12 December 2019

Interview- Tak Mathews (Tak Consulting)

We eliminate uncertainties in vertical transportation 

 

TAK Consulting Pvt Ltd is a fully integrated and independent vertical transportation consultancy based out of Mumbai offering services pan India. The firm offers services which include advising on project concept, design, execution and follow up to the building industry in the area of elevators, escalators and moving walks. TAK MATHEWS who is among the first Qualified Elevator Consultant in the world offered his perspective to SHRIKANT RAO.

 

Your website describes your firm as a fully integrated and independent building transportation consultancy. Take us through the meaning and implications of that claim?

If you look at elevating consultancy, it is something which is mainly being done by MEP consultants. It is sort of an added service they would give with their air conditioning, plumbing etc which as long as the building’s size was small could be manageable and didn’t matter much. But once the buildings started becoming larger in size – both horizontally or vertically and becomes more complex in structure, the input and the depth of detailing that is required in the construction of such structures becomes significantly higher. Such projects require a specialised approach to establish the elevatoring. For all such practical purposes, we were the first in the country to set up a specialised independent consultancy focused on building transportation and provide A-Z service in the field. In 2004 I did one or two projects on a freelance basis but since 2005 onwards it has been a full-time assignment. There are other consultants in India however why we call ourselves as the only one offering the full extent of services and unique is because we can roll-up our sleeves and execute what we tell our suppliers or developers to do – we are backed with hard core hands-on field experience. We start with the design phase, go through the specifying, tendering, execution and inspection and even do accident investigation. That level of expertise I think does not exist in our country at the moment.

 

You are saying that over 90 per cent of the buildings do not have a clear scientific backing to their elevatoring...

Yes, very few buildings in India already constructed or being constructed have a scientific backing to their elevatoring. It is not just the design of the elevators but the focus also needs to be expanded to installation and maintenance. For instance, you have got a well-designed building but if the elevators are of inferior quality or not installed properly, the situation will still lead to many problems. Subsequently if it is not installed or maintained properly, the building will still face numerous problems. If the building core is not set right in terms of number of hoistways, hoistway dimensions etc. the building is doomed. While badly elevatored buildings will lead to longer waiting time and inconvenience, it also leads to the elevators getting over used and not being shut down for regular maintenance – this often leads to breakdown of the systems. It’s a cycle which is vicious. If you don’t get right in the first instance then it will virtually ruin the entire building.

 

You are saying builders do not understand these concerns. In terms of lack of understanding what is the magnitude of this problem across the country?

I am not talking only of the developer, whether it is a designer or even the elevator industry – no one fully understands the significance of the trade and the elements that are involved. The problem is huge. If you look at some of the commercial buildings, say at Nariman Point for example – it is one of the most expensive real estate areas in the world – how many buildings do you see without queues for using elevators or escalators. While it can be argued that Nariman Point is an old development, newer buildings too do not fare much better. I know in some places even an allowance is given for reporting times to account for elevator waiting times. There are many places also where if you reach the lobby then they consider it as your in-time of reporting due to the long queues to access the elevators.

Nobody appears to recognise that in addition to the inconvenience of waiting, badly elevatored buildings also add to loss. To illustrate, the average waiting time for elevators is about 10 minutes (morning up peak + lunch time) when multiplied by 1000 people totals to 10000 minutes a day and over 45,000 hours a year That is a lot of money being wasted – a loss which will continue through the life of the building and is far in excess of any perceived savings. In addition to inadequate numbers even sizing has an impact – in a building without a stretcher lift how would you bring down an occupant requiring urgent medical attention. Very few recognise the full extent of the long term consequences associated with a badly elevatored building.

 

So in your view what are the faults that need to be avoided?

Primarily we need to understand that elevatoring is a science and not a thumb rule. It is a very detailed science involved in the process of setting up any elevator – the number, capacity, speed, the way it is located. This science is not new but has evolved over more than 7 decades; which means there is really no excuse for the bad elevatoring of Nariman Point. If you approach any builder and ask them to define the designing elements of the elevator system, there are more chances in India that you won’t be able to acquire this information.

 

Tell us of your approach to convince the builder community for the need to seek counsel and what is the reaction?

