K. Suresh Kumar, who heads the Asian base of RWDI, the world leader in wind technology, talks about building safe and high performance buildings and structures
What is a common factor for some iconic structures like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia? The answer is a small office in Technopark that has made its reputation by knowing which way the wind blows. Literally.
RWDI, a Canadian firm, which is a world leader in wind technology, has its only base in Asia in an unassuming office in Tejaswini building at Technopark that is captained by the down to earth K. Suresh Kumar, an expert in wind technology.
“Skyscrapers that converse with the clouds need to withstand the force of the wind. We provide that expertise to our clients from all over the world,” says Suresh.
He explains: “Scale models of such structures are subjected to artificially created wind in a tunnel in a laboratory set-up. Wind-induced forces and responses faced by the structure in a wind storm are measured and calculated. This is the most accurate way to identify expected wind loads on structures during wind storms, which is important to know at the time of design.”
Suresh, an alumnus of the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, joined RWDI in Canada in 2000. His expertise in ‘wind loading and wind-induced vibrations’ on wind sensitive structures such as skyscrapers, long-span bridges and so on gave him the cutting edge while working on super structures such as Burj Dubai, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington, Main Street Bridge, Columbus, Ohio, and Air Force Memorial Spires, Arlington, Virginia, among other high-profile projects.
While he scaled heights in his field of work, Suresh, a native of Neyyattinkara in Thiruvananthapuram, often yearned to come back to India. “I wanted to return to the place where I began and share the knowledge that I gained with the community and country of my origin. Further, I could see a need for this science in the long run in India as the cities are getting crowded and the building are growing up,” he says. That was about the time RWDI was spreading its wings, planning to open an office in Asia to cater to their clients in this part.
Suresh’s desire to relocate to India motivated the company to look for an Indian base for the firm although their plan was to open an office in Asia, says Michael J. Soligo, chief executive officer of the company who had visited Kerala recently. In 2006, Suresh became the managing director of RWDI’s operations in India. “We believe in operating from places where there is a pool of talent and also offers a high standard of living and community space to our employees. After checking out several places in India we felt this was the best for our firm. A bonus is the greenery,” says Michael.
Since then Suresh and his team have worked on several high profile buildings in India. “We have done more than 100 tall building projects in India. Key ones are the Air Traffic Control Tower, Mumbai, Mumbai Airport Terminal, World One, Mumbai, Supernova, Noida, TCS Tower, Chennai, The 42 Tower, Kolkata, Leaning Tower, Hyderabad, King Fisher Tower, Bangalore… ,” he lists with evident pride.
He regrets that till now the company has not yet been consulted for a project in Kerala “although, Kerala being a small state should be looking at vertical spaces. We have been approached by a developer for a 100-storey building in Kochi, but nothing has been finalised so far due to air traffic clearance issues.”
But Suresh is not building castles in the air when he says that RWDI is hoping to expand its scale of operations in India and in Kerala. A wind tunnel laboratory in Kerala is one of the projects he is working on. He hopes to get it working in two years’ time. “This will have significant impact on the design front of tall buildings and other wind sensitive structures in India. In addition, on the education front, students/faculty/researchers can utilise the facility as well,” says Suresh.
As Suresh sets his sights higher, he wants to make a difference to the community. For him, that is by building super structures that are safe for living and work spaces as well.
A former student of a government boys’ school in his home town and of Arts College, he emphasises that one does not need to study in la-di-da institutions to go places. All one needs is determination and dedication to scale new heights.