It is extremely important for buildings. It is something to do with not just human and individual commitment but with business commitment. When one works in a traditional structure where the architect is responsible for the space planning and envelope design of the building and other professionals who operate from a different corporation, are responsible for engineering the building, the processes that are involved in the communication and completing the job are designed to take a slack.
So, for example, if someone has missed something or hasn’t understood an issue, or if the external agencies are not intimately involved with the evolution of building design, one basically puts buffers in space, values, sizing of equipments, etc. for a building to be able to function to a particular comfort level once it would be used.
But what that does inherently is that you start putting in a lot of extras, starting with extra space for all services, extra heights and volumes for coordination to larger sizing of equipment very often because the designer who’s designing or specifying those equipment doesn’t actually know what’s happening on the design evolution front.
When you multiply this mis-coordination and mis-communication over large areas, volumes, functions and ultimately projects , it has both a monetary impact and a massive energy impact.
The monetary impact goes to the extent of predefined or pre determining lease rentals and sales price of the products that are going to be made in that building.
For example, you’re designing a factory and it has a very high operating cost. This operating cost will eventually be reflected and translated on the price of the product that will be sold. Similarly, if there’s a hospital that is being designed and has a huge volume of space that is being used up by services with a massive cost to run them, it will eventually be amortized in the cost of patient care. In a lot of cases where this amortization is not possible, it ends up limiting the building owner or entrepreneurs idea of what he can do in business. Therefore, just at that stage they chop a couple of fingers off saying that this school would never have a particular facility or that house will never have that or some housing will never be something worthwhile.
So, if you take housing as an example, which is not our big area of operation at the moment but is growing. From a wellness and community standpoint, typically what you get in a middle income is a large room, a so-called club and some size of a little pool, one room with some equipment called a gym. That is not how a community is established, it’s not how people meet each other with a sense of community. But in the initial stages, either the land is so expensive and therefore, the number of units that need to be crammed up is so high that the first thing that is sacrificed for the sake of financial sustainability is the livability of space itself. This happens in schools, factories, hospitals and it pretty much happens across the board in everything built.
So, to be able to look at a building programme in both ways, from an additive, iterative perspective saying, “ this can also be done, that can also be done, let’s add this!” to an iterative process of removals when we say, “can we make this 10% smaller or 5% lesser?”.
Just by shaving off 10cm on every floor for service coordination space on a 10 floor tall building, you’re removing 2m on the overall building. Therefore the wind load on the building is less, column movement is less, foundation size is less and it has so many other factors. For example, the distance elevators will travel per cycle in such a building will reduce by 2 metres which will be further multiplied by the thousands of numbers of cycles. Similar is the case with water pumping, water supply, electrical supply and so on. One doesn’t really always look at it and realize that if the building height is reduced by 3 metres, the pumping cost and the pump equipment will be reduced.
All the architecture and engineering is so intimately related that the only way of doing building design is to have them done at one place with a common goal and constant checking, re-rechecking and coordination.
There are obviously arguments that when we have engineers in an architecture studio, they are not specialists but generalists, one can always go back for peer reviews and expert opinions and advice. But the core detailing, understanding of the architecture and engineering should be at one place.
We are often inspired by the example of a contemporary car’s bonnet. If you lift it, there’s no extra space inside, there’s no leftover unused niches and corners left out of sheer ignorance. Whereas you look at the old Fiat and Ambassador cars, you’ll find plenty of leftover space under the bonnet. So, traditionally buildings are like the old Ambassador cars with obviously functional space but lots of air space inside and obviously less on efficiency of design.