K Srinivasa Reddy Managing Director, Design Tree Service Consultants (DTSC)
How has DTSC expanded and consolidated its position in the Indian market as a company that offers a range of services to the construction industry?
Design Tree Service Consultants was established in Bangalore in March 2008 for providing consultancy services. Starting with a team of 40, the company began to undertake Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Public Health Engineering (SMEP) services.
Less than 14 years later, we now have a workforce of over 350, and are offering additional services like LEED Consultancy, REVIT Modelers, and Quality Management - the highest classification in the class. We have opened branches in Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kolkata, and are entering construction markets across India.
The coming years will herald a new era in the company’s successful foreign venture with its involvement is some mega projects in South Asia and in the Gulf countries, which are more focused on public works and infra development. In fact, currently, DTSC is the only South India-based consultant firm to venture into SMEP consultancy as a fully integrated solution provider, with collaborations for some major landmark projects across India.
We undertake designing, provide on-site solutions for complete SMEP services, supervise, and execute all activities related to construction - from a project’s conceptual stage to its handover to the client.
In order to provide quality and cost-effective services to clients, there must be efficient systems in place; in fact, they must be a pre-requisite, and must also comply with industry standards. We are catering to clients from sectors like Civil & Structural Engineering, Public Health Engineering, Fire & Safety Systems, Electrical Engineering, HVAC & Mechanical Engineering, Green Building Solutions, and Quality Management Services (QMS).
Our core strength lies in delivering value additions to our customers. We have a well-trained and highly skilled team, which includes design engineers, project manager, CAD draftsmen, a quality control team, a quantity survey team, and business analysts who create customized solutions for every client.
We are on call round-the-clock to support clients for smoother, swifter and smarter workflows and help them meet their deadlines. We work on tight deadlines, turning around deliverables, such that our clients experience efficient business performance.
DTSC has undergone many transitions from designing on manual methods to using advance software, from using conventional bricks to concrete blocks, and from in situ construction to offsite construction like PEBs and Precast.
How is structural engineering consultancy important for infrastructure design and construction?
As a specialized discipline within civil engineering, structural engineering is concerned with the design and integrity of buildings, bridges, industries, and monuments. Structural engineers are expected to have a sound understanding of mathematics, physics, and the ability to apply these skills in problem solving. The engineers are often required to take a sophisticated concept design and develop a solution that can be executed practically and within the commercial parameters, with utmost safety.
For many structural engineers, the primary focus is the technical structural analysis in the design of structures. This would necessitate having in-depth knowledge of the properties of a range of building materials. They are often involved in preliminary investigation and survey of proposed building sites to determine the ground conditions to assess foundation options, and often to assess existing structures for any planned modifications.
A fundamental ability sometimes overlooked is communication. As structural engineers often work as part of a team comprising multiple construction professionals, their ability to communicate ideas and solutions to provide coordinated responses to a problem is vital for the success of a project. Such communication and collaboration skills are of great importance.
It has been said that were it not for engineers, we would still be living in caves! We sometimes allow ourselves grandiose mission statements like: “to divert natural resources for the benefit of humankind”. Perhaps, more pertinent to our engineering role is that we are at the forefront of assessing the natural environmental influences on our designs like wind, rain, and floods.
Over the course of my career of 30 years and more, what might have been considered an ‘exceptional event’ a few years ago, is now becoming a common activity. I am confident that the engineering profession will continue to deal with emerging challenges with the right solutions.
What safety measures should be followed by structural engineering firms to prevent errors and accidents that could jeopardize safety at job sites?
Structural engineers are responsible for making sure that the structures we use in our daily lives, like bridges and tall buildings, are safe, stable, and will not collapse under applied loads. They apply their technical knowledge to specify different types of construction materials in various shapes and geometries in order to design structures that can withstand gravity loads and stresses, storms (wind load), and earthquakes.
We work closely with clients to understand the utility and function of their project & based on which Brief will be provided with designed building loads in the form of Design Brief Report (DBR) so that we can make a clear understanding of safe, constructible, and economical solutions, which include timely implementation and completion.
Also we strongly follow our Internal Review system which is most detailed process to ensure our designs are safe & optimistic
With our technical expertise on site monitoring & Quality management we will also ensure that every part of work will be scrutinized by our Quality control team & with regular reports & documentation, we will be alerting all our project team wherever certain activities are overseen by site team
Every building has its uniqueness and problems too; and their solutions could lead to a new and better way of construction.
Buildings of the future should be designed with features that meet the anticipated challenges of technological, environmental, and societal progress. When increasingly sophisticated communications and control systems are integrated into a building’s design, the door is opened to endless innovations.
How is the increasing use of modern methods and construction technologies/software impacting the construction industry?
