost, but, also because delays in projects are being taken seriously by the government of late.

Q According to you what are the prime factors that prevent the developers from opting for steel buildings, provided the long-term benefits that steel offers?
A In India, our structural engineers are still not very favorable towards steel buildings because of complexity in design and unfamiliarity in analysis.

Q What is your take on the revised construction norms carried out by the government? Are there any policies that you anticipate, or you believe that the government should rollout?
A The policies rolled out are good and encouraging, as and when we keep practicing amendments can be done, since, government policies are always enabling.

Q Is there adequate structural steel supply to meet the client requirements?
A As of now, it is difficult to comment on this because, if Developers embrace steel as the major component of their structures, suppliers will see potential opportunities, and hence, the vertical supply chain will evolve eventually. It depends on how the value chain emerges.

Q Phoenix has mandated steel structures for most of its buildings? Can you take us through the journey which leads you in this decision?
A Well, we are in the business of construction since 2002, and, we have done some projects previously too. Most of them conventional, and, very cumbersome on mobilizing the resources. The steel prices were never constant and were fluctuating every three to four months, thereby, hampering the progress of the project. Availability of steel in those days was also a challenge.

When, we started developing larger IT parks the situation became more challenging. The mobilization of manpower to shuttering material to materials has become a major uphill task. Above all, the time consumed for completing the project was almost three to four years.

Since, most of the projects were large the modifications in the structure at the time of construction was not possible, and, we had to literally break down the major portion and re-build it.

We started using prefab from the year 2013 -2014, which, really eased the construction to large extent. The delivery of the buildings on time started improving gradually.

In the year 2013, we were introduced to steel structures by Kirby. In record time they were able to erect around one lakh sq. ft of incubation space. Later, we realized the speed with which we can construct our buildings in much lesser time.

The cost was on a higher side, but it was feasible because of the amount of time we were saving by using steel structures. Finally, we decided to construct all our buildings with steel structures only. In next four years, we are anticipating developing around 20 million sq. ft of space using steel structures.

Q What message do you have to give to our readers?
A Contractors, suppliers and customers need to understand that newer and innovative technologies are highly essential for building smarter and leaner constructions, which provide long term benefits. It is important to quickly adapt and adopt them, thus, becoming responsible citizens of the planet.

Novel Expertise Unfurls Efficient Construction

Q Being one of the pioneers in the field, what is your take on the growth of the Real Estate Sector in the country?
A There was a temporary disruption in the real estate sector in the recent past post demonetization. However radical the move, it proved to be progressive. Demonetization has helped in preventing investors in buying real estate just to evade tax, and, keep black money in the economy. With 2017, setting the tone for revival with affordable housing, RERA, GST, we can expect a great future for the realty industry. Moreover, the passing of GST and RERA is set to bring about fundamental changes and increased transparency along with timely completion of projects. Luxury housing has picked up the pace in the current year, and with the rise in the number of millionaires in the country, demand is expected to surge in this niche market. Infrastructure status grant to the affordable housing sector will significantly address the housing needs of millions.

Moreover, with tax and other monetary incentives granted to affordable housing, we can expect a rise in affordable housing projects and achieve the government’s housing for all vision. Furthermore, India is also well placed in the top 100 nations clubs for ease of doing business. The policy reforms and developments will have a cumulative positive impact on the overall sector and help build long and trusting relationships between the developer and buyer. There is tremendous scope for growth, which is also helping up in putting up satellite towns closer to major cities and the focus is on improving Infrastructure to accelerate it further.

Q Having created one of the Landmark projects of the Country – ‘The Capital’. How was your experience working on this project?
A ‘The Capital’ is indeed a Landmark project. What makes The Capital an innovative space, is the attention to detail in creating a unique corporate environment, but, also acknowledges the requirements of every stakeholder, visitors and employees alike. The conveniences are built with the intent to provide an experience that matches the jet-setting lifestyle of its corporate honchos. Work-life balance at this complex cannot get any better. Its architecture is its beauty.

Every day in the construction business is a new challenge. Tremendous work by big players and standing out as the best brand is in itself a challenge. Competition has reached a peak now, and, to serve the best of quality and build smart is a challenge. The projects today have fast track deliverables promises to match with customer requirement and competitive market demand, to foster this technology amalgamating operations are to be used and we make sure we deliver it.

There were many structural changes in the economy and due to a few policy amendments too, one of the major challenges while executing this project was the timely availability of machinery for the smooth execution. However, the efforts which our labors had put in for completion of this project and the support they extended towards constructing this landmark project was tremendous, the result of which was beyond satisfaction.

Q What have you to say about Steel vis-à-vis Concrete Buildings?
A India has been traditionally building concrete buildings, and, use of steel (structural) for the residential and commercial building has been on the far lesser side in terms of steel consumption compared to western countries. But, now more and more projects are being taken up, for its sheer speed of construction and as more and more high rises with going over 150 mts high are coming up, the concrete section especially columns are becoming thicker and wider, eating up into floor space, with steel sections these can be restricted, and leaner sections can be designed. Also, new codal requirements are helpful towards this. So, my view is the use of structural steel in residential and commercial buildings may be composite design, it will come into play more and more apart from its use in Infrastructure works.

Q According to you what are the key challenges faced by the Developers?
A The steel industry is known for being recurring, and, reflective of overall market conditions. The demand keeps fluctuating, as per the recession or inflation. The major challenge with regards to usage of steel for the construction industry is the non-availability of the required sections, and grades of structural steel. The over-production of steel in the last decade has led to a depletion of high-grade raw materials. Using low-quality raw materials can lead to GHG emissions which can cause disturbance, and, will also result in major energy consumption. This steel when imported leads to the escalated tariff.

Q How is technology changing the Construction Industry?
A The construction industry has witnessed much significant advancement in the technology over the period and helping the industry to improve the productivity and save in costs and time. We have seen heavy investments in developing, and, acquiring new technologies by construction industries that will benefit them. Technology could do wonders in terms of speed if selected appropriately and save a lot of time in the construction phase – which invariably lands up being a saving for the project in the big picture as your delivery is expedited. Initially, any technology would cost higher than the conventional method, however, post factoring the time value of money and taking into account the faster delivery it facilitates, it’s a sure shot winner in the whole project cycle.

Today, we cannot think of any high-rise building without technology. Also, we are surrounded by technology 24 x7 which is a must in the future apartment you would want to stay. Today, newer developments especially the luxurious projects are equipped, with well-integrated systems of data / telecom / security and CCTV surveillance and the elevator management system in place for the comfort of the residents.

Some of the latest technologies that are responsible for the transformation of the construction industry are:
3D BIM that helps the workers to imagine and deliver the same way they thought of, 4D and 5D are responsible for better cost-effective model designing with comparative lesser time than the usual model would take. 3D laser scanning is one that helps in understanding the exact dimensions of a project using this form of construction technology means there is no reliance on human measurements, and so reducing human error.

Q What are the prime factors that prevent the developers from opting for steel buildings, provided the long-term benefits that steel offers?
A The major factor is price escalation. With the recent hike in import duty on steel, the real estate sector is faced with the proximity of further hikes in the domestic prices. This, in turn, is resulting in costly homes for the end customers’ making affordable homes not so affordable. The undue hike in prices is a huge deterrent for investment in real estate and its growth, as it burdens the sector with an additional cost.

Q Where do we lack in terms of Real Estate Sector as compared to the other developed countries?
A India is lagging in terms of quality and quantity of steel. In India, the Steel Industry is passing through a challenging phase. While the use of structural steel is growing, tall building technology is still in its infancy in the country and India lags in adopting structural steel due to high cost. Limited supply is another area where we lack in terms of steel usage in real estate. At present, the construction of steel buildings is also being limited by the paucity of skills. There is no dearth of appropriate software tools to develop and visualize complex designs. These factors eventually are resulting in Indian Real estate’s shift from steel to concrete.

