Be it a construction project or architecture and design assignment, in 2021, the pandemic in a way mandated a resilient yet disciplined approach for execution of projects
Post 2020, the year 2021 was akin to moment of inertia where economic activities resumed in a cautious mode. In the architecture, design and EPC sector too, the impact of this was felt and it was necessary to have mechanisms in place to ensure timelines are not delayed further and in certain cases deadlines are met.
The government gave a massive push to the infrastructure sector and a number of central and state government projects were being executed in this difficult time period of 2020- 2021. One such mega project was the Kanpur Metro Project. The entire length of the Kanpur Metro Rail Project is 32 km, the 9km completed stretch which extends from IIT Kanpur to Motijheel was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on 28th December 2021. Apart from following elaborate Covid-19 protocols UPMRC (Uttar Pradesh Metro Rail Corporation) the state owned SPV at the helm of the project took numerous steps to complete the project on time.
Kumar Keshav, MD, UPMRC points out “For Kanpur Metro, a combined contract was awarded for Metro Trains and Signalling system, which lead to decreased time in carrying out the tendering process. The legal approvals were expedited at a fast pace. In view of the labour shortage the newly recruited manpower was trained to handle technical operations, psycho metric tests were conducted in a record time and professional grooming was done to prepare them for countering crisis. In terms of rolling stock, there delivery was done in 60 weeks whereas the standard time for delivery rolling stocks was 64 weeks. The real time monitoring of the rolling stocks was done through online mode. The Third rail traction power system was installed in a short span of time. Line charge up, work on track and traction was done simultaneously with meticulous planning and coordination. The traction system approval from Ministry of Railways through RDSO was obtained in the shortest possible time by quickly responding to their queries.”
In case of other projects, the intensity of the pandemic was perhaps lesser and hence the obstacles too were muted. Speaking on the company’s experience on the recently inaugurated Purvanchal Express Highway, Sandeep Gulati, Regional CEO-South Asia & Managing Director-India at Egis says “We have successfully completed the 340.824km long ‘Purvanchal Expressway Project’ where Egis is involved as the consultant and authority’s engineer for supervision of Package I to Package IV (164.57 Km) Covid-19 did pose as a challenge apart however, there were no cost overruns since the project was completed well before time. Other project related challenges which had to be addressed included exceptionally high embankment, connectivity to expressway from few crossing roads etc.”
The Covid-19 concerns did create a manpower issue across different projects, the Udhampur – Srinagar – Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) a crucial project being executed in Jammu Kashmir by The Konkan Railway Corporation Limited too had to overcome this issue. Kavita Shirvaikar, Director & CFO, Patel Engineering Ltd says “The site of the project is remote besides which it is located on a high altitude, so getting the requisite manpower in the lockdown mode was a challenge. Once the lockdown restrictions were eased maintaining the right amount of social distancing was another challenge. Despite the odds we continue to execute the project in a timely manner and our accomplishments so far are a testimony to the fact. In excavation there has been a record overall progress of 477.10 meters from four faces of tunnelling excavation achieved in a single month. A maximum progress of 155.50 m was clocked in, in a time period of one month from P1 MT single face. Keeping in tandem with the task at hand we achieved a maximum progress of 28 meters from four faces in a single day.”
Apart from manpower issues keeping the existing manpower safe and secure was an important issue. Vishwa Samudra Engineering Pvt. Ltd the firm which executed the runways and taxiways at the GMR Airport as also the construction of rural roads in Andhra Pradesh in Vijayawada – Krishna district, AP also witnessed this Covid-19 induced challenge. Anil Yendluri, Managing Director – Vishwa Samudra Engineering Pvt. Ltd says “The main challenges were keeping our employees and surroundings safe in this critical time. Daily checks and constant Covid tests were done to ensure diagnosis of employees, if they turn positive, happened well in advance and they were treated much before anything gets severe. With strict protocols, employee safety was primary at Vishwa Samudra Engineering Pvt. Ltd. We ensured that every employee at our project sites across the country was safe, was given timely care and monitored on an everyday basis. We had a National Covid Coordinator whose job was to monitor employees across every project-site. Despite several people getting affected, we ensured a 100% recovery rate, with paid leave given to all employees. What we saw was remarkable, employee commitment was not affected in spite of the lockdowns.”