We try to make them understand the science which is involved – if somebody is willing to listen we are willing to pass on our experience. We conduct workshops for developers, designers and even the elevator companies. We have conducted lectures at architectural colleges. But we can only try.

Yet the reactions which we have seen are more often than not negative – for a high rise project of over 70 floors, the developer allotted whole of 3 minutes for a presentation detailing the proposed elevatoring. In contrast the landscaping consultant was allotted a full 30 minutes. We also do have clients who have terminated our services on account of our unwillingness to prepare a report that justifies their badly elevatored building design.

The way they see this service at the moment is as a luxury or an additional expense. Though the situation is gradually changing, it is changing at a very slow pace. As put across by a very senior project manager with global experience, developers and designers will not change till they lose a lot of money – that is indeed an expensive method of learning.

However our survival over 10 years proves changing awareness levels and the value being attached to our services.

 

In the context of the government’s Smart Cities programme, bad elevatoring seems to be a very unsmart thing to do.

Oh absolutely. We are being very un-smart in the basic requirement of elevatoring buildings. For example if a building project is designed as a smart building, but expect occupants to wait in queues to access their smart work areas - Is that smart? How can a building with ticks against all “Smart Building “criteria but loses crores of Rupees annually on account of poor elevatoring be smart? A clear understanding needs to be brought in especially in understanding the guidelines related to elevator and escalator systems in any building more so in the smart cities.

 

Are there building projects which have followed the correct procedure?

There are buildings, in rare minority though, wherein such elements are being practiced to a perfect blend. The Hiranandani Group for instance, go through a detailed process in establishing their elevatoring requirements even for the smallest of their projects.

Even some of the third world countries are in a better shape than India. In the Indian context many people miss out on the design phase and also the execution and service phase where economics become the only deciding criteria. Further, an important question that is coming up is that—with a booming market do we have able trained professionals to handle the requirements. In my view the country seriously lacks it.

 

How hopeful are you in seeing a positive change in the usage patterns and what are the areas where the change is already happening?

It cannot be said that the situation is not improving. The improvement in the situation is purely based on the increasing awareness of the builder, developer, architects, designers and elevator manufacturing companies. People who are recognising the criticality of this science are increasingly using such services – they are particular in ensuring proper elevatoring. The primary driver to change is the increasing awareness of the occupants who refuse to accept bad elevatoring. It is not uncommon these days to find corporate tenants demanding evidence that the elevatoring provided is as per the NBC guidelines.

 

What are the ‘must dos’ in terms of elevating systems you would advise the builder-developer community?

Elevating is absolute. The minimum that is required must be provided. For instance, it is like the minimum grade of concrete which needs to be provided in the construction which must be maintained for the survival of the building. In terms of design, the minimum requirements set by the national building codes needs to be followed.

The aesthetic look of the structure is secondary. A common fallacy being seen is that mostly money is spent on developing appealing interiors or elevating structures but the basic requirement of elevatoring is being neglected. We need to look beyond the cost factor and consider this as a long term necessity. The developer also needs to understand the threshold on how cheap a system can be. The aspect of design, quality of equipment, how it is installed and how it is maintained – all these are the primary requirements determining the success and safety of elevating systems. Neglecting such crucial elements have proved to be a common cause leading to the rising number of fatal accidents.

Effectiveness of any elevating system depends on the balance of maintaining all internal and external elements irrespective of having a good design or a good product. The alignment of the elevating systems has to be in response to the surrounding environment, demographics, transportation elements and future developments like metro etc.

The industry has put together a draft guideline for the proposed NBC2015 – which is probably one of the most detailed ones in the world.

 

Tell us about the importance of planning?

Today we say that projects that are being executed in India takes more time as against the ones being developed in foreign countries. A main reason is that in other countries the even excavation work is not initiated without finalising the total design. However in India the project design is often modified through the construction phase.

 

What is your message to the builders and how do you plan to take your campaign forward?

Elevatoring cannot be an afterthought to the main design process. Vertical transportation is the life line of the building and second only to the structure in ensuring the viability of any building. While in the past prospective tenants and buyers would have baulked at raising concerns of bad elevatoring, with the global exposure available today this will not continue. Good elevatoring is about nation building and making your project viable.

We are available to educate the developer and designer community as well as the industry.




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