Not only this, Indian steel industry itself is lagging in terms of technological advancements. India, however, lags in terms of innovating new technologies for steel production, largely due to a lack of investment in R&D by major steel players. Imported technology is available, but there is a need to develop domestic technologies that are compatible with the domestic raw material. Local coal is high in ash content and iron ore is of low grade, and therefore, India needs to invest in developing technologies that are able to upgrade various raw materials for high-quality steel production.

A plan has been mooted to set up a national steel research institution for furthering the above objectives. Enhancing R&D and innovation in the steel sector will not only reduce capital costs but also reduce the dependency on the imported raw material, which will enhance the competitive position of the Indian steel industry.

Q With lineups like the “Smart Cities Mission”. How do you see this changing the Indian Infrastructure Segment?
A In India, the Steel Industry is passing through a challenging phase. The demand for steel is at its lowest. Domestic consumption is severely affected due to lack of activity in infrastructure, as well as in the manufacturing space. The biggest challenge facing the domestic steel industry, is to have the per capita steel consumption in India at par with the average global standards. The new Government at the center has, however, rekindled hope in the industry. The ambitious infrastructure projects, and, the thrust in manufacturing through the “Make in India” campaign are steps in the right direction. The plan for smart cities, improved roads, and rails connectivity by building highways, bridges and dedicated freight and superfast rail corridors have huge potential to spur domestic steel demand.

Smart Cities coupled with Tag of affordable housing has changed the scenario of housing Industry, which is actually resultant of the huge focus on Infrastructure. The Government is now focusing on putting up required infrastructure like railway, roads bridges airports first and then looking up to developers to exploit such locations which will help housing industry to come up with newer developments, like satellite towns.

Q What outstanding newness does The Wadhwa Group plan in the next 5 years?
A The Wadhwa Group has launched an Integrated Township in Pavel, known as Wadhwa Wise City. ‘Wadhwa Wise City’ will offer a unique proposition of efficient Studio, 1 & 2 BHK apartments that will be constructed in various phases. Out of the total land holding of 450 acres, The Wadhwa Group is planning to develop 138 acres in phase 1. The project has got all the approvals for the first phase in place – location clearance under ITP, Letter of intent (LOI) under ITP, Environmental Clearance for the Township, as well as, the buildings under Phase 1along with the building CC for Phase 1 building. The mandatory Maha RERA registration for relevant buildings has been obtained.

The project is strategically located with excellent rail-road connectivity to both, the central and western lines making it easy for commuter travel. The location Panvel is close to Mumbai-Pune expressway, and the Sion-Panvel, providing easy access to both Mumbai and Pune. This affordable housing project will be the mixed development of residential and commercial. All these comprises of about 6 to 7 million square feet of development catering to affordable, mid-segment and luxury segments which will be different for different micro markets. Apart from the usual requirements of such a township, what we Intend to give is a very high HAPPINESS QUOTIENT and HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT utilizing all the natural resources available at our disposal, such as the lakes, ponds and huge green cover. Our other upcoming projects this year are in these locations – Chembur, Kandivali, Matunga, Mulund.

Q What message would you like to give our readers?
A Futuristic constructions should have expert involvement. With introduction of new technologies, it would be wise to opt for designers, structural consultants to construct efficient and ultramodern buildings that would bring delight to the ultimate user.

Pioneering as the Quintessential Roofing Solution

With over 150 years of Global Excellence and customization being the essence of services, which, enables freedom to design and deliver any shape, size or requirement for customers with best in class construction and engineering practices. The Emissary Piyush Nahar, GM-Marketing, Tata Bluescope is here with us, sharing their marvelous clover and much more…

 

What is your take on the current situation of the steel industry in India?
Steel industry in India is poised for growth with capacity additions, and, new technologies being deployed to cater to the customer expectations. India’s per capita steel consumption is expected to surge due to the double-digit growth in automotive and construction sector; two main growth drivers for steel industry. Big ticket investments pledged by the government on infrastructure projects like metros, rails, roads, airports and smart cities coupled with decent growth in manufacturing and residential segments, will further boost steel consumption. The landscape in this sector is changing with the resolution plans of debt ridden steel companies, under progress.

Indian Infrastructure sector is changing at a rapid pace. What solutions Tata Bluescope offers for this segment?
Infrastructure projects in modern times are getting larger, dynamic and more complex as well aesthetic in nature. In such market environment, delivering a project with better efficiency and reliability; using environment friendly, sustainable building materials with greater thermal efficiencies, are top priorities. TBSL offers products and solutions to address these requirements.

LYSAGHT® offers superior quality roofing systems and structural decking solutions. With 100 per cent leak proof performances the brand has become the most preferred choice for railways and metro projects in India where 90 per cent of the projects (including major metros and monorails stations) are covered by LYSGAHT®. These profiles are made from COLORBOND® steel, one of world’s most advanced pre-painted steel products. The Cochin International Airport, the Birsi Airport in Gondia and Jaisalmer Airport have LYSAGHT® profiles ensuring structural stability. Due to superior aesthetics, and, design flexibility the profiles are used for public spaces such as BRTS – Ahmedabad and Val poi Bus Stand Goa which have become an iconic representation.

How does your product offerings make a mark in the Indian steel industry?
Customization is at the core of our offerings that enables freedom to design and deliver any shape, size or requirement for our customers with best in class construction and engineering practices. Our PEB division with BUTLER® and ECOBUILD® Solutions supplies customized pre-engineered steel buildings for India’s fastest growing segments like warehousing, manufacturing, commercial and infrastructure and offers agile operational efficiencies and design engineering with world-class safety practices supplemented by advanced supply & erection methodologies.

So far, in India our PEB business has delivered more than thousand projects for multinational clients such as Unilever, P&G, Ford, DuPont, BOSCH, GE, Colgate-Palmolive, Carlsberg to name a few, with 7.8 million LTI free man-hour at projects sites. Our products, made from high strength COLORBOND® steel, with worlds most advanced paint technology gives an edge, be it performance or longevity to the overall structure.

With over 150 years of global excellence and more than 30 mn.sq.ft. of cladding in India, since 2010, LYSAGHT® is associated with major projects in Infrastructure segment such as Airports, Rails, Metros, BRTS, large and medium manufacturing facilities, warehouses, stadiums etc. For retail markets, Durashine® Steel is the most suitable solution, especially for applications like row houses, bungalows, resorts, porches, colleges etc. It offers solutions like roof and wall sheets, tile, liner and long line crimp profiles. Benefits like longer life, aesthetics, corrosion resistance etc. come hand in hand with Durashine® Steel. DURASHINE® is an award-winning brand and has been recognized as Asia’s Most Promising Brand, India’s Number 1 Brand and India’s most trusted Brand for Best Colour Coated Steel Sheets. Our business is backed by a strong parentage of Tata Steel and BlueScope Steel, Australia where quality and commitment is priority. Quality, durability and aesthetics are the three main pillars of our differentiators.

What are the challenges faced by the roofing industry as of today?
Steel roofing market is majorly driven by growth in large projects, Small and Medium Sized Enetrprise (SME) and retail. In the current market situation, large projects are still gaining traction and sales is majorly driven by growth in SME sector.

Awareness regarding Quality of Products: Selecting the right kind of material for roofing and walling industry is of a paramount concern due to availability of material in various forms and quality levels. The main challenge is lack of awareness regarding quality and environment friendly products. At TBSL we ensure our products are manufactured with highest quality standards and roll forming equipment. Our building systems guarantee 100 per cent leak proof performance. Our products and solutions are environment friendly and thermally efficient.

