Astute an approach for Delivering Excellence

He has world’s most notable projects to his credit along with wide range of structural design experience across the diverse field of construction. He also has been honored with the title of “40 Under 40 Recognition Award” and believes that steel plays a supreme role in delivering LERA’s landmark projects due to its quality of faster construction.

In an Exclusive Interview, NAYAN TRIVEDI, PARTNER, LERA CONSULTING STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS shares his richworking experience on projects that includes supertall towers, mixed-use complexes, cultural projects, educational facilities and transportation projects both in India and overseas, and, the key to delivering projects with brilliance…

Being one of the award-winning structural consultants’ firm, what makes you unique?
LERA Consulting Structural Engineers has a portfolio that includes award-winning and landmark projects across the world. We have created successful designs for the entire spectrum of buildings including office, residential, hotel, retail, government, aviation, and transportation projects. We pride ourselves on the close working relationship we maintain between our New York and international offices through all stages of a project, which helps us provide a unique combination of global institutional knowledge and local “street smarts.”

It is our combination of local experience and global expertise that allows us to fill a very special role in the market. We work closely with our clients to push the envelope in terms of design and construction through the world-class techniques we bring to their projects, while also being knowledgeable of and responsive to the local market. LERA has worked successfully in 50 countries across six continents.

Such diverse and far-reaching work demands a high level of flexibility. One standard project approach is not enough. All project stakeholders, including the client, architect, consultants, and contractors, need to work as a team to understand the parameters of each individual project and deliver contextual solutions. In all projects, we endeavor to instill an early and open dialogue between all members of the design, ownership, and construction teams in order to create a successful collaboration, which is crucial to the success of a project.

Having worked on projects both in India and overseas, what is your take on the future of construction Industry?
The impetus to deliver projects of the highest quality, faster and more economically will continue to push the development of new techniques in design and construction. At the same time, more advanced modeling abilities will lead to ever more dynamic architectural designs that will also call for innovative engineering solutions.

In the Indian market, the push for faster construction is creating an opportunity for developers that are able to successfully implement a holistic design and bring new techniques to the market. The teams that invest time and resources into making smart, context-specific decisions early in the design process will come out on top.

It’s important to remember that moving fast is not the same as going somewhere fast. The decisions made early in the design process have the biggest impact on the overall schedule, with their effects compounding over the duration of the project. You can move very quickly through the initial stages of design, but if you have to come back and rework it all later because the proper inputs were not gathered and considered, the overall schedule will be affected. The teams that put in the work up front are more often than not the most successful.

How do you think steel has been an aid to keep up your tradition of innovation and advancement in technology?
Structural steel has enabled our landmark projects around the world – The Oberoi Mixed-Use Tower in Mumbai, located in Worli next to Three Sixty West. The wind loads in Worli drive the design of the lateral system of the slender tower. The outrigger system utilized to make the lateral system work is made possible by structural steel, creative engineering, and carefully planned construction.
In the context of the previous question, steel will be an enabler to speed up the overall project delivery cycle, thus providing better value to clients.

According to you which are the prime sectors of construction that will turn the tables for India, as far as the growth is concerned? Why?
We feel there will be growth in all areas of the Indian market, but we see a lot of opportunity to use steel construction to deliver high quality commercial real estate. Yes, steel has additional costs compared to the more ubiquitous reinforced concrete construction, especially in the Indian market. But as the industry continues to develop, steel will provide significant benefits to speed of construction. As the value of time becomes more and more important to developers, and contractors gain more and more experience, we believe that steel construction will gain an edge in the market.

Also, it is imperative to keep advocating for sustainable construction techniques. Sustainable design is crucial in meeting the challenges of urban densification, and, protecting the environment we all depend on. We are seeing a positive trend in the industry in this regard. Buildings and construction account for around a third of global energy use, and sustainable design and construction will make a big difference in the lives of Indians and people everywhere.

What are the various concerns of the Indian Construction Industry vis-à-vis the developed countries?
The rules, regulations, and code requirements in the Indian Construction Industry are evolving as the market matures. This is a positive trend, and one that we have seen in other developing markets. As the market matures, the rules and regulations improve along with it. However, negotiating the changes while they are happening is a challenge for the industry. Participants need to keep an open mind and remain flexible in order to make the most of an evolving landscape.

Which has been your best work so far involving structural steel?
In New York, we are very proud of 4 World Trade Center. Completed in November 2013, 4 World Trade Center was the first tower to open on the original 16-acre World Trade Center site, 12 years after the September 11 attacks. LERA worked closely with the owner and architects to realize their vision of an office tower that maintains a quiet, dignified presence while offering stunning clear views of the cityscape.

Designed to meet LEED Gold criteria, 4WTC is 977 ft tall (298 m) with a gross above-grade area of 2.3 million sf (213,700 sm). Utilizing an innovative structural system, the tower boasts column-free corners, 80-ft (25-m) clear main spans, and 20-ft to 45-ft (6m to 14m) cantilevers around the perimeter, accomplished by the use of only four perimeter columns per side, which pass seamlessly into a complex below-grade program.

In Mumbai, we are currently working on One Lodha Place, a new 1.6 million-sf (149,000-sm) office tower located in Lodha Place in Mumbai’s prime business district, and the first A+ office building in India. The building has 43 above ground floors and two basements, with a structure comprised of composite floors spanning to composite columns and concrete shear walls.

What are the challenges faced by structural consultants?
Facing technical challenges and finding solutions is the part of the job of being a structural consultant, and at LERA we have some of the best structural engineers in the world. The real challenge is developing solutions that are context-specific, and then being able to effectively communicate those solutions to the client, the architect, and the design team.

The structure is only one part of the equation for a successful project. There are the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, the vertical transportation systems, the building envelope, a myriad of important architectural design considerations, the construction methods, and, above all, the financial considerations that make the entire operation possible. Great structural engineers don’t only design safe and efficient structures, they design efficient structures that enable the rest of the project to succeed.

It is often the case that the most efficient structure, in a purely quantities-based sense, is not the best for the project. As a structural consultant, sometimes you have the good fortune of being able to make “win-win” decisions that make the structure more efficient while also serving the goals of the project as a whole. However, this is not usually the case. Most of the time, spending a little more money on the structure is well worth the cost when the project’s greater context is taken into account. For example, using high-grade concrete and steel in composite columns can be expensive compared to low-grade materials. But when you factor in the additional FSI that the smaller member sizes free up as saleable area, the benefits can significantly outweigh the costs.

Another example we have implemented is to provide additional flexibility in the architectural layouts. If a plan is anticipated to have two separate 3 BHK units, a typical design might put structural walls or columns between the units. By removing some of the columns and walls, you may spend a little more on structure, but it completely opens the floor plan for maximum flexibility. As a result, potential customers can have 3 BHK units or take two and make their own 5 or 6 BHK units. This flexibility can be a big boon to the developer in terms of driving sales. The challenge is finding these solutions and then communicating them to the client, architect, and design team, so that the right decisions can be made for a successful project.

What is LERA’s action plan for next five years?
We plan to continue to work on the projects we enjoy the most: interesting projects with great teams where our collaborative approach to problem solving can bring value to the client.

What message would you like to give our readers?
The most important message we would like to share is that we love collaborating with clients, design teams, and contractors who enjoy working together to find solutions. In this industry, we are constantly faced with complex problems that demand complex solution. It’s important to work with people who respect each other and enjoy solving problems together what that makes our work so enjoyable, and it’s also the best way to deliver projects.