When 'assessing the brief it was important for us to consider the modular and inventive qualities that working with engineered timber allows. Timber is a natural element, and as such it is the only truly sustainable method of construction. Considering the motive of the brief to introduce engineered timber construction to India in a way that demonstrates its effectiveness, its advantages and also its aesthetic quality, it was important for us to allow the timber elements to take centre stage. We picked a site in Navi Mumbai, as we recognized this as a location where there are a lot of young families who are in need of good quality housing. As the ‘new mumbai’, it is also a good starting point to promote the innovative nature of construction that we have adopted. We set out to create an external CLT structural system that was capable of minimising the need for internal load bearing points, allowing for the creation of a highly adaptable floor plan. This structural system allows the building to be modular in nature, it can expand and adapt to different sizes of sites and to incorporate different amounts of units.
By separating the different layers of the building; Site, Structure, Skin, Services, Space plan and the ‘stuff’, the building can easily be rearranged to a new function and therefore effectively stand the test of time. Traditionally, many CLT buildings hide the CLT panels within the walls, meaning they are not visually present - our approach was to express the CLT prominently, at all points in the building. We believe that material expression should be obvious, and truthful. Let timber be timber, brick be brick, and so on. All aspects of the primary building structure are formed with mass timber elements with the fire protection of those elements achieved through standard charring rates and oversizing of the elements to suit. CLT floor slabs span between glulam downstand beams supported on a structural façade arrangement of CLT panels and central glulam columns where required.
The CLT panels are stacked in such a way so as to achieve the aesthetic of appearing increasingly more chaotic as they work their way up the elevation. Whilst this forces the structural elements to work harder due to the indirect load paths, this is dealt with by utilising the composite action of two CLT panels fixed together through the protruding glulam beams to form a cassette transfer structure and mobilise additional structural depth. The structure can seem chaotic at first glance, but just like in nature, the timber elements work in both tension and compression in harmony to spread the loads of the building in an efficient and pragmatic manner. This creates an innovative structural solution which achieves a sense of intrigue in the loadpath, challenging the viewer to consider how the structure functions. The design team included individuals from different backgrounds, in architectural design, structural engineering and urban design, our multidisciplinary approach is at the foundation of all that we do.