Complete Design & Engineering Support: Due to low entry barriers, many roll formers are entering the market at the bottom strata and are unable to provide engineering support like design and detailing. Their credentials, after sales service and long-term sustainability are of great concern for delivering quality solutions for the customers. TBSL’s team of experts offer an optimized design solution as per individual requirements.

Workmanship: An acute shortage of permanent skilled work force, and best-in-class installation practices of metal sheets in roofing and walling applications further discourages a buyer to go for steel roofs. Superior on-site installation processes are essential for longevity of steel structures, adhered by few players in the market. Addressing this issue, we have developed a network of authorized builders that efficiently service our customers. A pool of trained fabricators for installation of our roofs also help the end users in making the right choice.

Unsafe Construction Practices: Another big challenge is lack of safety norms and practices that may lead to unsafe working environment within our society. Tata BlueScope Steel’s safe construction practices is a global benchmark derived from its JV partner BlueScope Steel, Australia. Delay in Project Delivery – stretched timelines for project completion is another significant issue faced by the customers. Through our PEB business, we offer agile, planned construction and erection methodologies that ensure project is completed on-time.

Your viewpoints on the latest technology coming into the roofing system?
Roofing industry has evolved from cement roofing to metal roofing. Recent trend is that entire roofing industry is shifting towards color coated roofing. Roofing industry has witnessed a paradigm shift in the last few years. With, increased investment in infrastructure projects, customers are demanding durability, flexibility along with aesthetically pleasing designs. Zn-Al coated steel has also witnessed growth, due, to inter-material conversion from asbestos to metal coated, and, intra material- conversion from bare material to color coated due to its strength and longevity. Roofing material that is corrosion resistant and roof designs that can withstand extreme weather conditions will gain greater attention. One of the important elements in roofing systems today, and, future is its ability to reduce thermal heat gain.

Hence, a demand for insulated roofing instead of single skin non-insulated roof is gaining traction. Thermally efficient roofing material with high solar reflectivity index (SRI Value) would be advantageous. With alternate energy gaining greater focus, roofs that are solar compatible will witness a bigger demand. Sustainable construction practices are being adopted by next generation Architects and Builders; where roofing made from 100 per cent recyclable material and compatible for rain water harvesting would be preferred. Where profiles are concerned, more demand for standing seam over trapezoidal for medium to large projects is sited. This is an obvious choice as more and more designers and architects are looking for aesthetics, flexibility, customization along with strength and durability. A maintenance free roofing solution that offers complete peace of mind with minimum or no repairs are being preferred for long term economics.

Elaborate about your manufacturing facility and its production capacity?
Tata BlueScope Steel set up its state-of-art manufacturing facility in Jamshedpur in 2012, for making world class coated steel products. The manufacturing capacity of Metal Coating Line (MCL) is 250,000 tonne per annum, and, Colour Coating Line (CCL) of 150,000 tonne per annum and is fully equipped with Level 3 automation solutions and equipment from global suppliers. Apart from Jamshedpur, we have 3 more strategically located plants in Chennai, Pune and Bhiwadi for roll forming of coated sheets and other building products. This ensures close proximity to site locations pan-India, enabling us to deliver on-time.

What are your strategic plans for the next 5 years?
Understanding changing customer demands, and, introducing new products and solutions which will add value and play a critical role for the growth of construction industry in India is what we will continue to do in future.

Technology a Crucial Facet of Modern Infrastructure

While enterprises across several sectors adapt to the digital world, the infrastructure industry is lagging, and needs to increase its adoption digital technology to enhance planning and delivery functions, said Kaushik Chakraborty, Vice President, Southeast Asia and India, with Bentley Systems.

Mr. Chakraborty expressed his opinions during an interview with SSMB at the Bentley Systems’ Going Digital event 2018

What is Bentley’s mission for the Indian Infrastructure segment?
Our tag line “Advancing Infrastructure” signifies everything Bentley Systems does! Our mission for the Indian infrastructure segment is to provide the best solutions in terms of technology; help users to adopt and learn these technologies so that they can build, operate, and maintain the lifecycle of their infrastructure in the simplest and most effective way. Bentley also helps users establish better workflows to ensure they are using the technology to enable faster delivery of projects, cost effectively.

One example of this technology in practice is the Nagpur Metro project, which used it to bring transparency to the project, and resulted in a savings of up to 12 to 15 percent of the cost, while delivering the project ahead of schedule.

Using technology to bring transparency, openness, and visibility into an entire project, and provide support to our users at the same time, has always been our mission.

We also look forward to bringing new users on board and incorporating the best processes in the workflow from what we have learned from our users across globe. We make and customize these workflows in consonance to the regional context with our team in India and facilitate that to the market.

What are the key challenges you feel working with government? Are you facing any resistance in terms of acceptance?
I don’t think its specific to India, but as human beings, we have always resisted change! When it comes to accepting change, India is unique in that it quickly adopts new technologies that enter the markets.

We see changes in technology nearly every day, and we must start incorporating new IT advancements in our infrastructure projects. For instance, when somebody wants to build a new airport, we don’t always look at how we can incorporate information technology in the beginning of the project. We construct the airport and incorporate IT later to operate it.

IT is often an afterthought, and it is not considered to be an important factor in the planning and delivery stage. So, one of the challenges we face is getting the industry to begin using technology at the beginning of a project.

Capital-intensive industries, like oil and gas and civil infrastructure, have been adopting BIM practices for many years now and are well ahead in implementing technology for better ROI. The Mumbai Metropolitan Authority for example uses technology to build its metro lines with the right quality and safety measures.

To what extent has Bentley’s software solution impacted the Indian infrastructure thus far?
The impact has been very positive, as we bring in new technologies with better applications. The focus is on better processes and enabling people to adopt these technologies with the right processes. To help organizations meet these goals, Bentley has established a BIM Academy in Pune so that we can teach our users about these processes and workflows, and the reception has been very positive. We have seen some key rail projects like Maha Metro Nagpur, Pune Metro Implementation, and the Dholera Delhi Mumbai industrial corridor, also known as the Dholera project, which is India’s first massive Green Field Infrastructure Development. With the government envisioning several mega projects, we will see an increase in the adoption of innovative technology.

Which new products have been the game changers for the infrastructure segment globally, and in India?
The game changers have been around the connected data environment, which involves sharing information among project participants from conception to project handover, whatever the asset might be, and then that same information is being used by those who will maintain it. Our aim is to give all project team members the ability to exchange information in a digital format from the very beginning.

The applications from our side that have the biggest impact are ProjectWise, and AssetWise. We have now introduced OpenRail and OpenRoads that look at the lifecycle of road and rail projects from conceptual design, operation, and maintenance to give a unified, harmonious workflow across the lifecycle.

What study or observations have been made by Bentley as far as Indian growth story is concerned?
The Indian growth story is a positive one. Adoption in civil infrastructure, especially in the past three years, has been encouraging. The speed of change in terms of adoption and breakdown of resistance has been very positive. Now, the discussions are not whether we should change, but how you can help us make the change. So, the engagements have gone from – I don’t think it is a good idea, to can you work with us, can you help us, can you upscale us, can you re-train our people and help us adapt. There is an understanding that we must do things differently, and, having crossed that hurdle, now it is about getting there.

And, our BIM Advancement Academy in Pune is a stepping stone to achieve that goal. Earlier we had one in Nagpur for the Metro Project, and it helped us learn and understand what works in India. We had successes with academies in the UK and Houston, and now we have two in India and are planning to establish academies in Dubai, China, Singapore, and Australia.

We are going to connect these centers so that there is a global sharing platform available for best practices. The academy will help advance the skills of the professionals in our industry, so that they can deliver better projects once they join the workforce.

What are the unparalleled aspects that Bentley brings to the table as far as the infrastructure segment is concerned?
Bentley’s uniqueness is that we don’t change file formats. We have maintained the same file format since we became a company. A Bentley user who has used a product 25 years ago, can now take that same model/drawing and use it with the latest software.

