Mumbai Associate Allwyn Chandran on site at Nathani Heights, a 72-story luxury residential complex in central Mumbai for which we are providing structural engineering services.
When the Mumbai office opened its doors in 2010, Associate Allwyn Chandran was one of its first employees. In his nearly five years with the firm, Allwyn has seen the office go from four employees in serviced space to more than 40 professionals in a modern facility in the city’s central business district. His career has grown just as quickly.
Allwyn started out as a project engineer in the Structural Engineering practice, working on the design, analysis and peer review of buildings in India, such as the mixed-use Rivali Park in Mumbai and the Kingfisher Towers residential complex in Bangalore. He also logged hours on several U.S. projects, including the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, New York, and an office building at 601 Massachusetts Ave. in Washington, D.C.
These days, Allwyn is responsible for managing full-scope and peer review projects in Mumbai, under the direct guidance of vice presidents Misam Imam and Kaushik Dutta. He is also part of the team that oversees project staffing assignments and is the learning coordinator for the office.“At Thornton Tomasetti, I have had the opportunity to broaden my skills and take on new responsibilities,” he said.
Allwyn has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Mumbai University and is a licensed structural engineer in Mumbai. He previously worked for the engineering and construction subsidiary of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co Ltd., a large Mumbai-based business conglomerate, and at Sterling Engineering Consultancy Private Ltd., where he was primarily involved in the design and analysis of local projects.
Allwyn, who was born in and raised in Mumbai, was inspired by his father, a civil contractor, to pursue a career in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. “The best thing about being a structural engineer,” he said, “is the ability to see the contributions we make to the built environment.”
Name one project that you are currently working on and something that you learned from it?
Right now, I am working on Nathani Heights, a tall and slender residential building in Mumbai, India, under the direct guidance of Kaushik. It was initially supposed to be 85 stories, but was reduced to 72 stories due to Mumbai municipal norms. The state government has tried to manage urbanization on the basis of FSI (floor space Index). Developers initially plan for the best possible FSI based on existing regulations and fine tune the actual size once they have made progress with the construction. Because Nathani Heights is a large and complicated project with tight space constraints, it has been a great learning experience. There are so many unique structural components, such as long-span girders at the podium levels, an eccentric building core that is connected to mega columns and outriggers at various levels and a foundation consisting of four-meter deep raft supported by piles. I also got the opportunity to review the creep and shrinkage analysis, which I find very interesting. We did the initial analysis using ETABS 2013 and are currently fine tuning the numbers using MIDAS. Apart from the rich technical experience that the project offers, I also gained exposure to the construction administration aspects. The project is still in the construction phase and coordinating with the other members of the design team, such as the architect, MEP engineer, project management consultant and other consultants has been challenging.
What are your areas of specialization?
I have a broad background. I have worked on a wide range of projects, from peer review to full scope design, and have experience with residential, commercial and mixed-use developments. I am well-versed in ETABS as well as Safe, which is commonly used in India for the design of slabs, mats and footings. Since most of my experience has been with projects in India, I know a good deal about Indian seismic and wind codes. The Indian codes vary significantly from the American codes. Indian codes, however, have some limitations, and so we often turn to the American codes. For example, we refer to ACI 209R for creep and shrinkage analysis.
How can you serve as a resource to others in the company?
From the time we began the schematics for Nathani Heights until the project entered the construction administration phase, I have gained a good understanding of the analysis techniques and code provisions that are involved in the design of tall and slender buildings. The younger engineers in our office tend to come to me with questions relating to ETABS and Safe analysis and modelling techniques as well as site-related questions about construction administration. Because I am part of the project staffing team in Mumbai, people contact me about technical assignments, particularly CAD, for projects in Mumbai or other Thornton Tomasetti offices.
What is the one tool/technique that you can’t live without?
Since I joined the Mumbai office, I have found Bluebeam to be an extremely useful tool. I can generate quick sketches, make and view markups or create overlays during schematics. Excel is also helpful. I like having the ability to use spreadsheets to perform quick calculations or to document the repetitive calculations that are usually part of any project.
What industry-related topic interests you most right now?
I have always been passionate about high-rise building design and by the challenges associated with creating tall and slender structures. I am particularly interested in the design of outrigger systems and creep and shrinkage analysis. Nathani Heights is one of a handful of buildings now under construction in Mumbai that have outrigger systems, and I feel very fortunate to be involved with that project.
What’s the best advice or tip that you’ve received during your career?
Senior Principal Anjana Kadakia often says, “It is important to be good engineers, but we also need to focus on growing our business.” This means more to me now that I have taken on a managerial position. With emerging technologies and new project delivery systems, I am learning how to strike a balance between the art of engineering and the necessities of business.
Is there anything that you would like to work on that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
I would very much like to work on a supertall building with a damping system. The inherent damping in the building structure is often not enough to limit a tall building’s motion to within acceptable limits. When inherent damping is not sufficient, it becomes necessary to provide supplemental damping system to the building structure. It would be very interesting to work on such a project.
Allwyn Chandran Off the Clock
Hobbies: I like to work out at the gym. It is a good way to relieve stress and boost my fitness. During a hectic week, I try to get in a few hours at the gym to refresh and re-energize myself for what lies ahead.
What are you listening to: I don’t play an instrument or sing very well, but I do enjoy listening to music. I catch up with the latest songs, including Bollywood soundtracks, at Gaana.com, a streaming service that features both Indian and international music. My favorite playlists are constantly changing.
Favorite film: I frequently watch Bollywood (Hindi cinema) and Kollywood (Tamil cinema) movies. One of my favorite films from Bollywood is “3 Idiots,” which hit the theatres in 2009. It is loosely adapted from the best-selling novel “Five Point Someone” by Chetan Bhagat, which I read and really liked. The film, which focuses on three students at India’s Imperial College of Engineering, is a good mix of comedy and drama. It is an awesome film. The Tamil remake, called “Nanban,” is equally good.
Favorite vacation spot: Kullu Manali, a hill station in the mountains of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh near the northern part of the Kullu valley. There is nothing like the exhilarating experience of rafting on the Beas River.
Secret life: I belonged to the National Cadet Corps (NCC) during my high school years. Students are given basic military training and part of the curriculum involves learning how to shoot a gun. Once during training, I managed to fire three shots using a rifle that was popular then with Mumbai police and hit the bulls eye each time. I still can’t believe it.
— Cynthia Hoffman, Editor
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