Excerpt from the views of Arch. Vishal Shah (Principal Architect, Head- Project Management & Finance, THE FIRM); as published in feature story on Tall Buildings by Ms. Aruna Rathod.

• Do you think 'building tall' is a necessity in modern times? Why?

It is becoming necessary in urban context today! With the land prices escalating with no regulatory interference from the government, the developers are keen to built higher on smaller plots to gain maximum profits. Consuming the total floor space index for the plots and getting the maximum sale areas are the key factors in meeting developers' focus. Hence building tall is becoming the norm.

• What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of tall structures?

There are advantages in the context of the ever-increasing population in the urban cities. Owing to the higher land cost, the density of population can only be managed by providing residential apartments in tall buildings. But this is coming with a price the urban indians are paying! Human's relation with the nature is conveniently given a miss since green areas for play and recreation are becoming a commodity in urban India. But going tall is not the culprit for this situation; the way economies are changing is. The master plans of the city are evolving not keeping in mind the essentials of good living and hence many things are easily compromised. Looking at the brighter side, there is always scope of better, bigger community greens like huge town parks for the society at large. Environmentally, going tall is saving on the footprint, that is, disturbing less area for development; hence is the viable option. For instance, adding few podium parking floors in a tall building is always better than planning an expanse of ground parking, thereby reducing the heat-island effect and giving better greener ways to create a micro-climate for the building.

• Are we in India (metros) equipped to handle tall structures?

Not a perfect situation but nothing, that is too grim! There is a paucity of skilled people for the job. Safety features in a tall building, major being the fire-fighting equipment and services available is a concern. Designing a tall building compliant to all Building Codes is very important to ensure safety. Construction technology and quality management play a pivotal role in successfully adhering to these Codes. Effective MEP services management is equally critical. Structural design for a tall structure requires expertise in areas of seismic design and wind loading. Most important of all is the necessity for all stake holders in the project to accept the importance of these design aspects and not overlook any of these in any circumstances.

• In what way are tall buildings suitable for mixed use projects?

Mixed use is a great concept for cities. Weaving residential and recreational use is a very welcome idea. For large developments, mixed use is imperative. Self-sustained townships is nothing but the outcome of this concept. Implying the similar concept to a single tall building is a challenge though. There are examples of such ongoing projects like a complete vertical city in other parts of the world. It depends on the project site, the infrastructure available around it and the impact of such a development for the surroundings; hence such a project should be visualized after studying these aspects thoroughly.

• What are the challenges of designing tall buildings?

The impact on the environment is the biggest challenge faced by the building sector today. So the real concern is whether we all share the common 'will' to think of development the sustainable way. The correct analysis of design of tall buildings is another area of work, which needs more impetus.

• What aspects in the environment/surroundings have to kept in mind while designing tall structures?

Width of roads leading to the site, current traffic, height of surrounding buildings, existing density in the vicinity, existing services like sewage lines, electricity and water supply etc. account for the complete study for the project.

• How does one make a structure light weight? What are different products suitable, both structurally and for interiors?

AAC blocks and panels, hollow pre-cast core slabs, drywall system for interior walls, steel deck flooring, high efficiency concrete and structural steel systems are some of the ways to reduce the structural load of a tall building.