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The Shrimad Rajchandra Mission (SRM) Committee retained Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE), an Indian engineering and consulting firm, to design an ashram and surrounding infrastructure to serve as the mission’s international headquarters for a place of cultural activity and religious study. The INR 1.8 billion project required TCE to provide a master land development and infrastructure plan for a 223-acre spiritual complex that would be sustainable for more than 100 years.

To ensure the engineering and design approach was consistent with the SRM movement, TCE first had to understand the principles and practices of Jainism and the operations of its spiritual hermitage, the ashram. “We went over there, sat with them, meditated with them, and realized that this is not a traditional planning, engineering, or architectural project. They want something different — something that is alive and unique,” said Sandeep Zade, assistant general manager at TCE.

Sustainability, ease of use, and accessibility to the elderly were key considerations in the layout of the ashram.

The proposed spiritual complex included a temple, a meditation center with seating capacity for 5,000 people, a lake and amphitheater, a museum, library, classrooms, a welcome center, and a specially designated area for large gatherings of more than 15,000 people, in addition to a dining hall capable of serving 6,000 guests at a time. Onsite studio apartments and one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences and villas serve as accommodations at the ashram to suit every budget and need of its guests.

With a 5.57 million-square-foot build area to be designed on sloping terrain to accommodate large visitor capacities and operate at maximum energy efficiency, TCE relied on Bentley site analysis and design software to meet these challenges, the ecological constraints, and spiritual demands for this ashram development project.

3D visualization

Utility and infrastructure planning was challenging due to the site’s steep and varying slopes and the need to preserve the existing ecology.

The land development site posed topographical limitations being hemmed in by valleys with slopes ranging from 5 percent to 35 percent and an elevation difference of 80 meters. To determine the workable space of the site, TCE performed a slope analysis of the area using Bentley PowerCivil for India.

“We used Bentley PowerCivil to generate 3D digital terrain models and determined that only 30 percent of the area is workable,” Zade said.

Having identified a constructible area, TCE was now faced with effectively utilizing the terrain slope for the placement of utilities, roads, and buildings. The ashram had to be designed to preserve the existing ecology, minimize noise, ensure zero water discharge, provide effective solid waste management, and eliminate construction waste, as well as accommodate pedestrian traffic from as many as 8,000 visitors daily while also considering constraints for elderly accessibility.

Using Bentley’s 3D technology, TCE gathered data, produced models, performed clash detection and analysis, and delivered conceptual, schematic, and detailed designs to the SRM Committee as 3D visualizations to determine cost-effective, organic options for development. 

Collaborative modeling

Creating 3D digital terrain models with PowerCivil for India was essential to accommodate building, road, and utility placement on the steep slopes. With Bentley site planning and analysis applications, TCE utilized the sloping terrain effectively, fitting the buildings within the ridges of the elevated site. The team analyzed sun path, wind direction, and noise to maximize ventilation, optimize energy efficiency, and ensure a tranquil environment consistent with that of an ashram.

Using MXROAD, TCE developed an intelligent model that considered access and connecting roads for travel to and within the region; vehicle, cyclist, and pedestrian traffic and travel patterns within the ashram site — especially for the elderly — and capacity to sustain travel demands for future needs during peak season and ashram spiritual events. The software enabled the team to successfully design the roads amid the sloping site to avoid the retaining structures.

With Bentley civil design software, TCE performed accurate cut-fill volume analysis for site grading, optimized retaining wall design, and ensured effective utilization of excavated materials within the site, eliminating construction waste. The team identified an onsite dumping ground for 400,000 cubic meters of excavated soil and then converted the dumping ground to an open ground theater with a capacity for 15,000 people. 

Bentley’s integrated 3D technology provided TCE the tools to use the organic nature of the terrain to facilitate an integrated and sustainable utility infrastructure established relative to the core civil and structural components, while reducing the environmental footprint.

Using Bentley’s Haestad products, the team gathered and analyzed data for natural sewerage and effective solid waste management. The natural slope was effectively utilized for the entire decentralized sewerage network. With a proposed zero water discharge budget for the project, TCE designed a sustainable stormwater system without disturbing the terrain, and implemented watershed to manage the flow of water using digital terrain models and catchment area delineation in PowerCivil to identify drainage patterns.

“We clearly marked our catchment delineation at the right particular spot by using the drainage tools in PowerCivil,” Zade said.

Syncing engineering with spirituality

TCE performed detailed studies of environmental impact to maintain the site as natural as possible, and to keep everything alive, preserving ecology, consistent with Jain tradition and the client’s demands. The team incorporated aspects of spirituality into their designs, and using Bentley applications to create collaborative digital terrain models, shared their development plan visually with the SRM Committee and stakeholders.

The seamless flow of data in user-friendly formats enhanced information mobility and workflow processes to make optimal informed choices about current and future uses of the land. The interoperability of Bentley software allowed TCE to create a sustainable master plan balancing infrastructure design and engineering with the aesthetic and religious requirements of an ashram. With effective tools to facilitate interaction and negotiations among TCE, spiritual leaders, stakeholders, and decision makers, the project team successfully integrated engineering with spirituality while optimizing planning, development, and management of the project area.

With devotees, some whom are indigent, bearing the entire expense of this project, the team needed to optimize cost savings without compromising quality. Advanced 3D modeling, seamless collaboration, and effective coordination were essential in reducing project costs and saving time.

TCE used MicroStation, Bentley Map, GEOPAK, InRoads, MXROAD, STAAD, and Haestad products to perform cost-benefit analysis and determine the best design solutions to ensure efficient management and operations to minimize costs. The ability to visualize models and drawings in a collaborative 3D environment saved significant costs for the retaining wall and site grading. Bentley 3D technology enabled TCE to deliver the development project at a cost savings of nearly 40 percent.


Rachel Rogers joined Bentley Systems in 2012 and is currently the application marketing director for Bentley’s civil design, geospatial, imaging, and hydraulic and hydrology products. She has more than 20 years of experience marketing 3D modeling products in the transportation, land development, government, geospatial, and earth imaging industries.

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