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The Art of Seeking Professional Services

The Mayor of Hamelin Syndrome.

The Pied Piper Syndrome is a term often used to refer to people blindly following a trend, similar to the folklore about the children of Hamelin who followed the mesmerising tunes of the Pied Piper’s musical instrument. While trends have often lured architects through early movements such as the Neo classical, Gothic, Art Deco to the later Deconstructivism, Sustainable and Passive Houses, this article choses to explore another aspect of the Pied Piper narrative, one which has often been overlooked. Why did the Pied Piper choose to lure the children away in the first place? The obvious answer was that he had not been paid his dues.

The reason for not having been paid his dues, was that the Mayor of the Town felt that removing rats from the city was hardly any task worth paying for. Further, the Mayor felt that the Pied Piper could not do anything even if he was not paid. This clearly demonstrated the myopic vision of Mayor as an administrator. The Mayor was not even concerned about the fact that some rats may return in the future and that the Pied Piper’s help may be required again. Thus in a way, the Mayor triggered a tragic event which had the potential to have far reaching consequences for so many people.

A very similar situation exists commonly in India, where people take pride in “making” their own houses, factories and buildings, never mind the violation of building and safety codes and the risk to their lives as well as those of living in those spaces. Seeking professional help has mutated into a strange, self destructive habit which compromises the very basis of objective of approaching a professional.

Let us take the typical example of a person who has fever. Instead of approaching a doctor, this person will first open his medicine drawer and take whatever medicine is lying in the drawer. A few days after not recovering, he will approach a doctor. He will take medicines prescribed by the doctor for one day and on the very next day he will seek advice from a homeopath, another doctor and a spiritual healer and continue to take some of the medicines prescribed by all the people he has seen. If he does not recover( or his health gets worse), he will blame all the people he has seen and also blame it on fate.

A similar dismal situation exists in architecture as well. People and organisations often approach Architects for advice on designing a house or a township for example. Half way through the project, they feel that they can complete the project on their own. They feel they can save some money by not paying the Architect’s and other engineering consultant’s fees and often feel that they can get away with it. It is not possible to calculate the tremendous damage they have caused to their own project doing so.

Any project is dynamic entity with its own unique challenges and opportunities. The professionals such as Architects/ Engineers, need to monitor it regularly (if not in real time) and evolve on their own designs in the best interest of the project.  Discontinuing the Architect’s services half way is similar to pulling out your close relative from an operation theatre, half way through the operation while the body may still be open. It is extremely important to let the project achieve a full closure before it is made operational and open for public use. In fact, it is worthwhile to keep in touch with the technical consultants even after the project has been completed.

Abandoning Professional services should always be the last resort. In case there is a genuine dissatisfaction with the Professional services provider, it is always a good idea to let your concerns be known, before taking extreme steps. While discontinuing professional services may initially appear to be financially appealing, the long term costs often far supersede the savings.

World Ozone Day

Try to Minimize Solar Gain

Sun Path Analysis

 

In regions which experience relatively hot summers, the sales of air-conditioning units are rapidly increasing as well. A team of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations estimate that the new cooling units entering the market could be responsible for up to 27% of all global warming by 2050.

I remember a time not long ago, when air conditioners in Delhi (India) were a luxury. Besides, many people adopted innovative strategies at passive solar cooling such as using thicker brick bat coba (for water and thermal insulation) on the roofs, having central courtyards with ventilators in rooms to naturally cool the houses. In fact, if one enters such a house today, one can experience the cooling effect without any artificial means.  However, with the kind of construction now-a days, air conditioning is all but a necessity.

Recently however, there are concerns that the gases they run on are contributing to climate change.

Although modern air-conditioning units run on relatively sustainable gases* they still have an impact, although not on the o-zone layer. According to scientists, they “contribute to global warming thousands of times more than carbon dioxide”.

These new gases, called HCFCs, are not as damaging to the o-zone as the ones previously used, but they are being used in such amounts that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are concerned about the rising levels, especially in the developing world, where they have doubled in the past two decades to record highs.

One of the HCFC coolant called 410a  is deemed “environmentally friendly” because it doesn’t damage the o-zone. However, its warming effect is 2,100 times that of carbon dioxide

“There is precious little time to do something, to act.” , according to Stephen O. Anderson, the co-chairman of the treaty’s technical and economic advisory panel.

