Complexity of Construction Techniques and Typology

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The buildings have become more complex in the modern world. This degree of complexity is a derivative of an iconic image or most importantly the purpose it serves. Different typologies demand different approach in terms of structure and aesthetics, the latter being a major driving factor in modern buildings. Nowadays, many of them have high degrees of electrical and mechanical installations, employ sophisticated structure systems and serve varying requirements of several end users. This degree of complexity differs among laymen, designers, project managers and construction managers. Six key measures of the complexity can be building structure and function, construction methodology, the urgency of the project schedule, building size/ scale, geological conditions and neighboring environment. Hence, the complexity of building projects is defined as a typical of building projects that are convoluted, multifaceted, and composed of many interlinked parts. Though the complexity can’t be enumerated but taking different building typologies into consideration it can be viewed in form of technical complexity of task, amount of overlaps and inter dependencies in construction stages, project organization, and unpredictability of work at site.

The level of complexity was not different in the vernacular buildings of past. The nature and amount of risk was mitigated by repetition of same building forms for different typologies with construction process being same in terms of materials and techniques and the advancement in technology was implemented in an incremental manner. The monumental scale of the Roman cathedrals, the pyramid, the Greek temples and the mighty Taj Mahal underwent a complex procedure of construction which evolved as a pattern with time. For instance, the measures for making Taj Mahal stable on the banks of the Yamuna River the foundation was taken deep enough to bear the colossal structure. Different typologies of the buildings demanded different scale but the nature of construction technique was same unlike the present context where options for choosing a building material and the style are countless. Taking renovation of the old heritage buildings into context and also taking into account the fact of conversion leading to typology change in a minor or major way, the installation of service line and transforming the support system pose strong problems. The installation of retrofit air conditioning in the buildings and risk-prediction upon refurbished activities are the problems which are greater than the affected faced of the building. The closing of the opening made for the natural ventilation to obtain an enclosed space further increase the complexities.

The modern advances in different typology whether a residential, an institutional or an industrial forced people to look at the structure in a different way. The perception of modern buildings has changed over the span of last century. Construction techniques have drastically changed with the inclusion of modern amenities which have become an inevitable need. Electrification, air conditioning, composite constructions, curtain walls, fire protection, structural damping, automatic controls, computer networks and high performance glazing are some of them. While selecting the support system and the materials the need for them being taken into consideration is high. They may vary for same building components of the different typologies. For instance roofing system for a commercial built form varies from that of a residential to commercial and industrial built form. In terms of modern construction four main sources of complexity are as follows:

Refined building components: For centuries, steel, concrete, wood have been used for centuries as a base material since ages. Fabrication of components from these materials has gone through countless transformations. Architecturally in complex buildings today, these materials are often required to assume three-dimensional geometries that cannot be adequately described with two-dimensional plans and sections. In addition, they need to meet structural and environmental performance.

Criteria. Driven by the availability of cheap computer power and by the pressing need to conserve resources almost any system can be automatically controlled from window blinds to electrical lighting. This system seems to simplify the construction process but the complexity may not be altered completely. With greater understanding come more specialization and often more detailed and complex regulation. Virtually any form can be erected provided it can be made to stand up. The only constraints on this are aesthetic in terms of rhythm and economic (where the repeatability of elements can yield significant cost savings in fabrication). The three key quality requirements are as follows:

Glass has lately been established as a magic material since it provides transparency and flow. But, construction and handling difficulties make glass vulnerable material too. Initially glass was a symbol of these institutional buildings but in the modern world glass has established itself as a major driving force in determining the fate of structure. Glass now not only is a façade covering element but also has its varied use. For instance laminated glass is used in flooring as well, with the fixing techniques being further complex in nature. Discussing a national and an international example: I.M. Pei’s innovation at the Louvere in Paris divides opinion sharply, but, it has definitely improved things for visitors to this very busy museum who can queue under shade. This shading factor can be achieved by the means of Teflon or PVC awning for small spaces. This material selection would have also been based upon the intensity of luminance required in the requisite space. So the scale matters in terms of building materials and hence raises its complexity.

Even for the residential spaces skylights are most likely source of indirect light into the built form and associated with this are the installation and maintenance factor which have to be taken care of in large commercial spaces like malls. In another example of national importance, Infosys block, Mysore designed by Hafiz contractor: jagged facades and lopsided fragment style aesthetics of the software development block. There are no concrete walls in the elevation. Laminated glass, double glazing and ceramic frit glass have been used to form the outer skin of this structure. Each elevation of this building projects a unique face. The staircases inside are steel, keeping with the image of the building. In such example of institutional buildings

Prefabricated materials have been encouraged due to less availability of construction time period and several other constraints. Commercial typologies avoid using concrete due to several problems in past like discoloration, scaling, crazing, cracking and curling. The time factor of construction with reference to these prefabricated elements has drastically reduced but at the same time disadvantages of prefabrication includes: inflexibility towards change in design, joinery and leakage, higher initial construction cost since, cost is an instrumental factor in deciding the complexity of construction and furnishing for any typology of building. For example in case of any industrial godown or warehouses for installing a corrugated roofing of GI sheet structural frame work need not be aesthetically appealing but in case of the same roofing at a resort the structure layout of trussing is taken into consideration in order to achieve aesthetically sound system, which directly amplifies the cost factor and further complexity may increase in terms of dummy supports or laid out projections and pillars.

Apart from general construction format iconic formats are larger aesthetics concentric. This monumental scale can’t hide the complexity associated with it; its performance criteria and long run are an issue too. The Valencia Opera House designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava took 14 years for completion. The building described as “a blend of seagoing vessel and spacecraft” or even “a giant warrior’s helmet” is a masterpiece of modern architecture. The construction required over 77,000m³ of concrete, 275,000m³ of earth movement, 1,750 linear meters of piles, 38,500m² of granite, 20,000m² of fractured ceramic tile mosaic, 3,360m² of glass, 20,000,000kg of structural corrugated steel and 10,000,000kg of structural steel. The roof or 'feather plume' is the most structurally spectacular detail, 230m in length and consisting of two 'shells' which embrace the building on the outside. These are constructed of laminated steel with an approximate weight of 3,000t and feature delicate mosaic ceramic work on the outside. This part of the building remarks the most complex in the entire sphere structurally. The order of magnificence can’t be negotiated over the structure as the theater has a metal shell that tends to buckle as it expands and contracts in Valencia’s daily temperature extreme. Such complexities make the construction process of such structures on massive scale problematic. Another example of such typology of space which requires public involvement and scale, Guggenheim museum even the titanium sheets on the exterior façade cannot hide the structural manipulations of interior space. The complexity of interiors of this

Double skin structure is evident from the observation of the art critic Brian O’ Doherty who though being positive about the building’s approach criticizes the museum’s interior effects.

In different facets of the modern world complexity of building construction with respect to varying typology of built forms namely institutional, residential and industrial majorly depends upon the its function, scale and aesthetics. Renovation of old built forms is enumerated among them and mainly depends upon the services as well. Cost and durability are secondary factors that determine complexity of a structure to larger extent. Concrete and glass as a building material have garnered major appreciation. Prefabrication highlights the time aspect of construction process and also has some disadvantages. Dealing with the built form the complexity considerations or areas of concern should be taken into account. The need and aesthetics being main driving factor for selection of material and technique, the complexity of construction techniques varies and also depends upon physical components and context.