Also, there are three main aspects we keep in mind when developing our software: i. Information mobility across the product lifecycle ii. Flexible policies in terms of maintaining workflows and products for the users and iii. Interoperability.

Information mobility refers to the process of sharing the information, regardless of the design platform. So, whether one is using products from Autodesk, Intergraph, Aveva, or Bentley, we help our users amalgamate it as their project data.

Users don’t work with only one software, but might involve 10 to 15 software applications, and thus the role of interoperability is actioned. For instance, ProjectWise and iModels are Bentley applications, but they are usually integrated with most of the non-Bentley compatible software. Therefore, we are very agnostic and ready to help our users work effectively with designs and drawing implemented using other compatible software.

How do Bentley’s solutions provide smarter and cost-effective results?
There are two perspectives to this: a. technological perspective b. commercial model perspective.

In terms of a technology perspective, Bentley offers various options for industry professionals to start using our software. We have applications that span the complete workflow from conceptual design or planning for a project, to operations and maintenance of plants or rail systems. For Bentley, it is not just one aspect of the project, but the entire lifecycle of an asset, and thus we provide the whole gamut of solutions.

From a commercial perspective, different users want different methodologies to commercially engage with Bentley. Our commercial offering is moving more toward the pay as you use model.

We don’t want to be known as a company who sells applications to the market, but to enable a platform with solutions and knowledge, and help our customers be successful.

STAAD is a popular product and there are other related products that still need to get a hold in India. How do you see the adoption?
We have other products like MicroStation, which shares a common platform with our other discipline-specific applications for BIM workflows. Thus, it is the foundation platform for all industrial products. We also have users who have adopted MXROAD for road design in India. Now, MXROAD is available through OpenRoads Designer, providing a comprehensive detailed design application for surveying, drainage, subsurface utilities, and roadway design that supersedes the capabilities previously delivered through MXROAD. So, it’s not just STAAD, there are many applications that have gained popularity. While we have been fortunate enough to have a large user base with STAAD, the adoption of other brands has been quite successful.

As the rate of construction on civil infrastructure projects increases in India, we are seeing many companies applying BIM advancements. There are a lot of organizations educating industry professional and bringing thought leadership to them around the advantages of BIM, and we want to be a part of that. Our BIM Advancement Academy teaches participants about BIM workflows and BIM processes. We don’t concentrate on Bentley software, but talk about our part of workflow and how we can help advance the industry, so that people get more exposure of what is happening around the world, especially in the Indian market.

Storyteller of Architect’s Narrative

An architect with immense love for steel, as he believes that this material enables the designer to explore his creative mind in the true sense which one can see in his outstanding works.
The man of the hour, Ar. Kalhan Mattoo, Principal, Planet 3 Studios, is here to narrate architect’s journey right from challenges and how do they turn every encounter into an opportunity. Read to know more…

 

How did you decide to be an architect? Who were the people/incidents that influenced your decision?
Arundhati Roy was my influence. I was about 15, when I watched a movie with my Grandpa that eventually became a cult classic. Secretly, I think my Grandpa was equally smitten, but then I had the choice to pursue her suggested promise of a liberal, open, creative world, and therefore, chose architecture.

What do you think are the most important skills to succeed in architecture?
Being fool hardly to an extent. The very fact that one chooses a profession as these discounts any great analytical ability to chart a viable career path. The best skill, therefore, would be one to spin all the myriad, disconnected, sometimes coupled determinants, that defines us every day into a coherent narrative, ideological or otherwise while keeping clients and accruals sustainable.

Do you believe it is possible for an architectural project to have an impact on people’s habits, behavior and expectations?
Yes, but not to the extent Architects would have you believe. The spaces that we inhabit, places where we work, play and maybe pray – all fall within the realm of human nurture. It matters quite a bit, but, more to the sensitized left leaning elite, who subscribe more to nurture than nature as the definitive answer for all that is good or bad with the human lot.

To what extent do you think construction materials can support a complex concept of design made up of many variables, from human to landscape, from anthropological to environmental?
Materials are tangible, immediate and clearly much important in defining the quality of a spatial environment. Materials are expressive, and as such work as passive storytellers to the Architect’s narrative. That narrative could have multiple anchors, some as well mentioned above.

Can steel play a role in all this?
Yes again. It’s a great natural material. Architecturally, expressive and structurally sound. Always a favorite child to most architects.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?
Environmentalists. Greens. Bleeding hearts do gooders who have appointed themselves as custodians of Mother Earth and more. They are sanctimonious, preachy and often talk down to all those who may hold an alternate view. With potent agendas to direct and control others to convert to their world view, their manner is increasingly tending towards shades of fascism. Designing is like solving a multi variable equation, sustainability is an important consideration, but not the only one. In any case climate change has a nonlinear dynamic to it, has always changed and will continue to do so. I believe we are overplaying our role here and sometimes imposing unsustainable constraints. I fear a backlash in the near future, both from practitioners and clients alike.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today?
I have always lived by the dictum – ‘If life offers lemons, make Caipiroska!’. Our profession is a tipped over truck with lemons all over. Architects have to reinvent themselves now more than ever before. Find new purpose, if you like, for our existence. When the best projects are awarded by Government agencies at 0.26 per cent fees, when most of the new Urban Development is mandated to vague business consulting or finance entities, when PMC firms have commodified architect ‘vendor services’ and when antiquated building codes and deliberately obscure systems of approval thwart creative expression, and finally, the financial illiteracy and lack of understanding of the business/commercial imperative of large complex projects, marginalizes our role – it’s time for a reboot.

How would you define your responsibility as an architect?
Sincerely, I believe that responsibility encompasses everything from site selection, business case analysis, program development, concept to details, project implementation strategy, coordinating the whole wide world of stakeholders, support on marketing and even finance. Moving away from the Pandit+Dakshina model to having genuine skin in the game.

What role do you see for technology in design in the coming days?
Necessary admission, I remain a technophile. It’s not just in building technology and construction techniques that significant change is imminent, it’s more fundamentally in the very processes that we employ to design and engineer. I have done whole projects without drawing a line, no premeditation, just definition of relevant parameters. Computational design coupled with data analytics will challenge any current notions of the practice of design in ways that we can’t fully comprehend right now.

A Paradigm of Production Outlook

A leading bronze certified and green channel supplier has achieved a global milestone in quality, and has successfully drawn the focus of the industry towards them with their ‘Just-in-Time’ delivery, high commitment and integrity. The man of the hour Dhruv Moondhra, Director & CEO, ICE STEEL1 India Pvt. Ltd., will enunciate, on the improvement in Manufacturing Processes achieved…

 

How did Steel1 evolve?
Arcelor Mittal has investments in downstream steel processing units with success par excellence. As they were unfamiliar with the Indian market, they entered into a joint venture with Moondhra family to form Steel1, and that is how we started. Today, we have very clear three businesses – all of which are located at Ranipet – and within these 10 years we have established our name – If you want high quality, on time, with the commitment to face difficulties together, you go to Steel1.

We are the tier one suppliers to global customers like Caterpillar, Bombardier, Volvo, Terex, etc. and significant suppliers to large Indian customers like Bharat Heavy Electricals, Larsen & Toubro, etc. In case of powerplants, we supply ready to erect steel columns which is completely welded and painted at our factory, and then erected at high speed at the site. For construction equipment, we manufacture the entire chassis in our plant, and supply Just In Time to our customers assembly lines. Our customers have had the confidence to sub-contract to us very critical components which they would have otherwise preferred to have done in-house. Where the customer feels the welding is critical to the performance of his products, then the answer is Steel1.

