Access Architects: Leading Design Through Sustainability Efficiency & Technology

Jay Atul Shah, Directors

Jay Atul Shah


Success usually comes to those who are too busy looking for it; it indeed came to Access Architects. However, the road to success is less than comfortable, but a definite triumph. When a design studio grows exponentially, there is also a long and sometimes challenging horizontal growth attached to it too. Back in 1981, when Access Architects was in its conception stage, Jay Atul Shah started his practice with just a 40 sq. ft. office. He was the whole and sole of Access Architects. Only after years of toil, hard work, and a gradual growth that in 2014, Access Architects was working from a modest 3000 sq. ft. office with the strength of 20 team members. Today, the firm has scaled to a 52 member design team with a 15,000 sq. ft. studio and state-of-the-art design technology that helps the team of designers to focus their energy on projects commissioned to the firm, creating designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but functional and practical. One of the core values for the company since then has always remained the same,‘Where Quality always triumphed over Quantity’.

In the early 90s, when ICT was just the new guy in the block, Access Architects were already one of the first Architectural offices that adopted the use of computers to design structures. The firm is now an ardent user of the expansive BIM softwares, 3D scanners & printers, and virtual reality (VR), which help stimulate a better understanding of the built environment.

"The use of technology helps access architects explore space and built environments and brings-forth unique solutions to complex design challenges"

With a strong foothold in both Building Architecture and Urban Design, Access Architects has had an opportunity to work with celebrated realestate developers and global hospitality conglomerates. Access Architects have been recently recognized for designing the award-winning Tallest Completed Commercial building in South Asia, The Ruby - a 1.5 million sq. ft. 191m tall IT building in Dadar, Mumbai. The firm has also designed The Altimo, which is Mumbai’s first skinny tower at the height of 185m on a plot of 583 sq. m, Lodha Altamount a building where the most expensive apartment in the country was sold recently, was Access Architect’s design collaboration with an international architecture firm. Another project that has won accolades for the firm is Sofitel, an iconic 5-star Hotel in BKC, Mumbai. The Rupa Renaissance is another magnificent Avante Garde mixed-use project which is a head-turner for composite steel construction.

Access Architects, as an organization, has always believed in efficiency along with aesthetics. The firm’s design philosophy is to ‘looking beyond today’, and the Access Architects’ team makes relentless efforts to ensure that the clients receive cutting-edge designs that are not just eye-pleasing, but are innovative solutions for the built environment. “We ensure all our designs are not only sensitive and observant to the client’s vision and ideas, but are also in-tangent to the building and construction guidelines of the city, thus ensuring faster approval rates for the stakeholders. The apex of a good design is to strike a delicate balance between form and function,” asserts Atul.

Access Amidst The Current Dynamism & Evolution Of The Built Environment
Understanding the evolution of the built environment may require it to be understood as a complex social-ecological system, where multiple related collaborators interact at different scales. From the broad systems perspective, the dividing line between what is considered as natural and what is called structure diminishes as the interaction with the structure increases exponentially. Over the past four centuries, environmental accounting and material metabolism notions have expanded from year-to-year economic and biological exchanges to energy, material, financial, and information flows extended through time and space. At present, the necessary extension of system limits in spatial design has been best achieved by bottom-up modelling approaches using BIM tools indicating the use of locally sourced low-carbon foot materials and conserving the use of natural resources through design interventions.

Access Architects envisions collaborating with different architectural design principles in order to create a partnership of the structure with its immediate environment. The firm has also introduced a Research Cell called ‘Derive’ which is dedicated to research in the firm intended to form an in-depth analysis of construction methodologies and the cost benefits that come with them. Through this research department, the team has dedicated themselves to examine and study the various components of design. This research cell also allows us to explore fundamental principles of facades and climate effects with respect to using materials in a local climate. This study analysis has aided the team in developing efficient designs that can be constructed with significantly low costs and time. To achieve quality, pace, and efficiency in terms of business growth, Access Architects has also developed a proprietary phased design work process called ‘Access Project Work
Process’(APWP).This integration aids in defining a business opportunity that reduces the overall cost of the client’s project to meet the client’s business objectives. Through APWP, Access Architects is able to effectively utilize resources to conduct projects while reducing the overall project time cycle.