The pandemic in a way mandated a resilient yet disciplined approach for execution of projects Kuldip Grover, Project Manager, Turner India who was at the helm of the Hiranandani Fortune City says “The project execution phase saw the Covid-19 pandemic striking at the most critical juncture of the project timeline. It resulted in delays and disruptions in the anticipated recovery programs and affected the overall output. We overcame the challenge through consistent confidence building measures with the labour by conducting training and skilling sessions for them on war footing. On the technical front, issues like longer slab cycles were diligently resolved by our team. The critical planning inputs gathered on actual time motion studies and productivity analysis suggested vital changes in the deployment patterns of both the workforce and T&P in more efficient manner.”
In architecture and design projects the pandemic posed unique challenges for architects and designers Amit Rastogi Associate & Studio Head, CnT Architects who completed the The Bashyam Experience centre in midst of the pandemic says “I think more than material and labour the travelling part was a challenge as we were based in a different location and the site was based in one of the busiest locations in Chennai. Since a lot of detailing has gone into project, it was very important for us to visit the project very periodically, which got hampered a bit ideally the project was meant to be completed in a year but it took almost two years to complete. So in a way the timelines got stretched. But eventually, I think we have achieved what we wanted.”
Material and logistics too were key concern areas for delivering projects on time. Purvi Shah, Interior Designer, Purvi Shah Interiors who executed the project ‘The Twin Villas’ in Karjat adds she a bulk of the project co-ordination was done online. “It took us a little time and effort to adapt to Zoom calls and WhatsApp calls and pass on the instructions to the local craftsmen. So it was a tough time for them too but we all learnt as we progressed. There were a lot of problems as far as material and logistics were concerned as well in a way it was an important lesson that has taught us newer ways of executing projects and I think most of the architects will agree on that.”
And indeed many architects do agree to the fact, Vishal Shah, Founder Partner, Aangan Architects who executed the residential project Samruddhi in Surat cites “We were able to channelize all the activities like coordinating with the agencies and karigars in a proper way. The project management was done in a way so that we have limited people on-site at a time. But we ensured, that the execution of the project was not hampered either. So that was something which we learned as a part of this pandemic and how we can even come out. So except for the three months that we lost during the complete lockdown. There was no other time that was lost, and we were able to deliver the project in time.
In some projects the location too acted a constraint. A.K. Enterprises were in charge of a project executed in Urbana a high-rise based in the city of Kolkata. “Because the project was based in a high-rise,” says Amit Maitra Director, AK Enterprises “owing to Covid-19, entry and exit to the property was not allowed for six months, additionally the detailing in the furniture was another complex task, the detailing part we could mitigate thanks to our creative expertise but the sourcing of additional furniture and lights took time”
Each project executed in 2021 is a creative offering to the business of form, function and aesthetics in a timeline when the world was reeling under the after effects of the pandemic. In this regard, each project is akin to a sign of resilience as well. Like they say when the going gets tough, the tough gets going and it also goes to prove the fact that there are indeed novel and better ways to accomplish tasks and also the fact that difficult times don’t last forever.
For Kanpur Metro, a combined contract was awarded for Metro Trains and Signalling system, which lead to decreased time in carrying out the tendering process
Kumar Keshav, MD, UPMRC
Covid-19 did pose as a challenge apart however, there were no cost overruns since the project was completed well before time
Sandeep Gulati, Regional CEO-South Asia & Managing Director-India at Egis
The site of the project is remote besides which it is located on a high altitude, so getting the requisite manpower in the lockdown mode was a challenge
Kavita Shirvaikar, Director & CFO, Patel Engineering Ltd
The main challenges were keeping our employees and surroundings safe in this critical time. Daily checks and constant Covid tests were done to ensure diagnosis of employees
Anil Yendluri, Managing Director – Vishwa Samudra Engineering Pvt. Ltd
The project execution phase saw the Covid-19 pandemic striking at the most critical juncture of the project timeline
Kuldip Grover, Project Manager, Turner India
It took us a little time and effort to adapt to Zoom calls and WhatsApp calls and pass on the instructions to the local craftsmen
Purvi Shah, Interior Designer, Purvi Shah Interiors
Because the project was based in a high-rise owing to Covid-19, entry and exit to the property was not allowed for six months
Amit Maitra Director, AK Enterprises
I think more than material and labour the travelling part was a challenge as we were based in a different location and the site was based in one of the busiest locations in Chennai.
Amit Rastogi Associate & Studio Head, CnT Architects
The project management was done in a way so that we have limited people on-site at a time. But we ensured, that the execution of the project was not hampered either.
Vishal Shah, Founder Partner, Aangan Architects