For example, in case of thermal power plants, the boiler column is as much as 100meters high, with > 100MT pieces, which when erected, should fit without any adjustments. Our customers do not want to do weld corrections at 100meters height; they want something that is very precise, and when you ask about precise work; precise welding; the answer is STEEL1. The largest project we have delivered is to BHEL for Neyveli Lignite Corporation – wherein average piece was 100 tonnes, with a maximum of 130MT.

The columns were erected with these weights at 80 meter plus heights. The beams were 30 meters long and weighed 130 tonnes and vertical bracing was 110 tonnes and our mandate was to fabricate so precisely that when it goes up to those heights for erection, they have no corrections to do. They were able to erect the main steel structure in five and half months because of the quality of our fabrication.

When Delhi metro wanted to manufacture the coaches in India, they gave the order to Bombardier, which is a Fortune 50 company, under the condition that Bombardier will make the coaches in India. Bombardier rejected a large number of fabricators before they came to our plant, and we passed their audit in half a day. Today in partnership with Bombardier, we have supplied the Delhi Metro, and additionally, we have supplied to Adelaide Metro, Melbourne, and Victoria in Australia, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Since inception how has been Steel1’s journey so far?
We started operations in 2009-10 which was not a great time to start a greenfield business in India. As it was just after 2008 economic crash and just after the crash we had these new plants and we had to look for business. So, we started with 984 kg/hr fabrication and today we are at 4,812 kg/hr. This is how we measure the journey in terms of physical output, and during those times we have become number one supplier to BHEL Trichy for the boiler columns, we have also supplied boiler columnss to BGR Hitachi, to L&T Mitsubishi. We have delivered to the top global names and the top global designs.

We supplied to Thermax the steel structures for Reliance Jamnagar project. So, we have had wide experience across the country. At the same time, we have bagged awards from Caterpillar and Bombardier, and, for all these we have become the green channel suppliers, where products are delivered directly to assembly line. The components we supply to Caterpillar are exported to 24 countries. We have also close partnerships with other Fortune 100 companies like Terex, Bombardier and Volvo. Therefore, the journey has been very productive and fruitful.

According to you what is the current construction scenario and the upcoming trends in India with respect to steel construction?
Our enquiry loads across the spectrum seems to have gone up. Even a sector like bridges, where most of the construction has been civil construction, the government and the government agencies are experimenting with steel bridges. As far as airports are concerned it is well established in steel construction and as the capacity required will grow, we anticipate a lot of projects in this space. At present there is a start of enquires coming from residential and commercial buildings, which earlier was always civil. As they are looking for faster delivery, so they are talking about steel. Overall I see that construction is subdued but the volume of construction between civil and steel is shifting like in the case of bridges where 4 per cent of the bridges made in India are made in steel. So even if we don’t increase the number of bridges but that 4 per cent becomes 8 per cent we have doubled the business of steel requirements. So, I see that as a very positive sign so overall the culture is more willing.

For example, they have built a fire escape at my daughters school, which was previously in concrete. As it had reached its life they were demolishing it, and, surprisingly they had opted for steel construction for the same. The parent body agreed, that the fire escape would be a steel fire escape and that it could be made in the factory and erected within 3 weeks in the school building.

Now, this body of parents are not big architects or structural engineers, for them to think that we can consider a steel structure because it is fast, is a good demonstration of the psyche of the Indian customers. This shows that the change has begun but is a very slow process for every year you will have few more examples of steel structures which will make people more interested. It’s not going to be an overnight change but a long-time trend, and the trend is in the right direction.

In the increasingly large steel building projects in India, what role does STEEL1 have to play?
We have built largest power plant columns in India. The main steel structure for one boiler alone was eight and a half thousand tonnes of steel. The project fabrication was completed in 11 months and erection in five and half months in concurrent direction. We are also building the largest air cooled condenser in the world in North Karanpura in Jharkhand. It’s a 17,100 tonne project and we have been selected among global vendors to build this type of project.

These are not commercial or residential buildings, but these are very large steel buildings. The Air condenser, up to 55meters is civil columns and the next 23meters is steel structures. The entire platform is 396 meters long by 132 meters wide. So, it is nowhere in the world anybody has built condenser this large.

So, these are some marquee projects that we can speak about.

Can you give details about the unparalleled technology of your manufacturing facility in terms of various processes followed?
It is not technology, but it is about production mindset. The best quality manufacturing today in our country is automotive manufacturing. India knows how to manufacture cars and in small cars we are the global leaders. The car manufacturing industry follows line manufacturing system while the steel fabrication industry doesn’t follow this system. It is the same labour contractor who is paid on some kilogram rate who in a very unorganized manner does his job. For most projects, we have established assembly line culture manufacturing which is developed by us. The products move at each station wherein the inputs get fitted and since we follow Built in Quality no inspection is required and the end product meets all requirements.

For example, we did a project for Shapoorji Pallonji with MRF in Trichy. They made an estimate that they will erect 25 tonnes per day, but eventually they erected 75 tonnes per day – you can call it technology or something else, but we have improved the production process. We have made a quantum leap in the way we produce. We can produce a quality where the customer can erect three times what he estimated with another supplier. So that is the best example of the innovation I can give you.

What are the unique products and offerings that STEEL1 provide to the Indian construction industry?
I would say ready to assemble steel. Others, say the fabrication and on the site also we will do the welding and will do the correction little bit on in the structure but when it comes to us you just have to assemble at the site. it is like a lego that is unique which many company aspire to do, and we deliver to this. If we talk about road construction STEEL1 makes the chassis for 1 out of 5 road compactors made in this country; STEE1 makes chassis for 1 out of 3 dump trucks made in this country. Out of the significant metros in the country, Delhi being the most significant, we supplied bogie/primary parts to 50 per cent of the Delhi Metro. So, I would say these are really the unique offerings that we have made, and we are now recognized globally for our products.

Which are your key customer segments? How different is STEEL1 from its competitors?
Our customer segments are Railways, Construction Equipment and Structures. This is a unique combination. In India either a person is either doing just Construction Equipment or only Railways or just Structures but not all the three. The businesses are very different – with construction equipment’s, we supply twenty-three buckets every day so the truck leaves three times in a day, and the customer then fits that bucket into its machine. While in railways, we supply to make 40 cars every month. It is a very clear and defined business. In the construction business we are trying to bring the same concept of manufacturing with Built in quality and Just In Time delivery.

BHEL is doing a power plant in Telangana – they ordered different parts for the power plants from 15 or 16 companies and we were the first one to reach, to be erected and completed. So, we plan a project like we plan a car production which begins with what is going to be erected. So, in many cases the customer when he gives us the project he has not even appointed the erection company nor the drawing company but us. So, we have a simple thing you appoint the erection company, let the erection company say what/how he will erect so and so and the drawings are made in the same manner.

In our business everybody gets paid by tonnes. They don’t get paid by speed of erection. So, what happens is the columns which are heavy are produced first irrespective of whether it would be erected first. The innovation brought by us is we insist is that if this must be erected first, then it must be drawn first, and which then will be manufactured first and delivered first. So, the entire schedule goes on the erection schedule that’s how we can do just in time. So far Steel1 is not doing erection but in 2019-20 we will build that erection capability as well. At present we will continue to build our capabilities in bridges and industrial structures and in 2019-20 we will start erecting.

What are the major challenges faced by you today? How do you plan to overcome it?
The major challenge is getting skilled labour, training of the labour and the government of India’s labour laws. Each project has a peak and trough staffing plan. I read in the papers a few days ago the government has allowed fixed term contracts which is going to be fantastic for our industry. As we take labor for a project it runs 12-24 months.

The other thing that we do is we run a welding institute. So, we take people from 10th or 12th we train 100 welders every year. They go through 2-3 years training programme, depending those that we need for our own works we absorb, and the rest get good jobs in the industry. So, that certificate from us say that you are a trained welder from STEEL1 and it is a very prized certificate. A worker in China does welding, fitting, drawing reading and grinding; in other words he is 100% multi-skilled. In India the worker has only one skill and hence the Chinese productivity is four times than us. The person who is trained from our company he can do everything. So, that is the strength of our training programme and what we contribute to the industry.

