Established 2 decades ago, the Jaipur-based organisation was the first of its kind to initiate a consultancy that undertook mechanical electrical and plumbing (MEP) design. The challenges with establishing any venture ranges from its capital investments to navigating work and its execution. But for Ashi Associates, the challenge was basic as explaining peers and acquaintances their fundamental functions and services. In the present day, MEP consultancy has become fundamental to the practice of building. As times change and technology evolves, so do practices and ways of working.
Ashi Associates is an ace example of an MEP design consultancy that was established at the dawn of the AutoCAD era. Design moved from the drafting-board onto the computer screen. Efficiency and productivity increased exponentially and created a ripple effect to the allied vocations of engineering, plumbing and mechanical services. Identifying the opportunity in the market, Vipul Agarwal set up an office in his living room when a leading architect in Jaipur contacted them with a project. “I started on my own with a computer setup in my living room & taking prints from a plotter”, says Vipul. Currently his 1500 sq. ft. office accommodates 20 employees with up-to-date facilities. What began as an MEP consultancy now delivers end-to-end capabilities across Architecture, structural, electrical, fire fighting, air-conditioning, lifts, DG sets, CCTV systems, EPABX, cable TV systems, intrusion detection systems and so on.
At the time of establishment, Vipul Agarwal made great efforts to explain the necessity of MEP consultancies. Given the current advancements, his grouse has also taken upon a serious implication that looms over the face of construction. Vipul Agarwal explains, “Non-existence of standards & procedures for certification of the electrician, plumbers, fire fighting workers & air conditioning mechanics leads to non- technical individuals undertaking contracting business. This creates a mess.” But his concerns are not limited to non-professionals moonlighting as experts. He continues, “There is a need for appropriate certifying agencies & third-party cross-checking vendors for small cities & town projects.” And lastly, he laments about the one aspect that is beyond anyone’s control, “Changes in design as per the client’s whims and budget constraints are the most problematic areas in MEP design.” While adding a floor or two might seem trivial to a lay-man, it can alter the design drastically.
As technology progressed exponentially in the last two decades, so did the construction industry and its scales. But often solutions and progress are not just about technology and advanced solutions. Vipul Agarwal speaks from the perspective of delivering designs in small towns and villages. “Design should be easy to maintain and operate since skilled manpower is not easily available in remote areas”, he says. This is pertinent because design becomes key in such circumstances. While money and resources can be channeled towards developing the hinterland, any progress stagnates if upkeep and long-term implications are unaccounted for.
With the advent of technology, there is also the percolation of knowledge and awareness that has transpired. But Vipul is unafraid to address certain tendencies that transpire. “We need to be very careful about adherence to all codal provisions keeping in mind that the builder or client might not be interested in spending extra to ensure strict compliance to all codal provisions.” Some of their landmark projects include Extension of Arrivals & Departure areas at Jaipur Internation Airport, Jaipur; Lafarge Cement plant Nimbahera Executive Township; Wonder Cement Plant Executive Township Nimbahera; Cairn Energy Executive Township at Mangla Terminal Kawas Barmer; Jaisalkot Hotel at Jaisalmer; Desert Palace Hotel at Jaisalmer; etc.
Modern methods have allowed work to become streamlined. Complex projects are being executed efficiently and with ease. These advancements cannot entirely replace certain best-practices that are fundamental and timeless. Technical feasibility and economic viability are imperative. At the same time, the design should accommodate modifications owing to real-time changes.
The success of any MEP design lies in how seamlessly services are accommodated and retro-fitted without hindering day-to-day functions and spatial features of a building or space. It is ironical that a good MEP is one that takes backstage and enables a building to function and breathe without drawing attention to how it ‘works’. And to achieve this ‘invisibility’ there are innumerable factors at play; from explaining core services at the time of Ashi Associate’s foundation to now keeping a check on multiple nitty-gritty of work.