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A design renaissance

Design

Michael Jansen, ceo, Satellier, tells Niranjan Mudholkar that it is more critical now to bridge the gap between international design practices and construction realities in India

Never before has the Indian architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry experienced the scale, scope, challenges and complexities as it does today. No wonder Satellier, a leading design services firm, in a recently conducted survey found out that there is a significant gap between international design practices and onshore construction realities for large-scale developments in India.

Incidentally Satellier, which has been catering to the global AEC industry since 2000, has now started its India design management services this year. Although it’s relatively new to the Indian market, it has worked on Indian projects before supporting international design firms based in the US and UK.

It has behind it more than 5,000 completed international projects. Commenting on the market requirement, Michael Jansen, ceo, Satellier, says that these times are indeed challenging for both local as well as international architects working in India.

“There are not enough local architects with international experience to meet the demand of the vast number of projects in the pipeline today. And international architects, those based outside of India, are often not familiar with the ground realities in India,” he says.

Making inroads

Jansen, an American by origin, is now a permanent resident of India and a member of the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA). He has about 14 years of professional experience in India. He says that given the infrastructure requirement in the country it is obvious that the construction industry would be looking to achieve greater efficiencies. “The need to bridge the gap between international design practices and onshore construction realities in India is now greater than ever,” Jansen says.

Given its vast global experience in the AEC space, Satellier is well positioned to provide developers and building owners with leadership of the entire design-to-construction process.

“By facilitating the workflow between consultants and project teams, utilising global best practices and applying our expertise with Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology, we can accelerate project delivery at every critical juncture,” Jansen explains.

Local design firms can tap Satellier’s production resources and keep their design talent focused on design. “They can also leverage our knowledge and vast global project experience to enhance their own business practices and minimize inefficiencies and cost overruns,” adds Jansen.  At the same time, Satellier can also provide international design firms a reduced risk option for expanding their global footprint and competitive edge, without expanding their overhead.

Satellier, says Jansen, provides end-to-end management of the entire design-to-construction workflow, coordinating all of the partners, from concept development to detailed drawings to digital model development and management, conflict detection and digital construction detailing, design revision, and project scheduling, through to completion. For international design firms it is essential to compare the international designs and practices with the local ground realities. Jansen explains by giving an example.

“A reputed design firm out of the US had designed a residential building in which the bathrooms were mechanically ventilated similar to a hotel, and as per the norm in the West,” he says.

“We highlighted that Indians tend to be more energy conscious, so mechanically ventilated bathrooms, especially in a residential building (even if it is high-end) will be looked down upon. Furthermore Indian bathrooms are extremely wet areas that require quick drying time, which traditionally is achieved by natural ventilation. The designer included these small but important cultural details in the design.” 

That’s just one example of the many and varied cultural inputs that global design firms need to address in their building designs for India.

Going global

BIM, although in its early stages in India, is an emerging trend as the industry slowly realises its benefits. “Some analysts estimate that using BIM during design and construction can reduce overall budgets by 5-30%. For large-scale projects, BIM represents immense opportunity for real estate developers and design firms to gain a significant competitive advantage,” says Jansen.

He informs that BIM enables visualisation, model enrichment, clash detection, construction simulation and sequencing, spec/quantity/cost reporting, facility management, as well as extraction of drawings, quantities, schedules, through integration of all project data (graphical, numerical and textual) in a single digital model.

“Owners derive financial benefits throughout the process, from design and construction through life-cycle maintenance,” he adds.

Satellier has one of the highest concentrations of BIM expertise in the industry. “We support all of the stakeholders throughout the entire process, with technical resources and knowledge transfer of the best practices for working within and capturing the benefits of the BIM environment,” adds Jansen.

BIM is obviously going to be an important factor for the Indian AEC industry. This is because India is emerging on the architectural process outsourcing (APO) horizon quite brightly. There are many Indian design firms that cater to the western (particularly American) architectural and design companies.

In fact, many global firms are setting up design offices here to take advantage of the domain and process expertise available in this country. So it is very likely that a project planned for Shanghai may be conceptualised in New York but it is actually designed in Noida.

Satellier has been the first amongst these firms. Now that Satellier has started to cater to the Indian market, it adds another dimension to its professional existence.

“The knowledge and experience Satellier has amassed over the past several years by working with 20 of the top 30 global design firms, places us in a very good position to share what we know to the benefit of local developers and design firms,” Jansen says. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to call Satellier an APO firm but it has grown. “We are evolving from an outsourcing company to a professional and technology services provider,” says Jansen.

With the huge body of work happening at various stages in the construction sector, efficiency is the need of the hour. The country needs better infrastructure and fast. This is where Satellier will come into play. “Individual project owners are looking for solutions on a project-to-project basis. The industry is rapidly seeking solutions to old problems of scale, quality, timeliness, etc, and is still struggling to some extent to resolve those issues,” says Jansen, giving an overview of the situation.

He also knows that in the process there’s a kind of design renaissance waiting to happen. Of course, it will need a strong trigger. “India is poised to experience a renaissance if private developers, contractors, and policy makers can work together to accelerate the pace of transformation,” says Jansen. 

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