What are your current priorities and your action-plan to achieve them?
Deliver to customer the confidence that a steel structure will be at the same cost as a concrete structure that is the number one priority and that is where the industry has failed. Every customer says steel structure is ten or fifteen percent costlier. We are not able to save on the material cost, but we can save on the interest cost. In a construction project 30 per cent cost is on the interest, if a two-year project is completed in 8 months then we save significantly on interest cost which will then make the steel building viable. Just- in-time, speed, quality our entire focus is there.

If we are able to crack that equation and give the customer that option than there is no reason you should not be looking at steel as very active option. Remaining part of the world steel is preferred as a construction solution because it is not very expensive, but it actually delivers faster. In our country cost is ten percent more and delivers at the same time. The reason for delivering on the same time is because the consultant, contractor, fabricator, etc. are from civil background who first need to get synchronized. We should be able to complete a 5,000 tonne project in four months and a twenty floor structure in 5 months that is the kind of confidence we should give our customers with steel building and that is our priority.

Steel is a Catalyst of Change

Recently, the Indian construction market has witnessed the introduction of new and innovative structural steel and components that have changed the face of construction. As far as promoting and popularising the concept of fast paced construction in India goes, this new age material has managed to do the trick, proclaims
SUNIL GODBOLE, Senior DGM – Structural Engineering, L&T Realty.
Excerpts from the interview…

Having more than two-decades of experience behind you, what has been your observation with regards to the evolution of structural engineering segment?
The practice of Structural Engineering, like Science, is one that always stands on the shoulders of its forbearers. For last 25 years after working in countries like United States, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, UAE, India, Malaysia & Taiwan, I have witnessed an extraordinary evolution in the way structural engineering is practised, thought about and discussed. The design of landmark structures, once within the reach and capability of just a few 20th century design practices, now appears to be within the grasp of many. The boundary and border of architecture and structural engineering have traditionally been defined by a linear and hierarchical correspondence between the two disciplines. Professionalisation of both disciplines has created a pre-articulated routinisation of the practices and distinct processes where the architect develops insights in design, while the structural engineers is granted exclusively to react only once the design is developed.

Today, both are required to develop new skills and competences if they are to survive. In response to cultural and technological developments in the last 25 years, this relationship has evolved significantly, changing economic orders (where rising wealth has increased the importance of aesthetics) and more recently, presenting new opportunities to question ‘planned obsolescence’ of buildings through the reshaping of design discipline.

Today’s fertile atmosphere provides a novel condition for the specific relationship between architects and structural engineers, as both disciplines try breathlessly, to keep up with the pace of change. During the early 1990s, newly awakened powers of observation and increased skill in representation encouraged both disciplines to look into each other’s work again in search of perennial reinvention.

At the height of this period, the boundary between uniquely human creativity and machines capacity for pattern recognition and complex communication marked a new confidence, offering free movement between the two disciplines, and between design fabrication and construction. As both platforms are protagonists, leading structural engineering design offices, design schools and educators play a big part in this dance of the disciplines. What was noticeable from 2000 is that architects, in response to the popular imaginations of their consumers, were increasingly expected to exemplify with each project a newness, cheapness, particularity or uniqueness to produce one off creations (often formerly unimaginable forms) that avoided universality.

Meanwhile other abundant productions of architecture such as housing in emerging markets continued due to rapid urbanisation with a very little design and often without architects. At the height of this trend, in his controversial thesis of 2002. “Stephen Wolfram” even stretched the traditional approach of computation, through mathematics and engineering, to empirically investigate computation for its own sake. Though seen by many as an abrasive approach, it did give valuable insights and observations; whenever one sees behaviour that is not obviously simple in essentially any system it can be thought of as corresponding to a computation of equivalent sophistication.

The opportunities for structural engineers and technologists to support the endeavours of architects expanded in response. Initially, to a greater or lesser degree, even structural engineers were guilty of being stuck in a tectonics discourse, often using the same technologies to produce inanimate aesthetics driven by the latest software, prestige and abundance of resources, sometimes fuelled (in part) by undiscerning constructions in developing economies.

Simultaneously this expanded opportunity allowed some engineers to grow their own disciplines freely, encouraged by the extraordinary freedom to ransack the software chest in search of the thinnest glass, shallowest curve, longest span, and so on. While such expansion must be tolerated in many cases, it resulted in architects and structural engineers working in an atmosphere of unclear thought and sensory profusion, encouraging the self-sabotage, gimmickry and posturing of so-called ‘archineers’ and ‘engitects’. At the start of any new-found freedom is ‘big bang’ effect, setting free a certain amount of pent-up demand.

The Beijing Olympic stadium is an example of this: looking back at this new structural wonder, one has to question its provocative deception in the use of steelwork a 60mm x 2mm strip that could wrap around the globe three times. In hindsight, we believe this approach failed to engage with the larger, more fundamental changes on offer to us as designers.

What is your take on the current scenario of steel construction segment in our country?
Today, with the improved availability of steel and, more importantly, the availability of structural steel that possesses better quality and features, the scenario is fast developing. New technologies in the design, fabrication and erection of steel structures are making them more popular than ever before, even though they still remain costlier in comparison to RCC. In fact, steel structures are now seen to be completing a full circle by becoming a material of choice, something that is a result of their being identified for their speed of erection, higher load-bearing capacity and convenience.

Steel structures are steadily getting their due recognition because of their sheer advantage in terms of innovation. Each of these structures is fully customised with advantages such as faster construction, ease of expansion, eco-friendliness, earthquake-resistance, factory-controlled quality, lesser maintenance, green building features, etc.

This shift is now increasingly visible, compared to earlier, steel structures in the construction of industrial and commercial buildings have been very well accepted, to the extent that most multinationals and Indian corporates have started adopting structural steel buildings – whether greenfield or expansion projects. Within the newer areas of applications for steel construction in residential and high-rise buildings, it may be concluded that we have started adopting structural steel as primary material of construction however, a lot more is still to be done in this area.

Structural steel, which is at the core of this change, was in short supply in India until not very long ago. Given the limited supply, good quality structural steel had to be imported at a cost. However, things are changing. Recently, the Indian construction market has witnessed the introduction of new and innovative structural steel and components that have changed the face of construction. Steel structures are now able to take more load with lightweight components.

As far as promoting and popularising the concept of fast paced construction in India goes, this new age material has managed to do the trick. The biggest change seen is that fabrication has now moved away from construction sites to component factories. Improved transport infrastructure in India has further facilitated the shift to off-site fabrication.

Why has development of high rise buildings not caught up in our country as much as compared to some of the international countries?
It is true that we currently do not have a significant number of ‘world-class skyscrapers’ in India. However, we do have a large number of high rises (towers between 25 and 45 storeys tall) already constructed or under construction right now. While a 40-storey structure might be a big deal for cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai or Hyderabad, for Mumbai they are now just average sized buildings.

This is because Mumbai right now, has an unbelievable 19 supertall buildings under construction. Supertalls are structures that are 300 meters or taller in height. In a nutshell, apart from Mumbai we don’t see a big boom in high rise buildings in other part of the country.

The skyscrapers built in 19th century USA had 20 floors. For modern buildings to be called skyscrapers, they need have at least 40-50 floors. Most places in India are not expensive enough to warrant that sort of demand from a piece of land; people would just go a little further away. This supports the argument that skyscrapers crop in places with high demand for floor space.