Innovation With Design
Upon the question of a singular approach towards a plethora of new-age design strategies that Access Architects delivers, the CEO explains, “A built form is like an art piece, where artists in this case the Architects and consultants and artisans the PMCs and Construction company work concertedly to create a form unique to its inhabitants. Thus, apart from the core values of ‘Innovation with Design’, there is no singular approach, as every structure is unique in design. With the extensive experience of the

design team, we pride ourselves with unparalleled advanced knowledge of zoning codes, ordinances, and development standards which help to design structures that gain eminence for delivering highly functional designs while using maximum FSI and creating landmarks in the skyline that we can be proud of”.

Understanding the evolution of the built environment may require it to be understood as a complex social ecological system, where multiple related collaborators interact at different scales

Uncompromising Approach To Efficiency, Profitability & Beauty
Atul walks us through an elaborate case scenario to help us understand the approach. He remarks that beauty is driven by perspective, while efficiency and profitability are measurables. The experts at Access Architects are committed to delivering efficient designs without compromising on the functional, aesthetic, and sustainable needs of the built environment for the end-user. While the common service areas in high-rise structures have always been essential, the structure also needs to be an effective design solution that aids in reducing the environmental impact and resources required during construction, referred to as Holistic Design Thinking. Take, for instance, mechanical car parking. This is not an ideal concept to be implemented in India due to the lack of organized long term maintenance, car washing, effective electricity use, and several other factors. In order to combat these problems and achieve well structured circulation and traffic assessment, a comprehensive schematic ramp parking system that can allow for the accommodation of the required cars needs to be integrated. These details might seem trivial, but they are crucial to arrive at a qualitative design that optimally utilizes the FSI of a plot while keeping building costs minimal. Implementing this as a part of the Basic Design Standard at our firm approach has further aided in reducing 25-30 percent of the parking area and 30-40 percent of common areas of upper floors in most of the recent designs by the team.

The team at Access Architects is dedicated to the exploration of space & the built environment while making use of technology to attain shared goals with the client for the projects efficiently. “With an unwavering commitment to bring-forth unique solutionsto complex design challenges, we tend to break barriers that affect architecture and designm,” adds the CEO.

Staying Abreast & Helping Architects Realize The Complete Scope Of Creative Vision
In terms of architecture, technology can be summarized as the technical design and expertise used in the amalgamation and application of construction technologies in the building design process. It is the ability to analyze, evaluate and synthesize building design factors in order to produce methodological, efficient, and effective design solutions.

The advancement in technology and its easy adaptation towards building design parameters has allowed Access Architects to test waters in the commercial design segment for holistic sustainable social development. The use of immersive reality helps this world to acknowledge the organic trajectory evident in the spectrum of 3D virtual engineering. “It is a myth that the use of technology turns-out to be extortionate for a project rather, it further aids in providing superior profitability & competence to the built form in the long run,” says Atul, clearing the air around technology usage in projects.

BIM technology has prominently aided in delineating utilitarian designs while utilizing maximum FSI. Access Architects has been in the realm of jubilantly subsuming BIM technology for more than a decade in all their ventures. The use of technology helps the firm explore space and built environments and brings-forth unique solutions to complex design challenges. Technology breaks barriers in parameters that affect architecture and design.

Bringing The Balance In Quality Life, And Sustainability
In his own words, Atul paints a very clear picture of finding the right balance between seeking sustainability while not compromising on the luxuries of life and lifestyle. A concept of holistic sustainability introduced by Bjarke Ingels focuses on challenging the misconception of renunciation of a congenial lifestyle in order to acquire sustainability. At Access Architects, focus is laid on looking to counteract this very delusion with edifices encapsulating sustainability prospects and ameliorating life quality. It is the need of the hour for architects to use their design sensibility towards galvanizing the design process with the added responsibility of incorporating sustainable strategies and rendering masterful spectacles.

Passive design strategies are the one-stop solution to pacify the contemporaneous needs of the AEC industry as well as the unprecedented pandemic times. The idea is to take the edge of the negative impact and carbon footprint on the built environment. Factors associated with sun orientation, climatic zones, managing daylight, and natural ventilation are the lost fundamentals of design segments that need to be revived. Landscaping also plays a significant part in passive design layouts.

Also, by prioritizing steel and precast concrete as construction materials, Access Architects foresees being able to achieve its endeavor of marking India on the globe as an environmental friendly sovereign state in terms of infrastructure and development. Today, there is a more profound understanding with respect to the importance of developing ergonomic spaces. Access Architects follows a deliberate approach in planning sustainable structures and implementing design interventions that promote livability. With the rising demand for the urban concept of living, architects have to consider user interactive design interventions that serve for both the aesthetic and functional regime of the project.