With sustainability and wellbeing becoming an integral aspect in the industry, ‘Space Forward’ – The Paradigm Shift forum directed focus on futuristic approaches that unlock new and efficient solutions. The platform convened professionals from architecture, engineering and construction across sectors to explore innovations as well as design and environmental sustainability, and delved into the facets of our rapidly evolving building interiors through product innovations, their implementation and impact. While presentations by seasoned speakers enlightened the audience, two panel discussions addressed the challenges that the workspace and healthcare industries face as well as provided insights into the technologies and concepts that are the catalysts of change.
On September 27, 2019, the inaugural edition of ‘Space Forward’ commenced in Bengaluru with an opening address by Venkat Subramanian, MD, Gyproc India, who spoke about the critical aspects of latest construction methodologies and trends in the real estate sector. He presented the challenges faced by the sector currently and how it is affecting living spaces. Subramanian highlighted instances where the industry adopted occupant comfort as a key design parameter to deliver occupant centric habitat spaces. He said, “I believe faster construction technologies, better indoor comfort, safe buildings, dry construction, light-weight construction, high-rise construction, cost-efficient construction and green architecture are critical points that will shape the future.” He went on to talk about the focus essence and innovation core of Saint-Gobain, saying, “We help create great living spaces and improve daily life by combining comfort and sustainability to enhance occupant wellbeing.”
The keynote speaker for the day, Niranjan Simha, Executive VP and Head of Commercial Buildings & Airports, L&T Construction, deliberated on the topic: ‘Leveraging the dynamics of buildings & interiors and design through innovations’. He said, “We consider automation, cost efficiency and sustainability as key drivers in delivering faster and higher constructions. We hope to create the first human-free job site with the help of software solutions, AI & IoT, prefab construction, 3D printing, drone monitoring, self-guided machines, autonomous machines and newer technologies by 2039.”
Taking the stage next were panel speakers for the first session that focused on ‘Intelligent Office Design: A Smart Business Investment’ that considered design development, cost optimisation, space management and workplace strategies of evolving office spaces. Moderated by Sudeep Kolte, VP – S&M at Gyproc India, the discussion congregated Punit Desai, Regional Head for Infrastructure at Infosys; Gururaj Raghavendran, Director at Space Matrix Design Consultants; BR Sriram, Director of Design at Sonics; Jipu Jose James, National Director for JLL; Bimal Desai, Founder Director at DSP Associates; and Ramesh Mangati, National Manager for Projects at HCCB.
When asked for his perspective on the evolution of workspace design, Bimal Desai said, “As designers, we cater to different aspects of design — from planning and layout, space optimisation, interior design, etc. Office design is influenced by western culture. However, we try and produce data-driven designs that answer to evolving technology and demands. Gathering space utilisation and pattern study data from existing spaces, translating that data into a programme and applying it in space planning exercises in interiors helps create a smart space that aids wellbeing, personalised experiences and security for users.” Agreeing, Raghavendran added, “Companies are rightly focusing on achieving occupancy comfort and sustainability at workplaces, which drives the way we design offices now. There is a growing need for hybrid workspaces, however, these are not futuristic and should be ready to accept change smoothly within budgets. Internally, we continually work on programmes that help us offer better spaces using technology and data science.” On the importance of acoustics in workspaces, Sriram mentioned, “Noise has both a physiological and psychological effect on humans, and since employees spend a large part of the day at work, a favourable acoustic environment is vital for wellness and productivity.”
Punit Desai spoke about Infosys’ facility: “We focus on core aspects of design — daylighting, acoustics and indoor air quality — to foster better experiences. Workspaces are becoming more complex and dynamic now. The ‘agile methodology of development’ suggests the need to bring specialists to the table and collaboratively laying out spaces that have suitable facilities and work environment.” Maganti shared, “Collaborative spaces are the key to a successful office. We aim to induce cohesiveness and interaction among employees to instill productivity and transparency. Plus, technology plays a big role in communication and fosters positive conditions.”
James went on to say: “While we are focusing on productivity, occupant experience and technology as key drivers of office design and its lifecycle, we also need to consider two quantifiable aspects — cost and time. Selection of materials, equipment, construction methodology, technology, etc, must be carried out during the design stage itself to ensure a successful facility is delivered within the set timeline and budget.”
After the first panel discussion, Pascal Ozouf, Acoustic and Innovation Manager, Saint-Gobain France, led a technical session about the importance of acoustics in workspaces. He stated, “At Saint-Gobain, we translate science into solutions to help the industry tailor productive working environments. Indoor air quality, ventilation, thermal comfort, lighting, acoustics, interior layout, activity-based design, biophilic views and amenities are considered while designing modern offices.” Ozouf quoted a global research on workplaces, which proved that acoustics can be quantified and altered with the application of Saint-Gobain drywalls and ceilings that contributes to users’ wellbeing and performance. He also talked about how a good sound environment can improve cardiovascular responses and how acoustics, as a building science, can be applied to hospitals to improve patient health. He highlighted the many ways Saint-Gobain addresses acoustic requirements with its diverse range of portfolio.
The next panel discussion, titled ‘Design & Construction in Healthcare – Gaining a leading edge with innovations and smart solutions’, brought to the table Ajay Gupta, Director at KGD Architecture; Arun Nalapat, Principal Architect at Arun Nalapat Architects; Neeraj Lal, Cluster Head and VP for Rainbow Hospitals; Arun Mathur, Head of Projects at Narayana Health; and moderator Dr Vinod Singh, Founder of Hospitech.
Lal highlighted the prevailing challenges in healthcare design, saying, “There is a lack of proper healthcare domain experience in modeling hospitals with optimal space utilisation and standardisation within set timelines.” He suggests the involvement of architects in Quality Council of India in formulating standards for planning and designing hospitals. Nalapat added, “We do not invest enough time at the planning stage to work on details and predict possible mishaps. This results in delays due to communication gaps, technological advancement, change requests and more. The healthcare industry, as a whole, should be wary of its targets and requirements beforehand so that the design is apt.”
Mathur suggested: “The skeletal system of the building, including the structural and MEP services, should be backed by Plug and Play technology. The aim should be to create a building, where the shell remains the same but internal spaces adapt to cater to changing requests even while the hospital is running. Change requests are inevitable; generating flexible models may help us achieve long-term efficiency.” Meanwhile, Gupta summed up, “We are constantly struggling to incorporate buzz words such as technology, future-proofing, flexibility, affordability, etc, in our design, while catching up with the dynamics of the ever evolving healthcare industry. Architects cannot solve everything because the business plan is itself not fixed for the entire lifecycle of the building. We need to allow the operation and function to guide the way forward for design and construction in healthcare, considering that latest innovations and smart technology is a given.”
The event concluded with Tridiv Ojha, National Head for Projects at Gyproc India, delivering a closing address, while summarising the key points and takeaways from the day’s discussions.