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Steel Accentuates Digital Fabrication

Steel is a malleable material and you can work with it a lot, you can melt it, you can mould it into shapes and bend it in any form. Even though it is slightly expensive to procure, the time taken to construct something with steel is far lesser than the use traditional materials, therefore, making up for its cost. The interesting thing about steel is that it can be formed into different shapes which gives one endless possibility, states, Ar. Khushbu Davda & Seeja Sudhkaran, Founders, Studio Emergence,


Q What are the major advantages of using steel vis-à-vis conventional materials?
A The major roadblock in steel construction is costing. Talking about steel construction in a city like Mumbai where time is a major constraint, we use this to our benefit and we are able to convince the Developers to use steel for construction as it required much less time & effort to complete the project.

Not just the speed of construction but in terms of flexibility, onsite demands, onsite changes that occur, can be made easily in steel which otherwise is gruesome with RCC.

With RCC we know that certain cantilevers are possible, which are only conventional cantilevers and we can’t have huge RCC structures or fewer columns with RCC and all of which is possible with use of steel. These are some of the advantages of steel construction, therefore steel support systems are much better.

Q How structural steel can be innovatively used in construction to provide design aesthetics and at the same time offer an economical solution?
A The future of construction is going to be expensive because the material cost is only going to sore, while the resources remain limited. The use of technology has given us a new kind of building method such as 3D printing and Digital Fabrication which now we are using not only in construction in India but also in other industries such automobile, Jewellery etc.

If we successfully adapt this technology in the construction industry, we can design structures using the minimum amount of material and make it structurally stable, as they would be optimized to use the lower amount of material, which will be the future necessity as far as more expensive resources as concerned. We will be able to derive to projects that are futuristic in design, and will be aesthetically pleasing, and then we no longer have to rely on the limitation of the traditional building methodology.

Q What is your take on the variety of sections/grades provided by our steel producers for various demands of creativity?

A The section and grades that are provided are quite limited, so we believe that each project has its own demand, so usually they have to be to custom made.

But that is one of the good part about steel, we can get it custom made, digitally fabricate it into different variety of sections, and it doesn’t cost as much as any other traditional building method. If anything, the traditional method will cost more compared to the kind of flexibility that we get with steel.

Q What trend are we going to witness in the next 5-7 years, as far as designing structures with steel is concerned?
A It has more to do with digital fabrication methods. We are true believers that the industry is going to vouch for a digitally fabricated city. So, in this particular expectation, steel is a prime contender because Steel is a malleable material. You can work around it, with it in a lot of different ways. Our project ‘Urban Intervention’ at Prabhadevi, Dadar is one example of it. And we also believe that the trend is shifting in this direction for the next 5-7 years, most of the projects are going to be digitally fabricated. Everybody is going to have a 3D printer, everybody is going to create their own designs.

Q What should be the strategy of industry in promoting structural steel construction in India?
A We don’t think we need any strategy as such because steel is going to be in demand, the rise in construction in Mumbai, especially for metropolitan cities where steel is used as a primary material. Use of steel saves one time and brings efficiency to the project. The other strategy is quite simple, people who are in the crux of making residential buildings, the problem here is when we architects go to a developer and talk to them about the efficiency of steel they are on-board to make a considerably a smaller project like a bungalow but when we talk about developing a residential building or commercial structure, they are reluctant to use steel as a construction material.

They would want to go with RCC, this is where we need to have awareness of use of steel as a construction material. So it will help strategize getting steel into the residential sector which is missing at the moment. We have done some high rise projects, and these days the building come up to 160 meters, which is 50 floors, and are still built with RCC. Even when the RCC consultants recommend steel over RCC, the developers still give a go-ahead on RCC construction. Which is a major issue.

Q Which are the iconic steel-specific projects executed by you?
A As a studio we do versatile projects, we do infrastructure project, residential buildings, interior designs and product designing and we make use of digital fabrication method in our projects. One of such project would be the metro station design that will begin construction by 2019. We are co-winners for the Andheri Metro Station Design, which will be fabricated in steel.

We have done projects especially to create awareness about making Mumbai Walkable. For which we had collaborated with Sugee Group and in alliance with BMC. The project was to develop an entire footpath at Prabhadevi, Dadar. We wanted to make sure that it was not only visually appealing, but also less intrusive. It’s a wide footpath which was used to park two-wheelers and is a common site in Mumbai. To solve this problem, we’ve put loads of plantation in the design which was executed in steel. It also turned out to be less time consuming for the project timeline. We needed this kind of flexibility in the material use.

The design detailing that was developed for the site was not possible to be executed in cement, as there was constant form changes in the construction of the entire site which was mostly carried out by local labourers. It was an intriguing project for us. It took us about 30 days, to complete the entire footpath, since it is a public footpath we couldn’t keep it under construction for a long period of time and cause inconvenience to the people using the footpath regularly. Therefore using steel as a construction material made the process simpler and more efficient to execute. Steel innovation is the highlight of this project.

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