Most companies today, who can afford to build a huge commercial space for itself, generally doesn’t choose to do it vertically in the middle of a metro. Instead, they build sprawling campuses and let the community develop around them. Same is true for India. Most of the old guard and some of the new of Indian commerce have huge skyscrapers in metros to their name, but, most Indian companies understand the value of outsourcing non-essential task to cheaper areas. This reduces the need for skyscrapers.

What are your views on the current scenario of steel grades and sections provided by our steel manufacturers?
The balance of power in the world of steel appears to be on the threshold of a tectonic shift as countries which were once considered to be fringe elements in the global steel market, gradually begin to create ripples in the delicately poised industry. There is no denial of the fact that balance of power in the world of steel is shifting swiftly and if there is a country which would likely lead this transformation – it would be India. The reforms that have been brought about by the present government and its support for the steel industry have been unprecedented.

Historically, structural engineers suffered a lot regarding the types of structural steel sections which were available in the market, in last 10 years the variety of section sizes that are mostly used in American and European markets are now available in the Indian market as well. The wide flange, the hollow sections etc, you name it and are now available in Indian market. This offers a great flexibility to the structural engineers while designing the buildings. Similar was the case with the steel grade. FY250 was making it very difficult for the structural engineers to meet the design requirements regarding strength. But now, FY310 as well as foreign grade specifications are also readily available in India.

What factors are necessary for any project to be successfully executed?
To me, following are the dominant phases of any construction project:

  • Project Acquisition Stage/Inception/Project feasibility phase
  • Master Planning Stage/Product definition phase
  • Concept & schematic phase
  • Design Development phase
  • Tender phase
  • Construction Documentation/GFC phase
  • Construction phase
  • Handover phase
  • Defects Liability/maintenance phase

During the lifecycle of the project i.e. during every stage of design, execution, handover and maintenance, the following four attributes play very important role in the success or the failure of the project:

  • Timelines
  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Positive NPV / IRR / Return on Investment (ROI) / Return on Capital Employed (ROCE)

In short, the success of any construction project depends on the above-mentioned attributes meaning how well one manages these attributes or in other words if we are successful in managing these attributes during every phase of the project, then the project can be termed as a successful project.

Which best practices should be followed during the construction phase to make steel a viable choice of material?
Quality Assurance, Safety and Speed of construction will ensure that structural steel is a viable choice of material. Quality Assurance aims to confirm that the steel used is of the highest quality and that the process is executed with attention to detail. Many of the natural benefits of steel can be rendered useless if refinement and fabrication are done in a sloppy or hasty manner.

When assessing the quality of a structural steel fabrication job, the quality assurance inspector should check for the proper qualifications and performance of the welder. Structural steel fabrication must be performed by a qualified and licensed welder. Improper technique can negatively affect the overall strength and lifespan of a steel structure. A quality assurance inspector can assess the work of your welders to ensure that it meets all required specifications.

There should be a check for proper functioning of the welding and fabricating equipment. Qualified welding operators are a necessity, but, if the equipment is improperly calibrated or otherwise defective, then quality can suffer greatly. However, a quality assurance inspector can make sure your tools are in order. One needs to assess the quality of the material being used. Not all steel is created equal and it’s important to use the correct grade for your project. Different types of steel have different carbon levels which will affect things like how easy it is to weld or cut and how much tensile strength it has. A quality assurance inspector can confirm that the actual alloy composition of the steel being used matches what’s required in your specifications.

Structural steel fabrications are designed down to the millimetre, and these measurements must be spot on in order to ensure the longevity and safety of a structure. A quality assurance inspector can double check to confirm that the measurements are exactly as stated in the design specifications. When used correctly, steel is a powerful and sustainable material, but, it’s important that everything is executed according to the highest standards. Minute details must be accounted for and its best practice to check everything twice, which is exactly what a good quality assurance inspector will do for you.

Safety can be best complied by implementing the OSHA & FEMA regulations in a country like India where the aspect of safety is many times neglected to achieve the desired speed. In fact, safety is the most important aspect of the structural steel construction.

Speed is extremely important from point of view of early recovery of investment. It is to be noted that keeping in view the small to medium scale projects with structural steel turn out to be expensive because material cost as compared to RCC, and therefore, the speed of construction will help to convert this high cost to early recovery from the end customer, and therefore, the speed will help the project to recover the initial outlay quickly to offset the initial high investment in structural steel.

An Epitome of Inqusitvine

A man who lives by a set of priorities which he has set out for himself, abides by his own preaching – ‘remain a student, no matter what practices you take on in the future’… With us is not only a renowned International Architect, but, a true educator,
ARCHITECT NADER TEHRANI, Founder Principal, NADAAA.

Here he speaks his heart out about his expedition from a mere student to a professional, and then back amongst students – as a professor which reflects his desire for knowledge.
This exclusive interview will undoubtedly awaken our inner desires as far as learning every day is concerned…

What inspired you to take up architecture as a career?
A great deal of my childhood was spent in different countries, from England to Switzerland, then from Pakistan to South Africa, and then eventually from Iran to the United States. Later in my college years, I also spent significant years in Rome and London again. For this reason, much of my appreciation of the various environments in which I lived, came to the surface through the discipline of architecture – broadly speaking, the built environment, the city, landscape and the many itineraries that define the places that we inhabit.

Curiosity, flexibility, intellectual empathy and an eagerness to learn are the key elements in maintaining both personal and cultural health!

What made Architect Nader Tehrani the man that he is today? How was your transformational voyage?
While it is hard to speak introspectively about oneself in this way, I may attempt to at least outline a few defining moments that have brought me to the set of priorities that I live by today.

My awaking moment, as it were, came as I turned seven and my family moved to South Africa. It was in 1970, during the period of apartheid. Though still very young, it produced a jolt in my thinking, if only because of the sheer difference of environment, prompting me to ask questions about where we lived, what social conventions defined us, and the political dynamics that were very much at play during that period. Though certainly not phrased in this way, simple questions about the nature of where people lived, what spaces they occupied and how our daily lives were supported invariably all brought back the question of race, equity and basic human rights, none of which I had questioned prior in any significant way, but none of which could be overlooked, by even the most innocent.

The second defining chapter occurred in 1979, with the Iranian Revolution. While I had only lived in Iran for about four years, from 1974-1978, my identity was defined, in part, by our cultural heritage. Still, even in my own country, I was a visitor, having returned to Iran at eleven, staying until I was fifteen. As such, I witnessed the revolution from two perspectives: from a foreign and personal lens at the same time, however contradictory it would seem. Though I did not have any political affinities with the prior regime, I also did not develop any alliances with the new one, and so the idea of becoming a cultural orphan was somehow inevitable. What this would require, somehow, was the formation of an identity that could forge links that did not have the certainty of cultural roots, but rather intellectual affinities; and indeed, this enabled me to join a form of citizenship that we have witnessed in the nomad, rather than the exiled. I have been able to forge intellectual links that did not rely on the certainties of cultural or geographic roots as basis of validation.

My third Chapter is defined by my somewhat fortunate entry into college. With an educational track record that was mediocre at best, the idea of getting accepted into the Rhode Island School of Design was nothing less than transformational. It provided the most supportive environment within which one could explore, experiment and speculate on ideas without the burdens of conventional scholarship. At the same time, it was an environment that required hard work, great discipline and rigors that I had never yet experienced. For this reason, it was my first great engagement with a learning environment that would set the pedagogical tone for my years to come, both as architect and as an educator.

According to you what has been the real transformation of the building industry over the years?
Many technical transformations have occurred over the centuries, but somehow, they seem pale in relation to some of the more powerful conceptual transformations that mark the intellectual project of architecture. However, if I were to comment on the building industry at large, I would simply reiterate the challenge that has been created by the introduction if the legal separation between ‘design intent’ and the ‘means and methods’ of construction under the auspices of the American legal code. What this has done is to fundamentally challenge the architect, by effectively denying him/her the right to specify the built environment in the precise manner that is befitting and necessary of an architectural discipline. Though negative, this is also transformational, and a challenge to be taken on as a key project in the coming years.