The construction industry is leveraging technology to make construction management and site operations more efficient and sustainable. The pandemic has raised the need for newer ways of construction with stronger focus on worker safety and regulations. Hence, start-ups and scale-ups are increasingly innovating around prefabrication, worker safety, and construction robotics. 3D printing and green building solutions significantly reduce the negative impacts of construction on the environment.
The major construction industry trends indicate improved efficiencies, worker safety, construction speed, and sustainable practices. Use of robotics, autonomous equipment, drone-based inspection, and laser-based terrain mapping reduce labor requirement and costs, and increase accuracies by reducing human interventions and errors.
Further, companies use advanced materials such as self-healing concrete, engineered wood, and nano materials in modular construction and 3D printing. These materials ensure lower construction time and higher adherence to budgets. In addition, IoT-based solutions such as wearables, smart helmets, and vests enable remote monitoring of workers and their safety and protection.
However, very often, technology is not seen as a solution to problems, but more of a burden in some cases. This is often due to a lack of understanding and adoption of technology, which limits its usage. It is crucial to understand the benefits before implementing digital construction methods and acquiring technologies that address specific problems identified at project sites, else investing in digital tools to facilitate the business of construction would be pointless.
Professionals in the construction industry are most likely to be open to how data is improving efficiency and productivity, and how it transforms companies and the industry. However, many also feel that their businesses require a much more improved and effective way of using data; or fail to see how data affects their business; or feel a limitation in adopting digital tools due to lack of requisite skills.
As in many other industries, the perspective on how we work has shifted from the earlier generation to the current, more digitally tech savvy generation. It is obvious that a critical skillset will revolve around software development, which unlike in many other industries, is relatively new in the SMEP industry. We need to understand what the software is capable delivering - from both specific applications to an enterprise scale.
Engineers don’t necessarily need to know how to code or write software, but they should understand how the software can be applied to solve problems. Understanding how software can improve processes will become an increasingly important skill for consulting engineers. This is because it is extremely important to understand how to use software to automate processes, or iterate in ways that would typically take a human significantly more time taking the standard or traditional approach.
The application programming interfaces (APIs) for design software such as REVIT affords the opportunity to easily automate routine tasks. There are tools available that improve how we conduct our work, validate our assumptions, and use data to inform our future designs. Beyond that, there is a major opportunity for consulting engineers to provide unique solutions to clients. It might seem a stretch to say every engineering consultant is going to become a software developer/provider; however, by going beyond simple automations and engaging in research partnerships and pilot projects, we can provide valuable insights, and have the potential for creating something new and of value for the client.
Very often, technology is not seen as a solution to problems, but more of a burden in some cases. This is often due to a lack of understanding and adoption of technology, which limits its usage. It is crucial to understand the benefits before implementing digital construction methods and acquiring technologies that address specific problems identified at project sites, else investing in digital tools to facilitate the business of construction would be pointless.
With the tremendous increase in cost of floor space in urban areas, design of structural elements has changed a lot, for example, the thickness of walls, columns, and slabs has reduced. How do you see designing changing due to space and cost constraints?
We are now on the cusp of a new era of connected design, manufacturing, construction, and building operation, driven by digitization of information and connectivity between people, places, and things – the Internet of Things. The following trends will surely impact how structures are designed and built over the next decade:
- New structural materials and systems will emerge that are smart, connected, adaptive, and sustainable. Examples are self-healing concrete, 3D printed nano structures, structural systems that dynamically adapt to changes in their environment.
- Computational methods using machine-learning will automate simple engineering tasks while assisting engineers to perform more complex engineering tasks. This will empower engineers to offer more high-value services.
- High Strength Concrete ranging from M80 are more commonly used in market are much helpful in achieving optimized wall & column sizes, also high strength steel, Post tensioning system, Various formwork system are the key factors for space savings in urban designs.
- Manufacturing processes will be hyper-connected with the buildings that enclose them to minimize energy consumption and their carbon footprint.
- Manufacturing-driven innovations like machine learning, lean manufacturing, and modular construction will transform the construction site in response to the growing shortage of skilled domestic labor.
- The common theme that will emerge is a hyper- connectedness between people and things that will allow the production of ideas and building products in a much more effective and sustainable way.
How can we encourage studies on engineering consultancy and project management, which are not very prevalent in our colleges and universities?
I always emphasize on the need for better collaboration between structural engineering professionals in the field and those in academies, as is often done in developed countries. Collaboration can lead to quicker adoption of new construction technologies, methods, and materials developed through research. These opportunities can be tapped gainfully through industry funding and creation of conduits for exchange of information.
However, young structural engineering professionals in practice and academics often find it difficult to make such connections due to their focus on establishing their career, limited interactions with the academia/ research institutes, and even due to lack of awareness on where to look for such collaborations.