Currently, there simply isn’t a readily available commercial ozone-friendly alternative to air-conditioners that have a substantial warming effect on the planet.

www.sglakhanpal.in

Let me save the Ozone Layer

Till the time such a solution is made available, I cannot but help recommend the use of Architectural elements commonly found in Asia. I am reminded of an office I visited in Shilparamam, Hyderabad, which had a thatched roof surrounded by greenery and foliage. The structure had large open windows and despite the presence of heat contributing equipment such as computers, laptops and printers, I was relatively comfortable sitting under a fan in peak summer.

While it may not be completely practical to go back 50-60 years in construction technology, it would be certainly worthwhile to adapt such solutions, thereby reducing running costs and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.

 

*(the Montreal Protocol was created in order regulate and control the use of hazardous gases such as CFC coolants which caused massive damage to the o-zone layer leading them to be eliminated from general usage)

(Information credit : Are Air Conditioning Units A Climate Change Catch-22?) by Timon Singh)

(Image credit: http://www.theworkingwardrobe.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/air-conditioning.jpg)

 

 

Oops..He did it again ?

There have been several instances where architects have unintentionally ventured into grey areas when designing buildings. I guess it’s the passion to venture into unexplored territory, the desire to produce landmarks or maybe, sheer arrogance when critical aspects are overlooked in designing spaces.

The legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright is quoted as saying, “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.”

 

Glaring examples in the past include the Aon Centre in Chicago which was clad in Italian Carrara marble that had the marble pieces falling all over the place, the 60 storey John Hancock tower designed by renowned architect I.M.Pie, which had problems with its windows crashing down below, as well as the problem of motion sickness for the occupants of the upper floors on account of the structure’s sway.

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology had filed a negligence suit against Frank Gehry for design flaws in the “The Ray and Maria State Centre”, citing structural problems and drainage issues.

 

The latest to misadventure to join this infamous bandwagon is the commercial skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street, popularly known is the “Walkie Talkie” or “The Pint” on account of its distinctive shape. Scheduled to be completed in 2014, the proposed 160 meter, 37 storeys building estimated to cost over 200 million pounds is making headlines for the wrong reasons.

 

The curved shape of the building is focussing the sun’s energy in a manner that it has caused parts of cars, tiles and carpets on the street to be damaged. Land Securities and Canary Wharf, the building’s developers, have already taken some steps towards damage control and may be looking at long term solutions, this is not the first time a building designed by the esteemed architect Rafael Viñoly has caused such problems. The Vdara Hotel and Spa designed by his practice in Las Vegas, collected the solar rays of his structures and beamed them into the swimming pool area making the sunbathing guests regularly singed.

 

While it’s easy to lay blame on the Architect, I feel that the root of the problem lies elsewhere – namely in understanding who or what an Architect is or does or is supposed to do and after so many before me have attempted this complex exercise, I will boldly like to do so once again. A building is the result of a collaborative venture between various stakeholders such as the Society, the developer, the Architects, the technical consultants as well as contractors. The Architect undoubtedly injects the essence into the built and open spaces, provides vision and a glimpse into the future, (the shape of things to come), but it is only through a collaborative effort that a building finally takes shape. It is common (but a rather incorrect) practice to assign credit/ blame to the Architect who sometimes acquires celebrity or cult status on this account.

 

This is not to say that the blame lies on everyone or that I am trying to dilute the responsibility of the Architect. I simply wish to point out that in most successful buildings, it is the collaborative effort of the entire team working synergistically that creates the architectural marvel.

 

A good method to avoid faults in buildings would be :

  1. To involve and engage specialist agencies for every aspect of the work (and not simply leave it all on the Architect). This is especially important in “iconic designs” for public buildings.
  2. The Architect should be more receptive to advice from the various specialist teams and more significantly the Contractor.
  3. To pass on knowledge of such faults to as much of the young generation as possible so that others may learn and take preventive measures.

 

Making mistakes are a part of the growth curve of any profession and Architecture is not without it’s fair share of them.

 

On a lighter note, I am uploading some common images. (Copyright credit to their owners.)

camera door escalator street light urinals

 

S G LAKHANPAL ASSOCIATES

S.G.Lakhanpal Associates was established as an architectural consultancy firm. Thereafter it became a Strategic Business Unit of N.G.Lakhanpal Strategic Management Services Private Limited – A multi- disciplinary group providing consultancy in the following :

Architecture

Interior Design

Project Feasibility Reports

Masterplans

It is an ISO 9001:2008 certified company.