Which is the innovative material application research that has changed the dynamics of the construction industry?
Over the past twenty years, we have witnessed the emergence of digital fabrication in the construction industry; though still rarefied, it is becoming more conventional in a variety of spheres and I suspect it will become a foundational requirement for any significant builder in the near future. To this end, even traditional materials have undergone different protocols in the assembly process as a result of this digital revolution.

Meanwhile, the material sciences have also been working across disciplines, with biology and computation as key partners, to imagine new materials whose ecological footprint and implementation may come to be appreciated in more optimal ways. We stand to do a lot more work in this area, given the latent waste that is part and parcel of all construction practices, and the sheer toll this continues to unleash on the global environment.

What are the new means and methods of construction that you believe have turned the tables as far as innovation is concerned?
I have already spoken to the digital protocols that have transformed our ability to control the means and methods of construction above. However, I also think that simple and better communication between architect and builder goes a long way to exact the type of innovation that is required of great projects. To this end, innovation is not always technical, but rather the result of basic cultural and contractual obligations that need to be undertaken as part of the commitment to architecture.

You’ve achieved a rare feat of designing three architecture school buildings. Architecturally what do each of the buildings say, and what was your personal experience with these buildings?
The opportunity to design three schools of architecture is, indeed, rare and a great honor. At the same time, each are very different in terms of their location, culture and pedagogy. For this reason, they are also quite varied in approach and sensibility. What may be, binds them all are a few basic ethics around which our practice revolves. First, because they are schools of architecture, we have taken a light hand on the elaboration of detailing to ensure that their rawness allows the type of intervention and appropriation that is befitting of a school of design where the expression of the building is invariably tied to the drawings that are pinned up, the models and mock-ups that punctuate spaces and the presence of exhibitions and other events that make the character of the building.

At the same time, we were careful to ‘speak’ to our audiences in a way that acknowledges that these buildings, unlike others, will house a very literate cohort, and as such, any building they occupy is prone to added inspection and critique. For this reason, we see these buildings as pedagogical spaces more than spaces for learning: they are didactic in their details, expression and experiments. The Hung Platform in Georgia Tech, the Folded Roof in the University of Toronto or the Suspended Studio in Melbourne all invest in a paradigmatic architectural moment that can only be described as both extraordinary and pedagogically motivated: that is, they motivate thinking beyond conventions and they push material and compositional strategies beyond their traditional limits. Thus, each of these buildings identifies key elements as transformational moments, not just for the building in question, but the discipline at large.

What transformational shift do you anticipate as far as education is concerned?
Many things stand to transform education, and have already begun. For one, online education stands to enable access to courses at an exponential rate– and across cultures, borders and time zones. At the same time, the unprecedented impact of the Internet on popular culture, politics and the protocols of everyday life has completely changed our consciousness, and given the cultural climate of the moment, a reminder that technology can be used to many ends.

Questions about scholarship, truth, verification and discipline have come to be challenged in this chapter, and for this reason, much of what we stand to take on through education in the coming years might be the re-inauguration of critical thinking as the basis for the channelling of an incredible amount of information, something that maybe no other historical moment has required. Education now may be as much the critical curation of knowledge as the access to it.

You also mentor many architectural students. What challenges do you face while guiding the future generation?
The key challenge is to provide them with all the necessary technical and intellectual skills they need today, knowing fully well that these are merely stand-ins for a discipline that is dynamic and ever-changing. To this end, we try to design our pedagogies around the notion of uncertainty, critical thinking, and the imperative of having students reinvent practices rather than preparing them for a practice on the verge of obsolescence.

If you have to choose one, which has been your proudest work so far, and why?
I think I would choose the Tongxian Art Center project, which remains incomplete; only the gatehouse was built, alas. That project exemplifies a certain aspect of our thinking that I consider to be the most productive, and in many ways as relevant today as the moment in which it was conceived. It is at once minimal, raw and restrained, while also complex, urban and elaborated in material ways. This is at once poised and mature, while also fresh and experimental.

Specifically, I like that, as a piece of architecture, it builds itself up as an urban project, creating context as much as responding to one. I also like that we worked with conventional materials, while provoking them to do things that they have never done: we effectively invented a variable bond for brick construction in that project. But also, in developing a system, we also created a platform on which others could operate, beyond our own authorship.

Being recognized as a reputed mentor and educator, what do you have to say to the emerging lot?
My simple counsel to them would be the same I say to myself: remain a student, no matter what practices you take on in the future. Curiosity, flexibility, intellectual empathy and an eagerness to learn are the key elements in maintaining both personal and cultural health!

Rhythm of Architecture

How has been your journey from your first venture as an architect to now?
Honestly, it has been a long, bumpy and very interesting trip. From my beginning, I never imagined being able to get where I am now, which has been the result of the efforts and many hours of work in the recent years.

What is your success mantra to continue and push your ways to achieve your goals and surpass them?
To me, success mantra is to have perseverance, hard work, and never throw in the towel. This will never keep you stagnant and will push all the possible boundaries.

When tall buildings are implemented, do upfront cost affect the construction budget, and what are the expected pay back times?
Yes, of course, the initial cost affects the construction budget, as in any project, there must be a balance between expenses and quality, relative to the investment pay back times.

The term ‘payback’ on investment is very variable, depending on the height of the building, number of units inside, if it is for rent or for sale, and of course, the quality of the materials and the location of the property are essential. We can be talking about a pay back on investment of between 5 and 10 years. And it does not always mean spending less is the best investment, or spending less has a shorter payback time. Sometimes you have to spend more to revert in a shorter time or in a larger amount.

Now-a-days skills of architects are blended with latest software solution and new technologies, what is your viewpoint on the same?
Leonardo da Vinci said: a good architect should be someone who masters, at the same time, all the science and art of its time. I truly believe in this philosophy as well.

What is your signature style while designing a project? What various aspects are been considered by you?
I do not like to have a design style. The design must be adapted to the needs of each moment, each program, and each client. I do not believe in identity ‘signatures’. We should not do the projects for ourselves, but for our clients, who are the end users of the buildings.

What is your take on green building residence?
All types of construction, and not just residential, should be green and self-sustainable. In the 21st century, we cannot afford to continue building and dirtying our cities as we have done during the last few decades.

What sets your design style apart from rest?
Probably what distinguishes us from many other architecture studios is our passion for what we do. We understand our profession as a way of life, and not as a mere job. The delivery and sacrifice in favor of the design that best suits the needs of each occasion.

Being an architect what do you see as important issues or considerations in your project?
The most important thing is to understand the customers and their needs. The styles, the forms, the functions, all this must fit perfectly, following a rhythm that is both poetic and technical, under the expert baton of the architect.

Beyond design and construction how BIM can help improve the performance of the building?
The implementation of BIM in our daily work is essential, since it not only helps us and facilitates sharing all the digital information of the project, but, also opens new doors to different ways of thinking and creating architecture.

How important is it to change your approach as you work from country to country? How are you able to do that?
It can only be carried out after having studied and understood the particular culture and conditions that exist behind each project. Each place has a different decisive factor, each user, each function; determine the final form of the project. They are an inherent part of the building’s soul.

As an architect what scope do you see in the Indian infrastructure industry?
The Indian industrial infrastructure has a long way to go. It is comparable to the good food: the ingredients are of good quality, the utensils that are used make their function very well, and the chef devotes all his passion to it, but, it still needs a few more hours of cooking to be able to bring the finished dish to the table. Indian society is hungry for creativity and new projects. Let’s give them what they demand, and let’s make this country an example to follow.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for making a more human architecture, which helps to significantly increase the quality of life of those who inhabit it.