Conceptual Skyscraper Design Stands Out with ArchiCAD BIM

Arizona Design Firm Orcutt|Winslow Clinches Competitive Edge to Win Skyscraper Project in Mumbai, India

The verdant, green residential tower planned to rise into the sky above Mumbai, India will be designed by Phoenix-based Orcutt|Winslow (O|W). While the project is currently in a conceptual phase, it provides an architectural answer to India’s burgeoning housing demand through the creation of an alternative to densely-packed extensive horizontal communities, which have erased the once-lush tropical landscape. The planned building embraces a trend toward vertical development which provides opportunities to improve quality of life for residents as well as re- introducing nature at the ground plane.

There are breathtaking views of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link on one side, and panoramic views of the city making Sahana Pride at Sion a project with a challenging and compact footprint. O|W paid attention to aspects of the design that would allow residents to reconnect with nature even though they’d be living in the center of a bustling city such as Mumbai. It rises from a strong base, vegetation surrounds it and the design calls for the building to expand providing a wide range of activity spaces.


The design also includes individual apartments wrapped in a system of panels. This encourages natural ventilation and reduces solar heat gain. Even the color scheme of the panels serves a purpose, designed to react to light in the same way leaves of a tree do. Residents can enjoy impressive views of the Arabian Sea from the shaded garden rooftop, which caps the building.

Simplifying Design

Two architects from the United States worked with two from India to initially create the model. They devised a series of nested modules to fulfill the project requirement for a set number of two, three and four bedroom units.

“We wanted the structural system to seamlessly follow the design, so we designed the units to stack on top of each other,” said lead architect, Saravanan Balasubramanian. “The adjustments going forward were simplified because through ArchiCAD we were able to create floor plans and replicate them to the number of stories needed to meet the client’s requirements.”

Making aspects of the project simple to adjust proved very valuable on this project as it moved through as many as ten versions before a final design was selected. O|W has additional changes to make to the schematics seen in this article. Those changes will address the client’s wish to build a 200-meter tower now that the aviation clearance required by each jurisdiction in India has been met. “Through all these changes, the ArchiCAD process has helped us keep the file size relatively small. Each floor plate was set up as a module – that way we’re able to change items that make that floor plate unique in a separate layer. Modularizing each element of the project is the single best strategy moving forward since it is just a matter of adjusting the model and changes are reflected throughout the design.”

ArchiCAD also provides added flexibility – since O|W can opt to pare down the modules at the lobby, or podium level – which rests eight stories above a parking garage and just show “bones” of the building through the main file to keep the file size as small as possible, while still allowing full access to design elements.

Sustainable design elements

ArchiCAD also allows O|W to focus on ways their client could truly maximize the value of the square footage allotted. The firm was still able to bring several sustainable design elements to the Sahana Pride project. The project managers at O|W wanted to help pioneer sustainable design, though not common in India, it does have a tie into the economic sphere – namely, solar heating for water – a critical need for urban areas of India.

“India is going to face an electricity shortage within the next fifteen to twenty years. More businesses there must embrace solar power as an element of design that more businesses must embrace. We brought it to the table on this project because we see the way the population is putting increased demand on electricity resources,” said O|W Partner, Vispi Karanjia.

Collaborate Across Time Zones

The Phoenix-based company capitalized on having several architects of Indian descent with of love for their native country on staff. They combined that with non-traditional communication through an interactive Internet portal for their client to win the project. They developed an animation which contained a 3-D model that showed how the design addressed problematic spaces.

While this was the first time O|W opted to create a dedicated website to present the beginning design concepts to a developer, the firm is seeing advantages already in terms of seeking additional opportunities overseas.

“We saw this as a terrific way to stand out from the competition,” said Balasubramanian. “At each phase of the project, we wanted our client to be confident that we are a turnkey design firm, able to provide for all their design needs. We plan to adopt this strategy for demonstrating project ideas in going forward.”

Designing in 3D and being able to show clients their building concepts in 3D, offers the firm a significant advantage, says Balasubramanian. “We are able to leverage the features of ArchiCAD and its BIM Server technology. Our team in the United States provides support to our staff in other locations.”

“The goal is to work this project on the BIM Server, to have everyone working on it no matter where our architects are located,” explained Balasubramanian. “The BIM Server provides a tremendous opportunity to exploit our expertise and the country’s need for technical planning firms from the US. We can, through that technology, take advantage of our roots in India and leverage our proficiency in architectural design.”

Any concerns about difficulties in creating 3-D details in ArchiCAD for this project were quickly assuaged by the firm’s ability to demonstrate capabilities and provide actual figures for their client.

In summary, Balasubramian is assured he and his team can meet the many challenges they’ll meet in the project, “ArchiCAD helps us to maximize benefits, present more options in design and give our client confidence in numbers. A project like this one is all about numbers – the plot area, allowable floor space – when you consider that Mumbai is one of the most expensive places in the world to do business, ArchiCAD does an admirable job. We can set up schedules do ADA takeoffs – and talk to our client about the project as it progresses with so much confidence, even when changing the design. Because of ArchiCAD, we can query those changes, get an answer and be able to make a recommendation that helps our client.”


  1. Steve

    will they outsource the CAD services to India?

    • msims

      Steve, Please read again.
      They do not outsource CAD services at all. The project is in India.



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