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In late December of 2023, the title of the world’s biggest office building was taken from the Pentagon, which has an office space of 6.5 million square feet, and given to a massive new megaproject in the city of Surat in the west Indian state of Gujarat.
This new $400 million megaproject is called the Surat Diamond Bourse, and its astonishing size, at 7.1 million square feet, serves as a true and important milestone for India’s construction industry. But, why does India need such a large office building?
The Surat Diamond Bourse
The Surat Diamond Bourse is incredibly massive in size. It is built on a space of 7.1 million square feet, and comprises thousands of offices and conference halls that are home to almost 70,000 employees. The offices have around 131 elevators, making it easy for employees to get around.
The employees make use of the diamond bourse’s vast parking space, which has spots for 5,000 cars and 10,000 motorbikes. But, this large office building isn’t just for work, as it includes around 107,600 square feet of restaurants and cafes, nine courtyard gardens, and retail outlets. It also doesn’t ignore safety, as all of this is set across a high security compound.
This building is a testament for the resilience of India’s construction industry, especially since the construction faced multiple challenges, including having to comply with a long list of special construction requirements, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aside from its astonishing size, another astonishing aspect of the Surat Diamond Bourse is that it guaranteed full occupancy as soon as it opened, in an age of remote and hybrid work where office buildings all around the world are sitting empty.
Why does India need it?
The answer to this question lies solely with the city of Surat’s large diamond industry. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to buy a diamond, chances are it came through Surat, since a massive 90% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in the city!
Inside the Surat Diamond Bourse, diamonds are traded between the bourse members in order to promote the interests of the local diamond industry. Additionally, diamonds, whether rough or polished, don’t have to be physically present at the diamond bourse to be traded. Even though Surat’s diamond industry is incredibly large, it still has an equally large problem.
Rough stones arrive in Surat where they’re processed in one of the thousand small workshops spread across the city, and the majority of the finished products are then collected by merchants who travel to major cities like Mumbai over 200 kilometers away.
In the major cities, diamonds are traded both in India and all around the world, which shows how inefficient the entire process is; making diamonds in one city and having to travel hundreds of kilometers to actually make money on them. And so, the Indian government decided that it’d be much better if Surat’s diamond industry’s whole business takes place in the city, which is why the Surat Diamond Bourse was built.
The Surat Diamond Bourse, or SDB, was formed when nearly five thousand of the city’s diamond businesses got together to build it.
Designing this building was no easy feat, as the architects and engineers were presented with a list of special requirements for construction that was extremely challenging. First of all, they had to include 4,700 offices to house the small workshops and businesses that make up the SDB.
What made this challenging is that each office needed equal access to ambient daylight, which provided the best conditions to process diamonds in, while avoiding any harsh and direct sunlight. But this wasn’t all, as the building also needed to deal with Surat’s extreme heat and humidity, as well as its monsoon rains and winds. Additionally, the building had to account for and cope with the daily flow of nearly 70,000 workers.
The architect team behind the megaproject, Morphogenesis, which worked on impressive projects such as Kukas’ Pearl Academy, India Glycols’ corporate office in Noida, and Siliguri’s City Center, first began the design process by tackling the large number of people the building had to serve.
This was the most important step in the process, according to Morphogenesis’ Founding Partner Manit Rastogi. The team started looking at the project’s massive 7 million square feet size and wondered what would be the best way to manage the inflows and outflows of the 70,000 employees, who they know would come in within a span of an hour in the morning and they all want to leave in a span of an hour in the evening.
After a long planning process, Morphogenesis set a target that any employee could reach their office within seven minutes of entering the gate. This was achieved by using technology to simulate how the traffic would like in order to be able to deal with it and manage it.
As for the challenge regarding the daylight access, the design included nine fifteen-story towers which flank a 400-meter tall central spine, which was aligned north to south. The heights of each of those towers and the distances between them are precisely calculated so that even the office at the very bottom gets 100% of daylight, and doesn’t get overshadowed.
The building’s spine also helps it cope with the extreme climate. Each end flares out to the west to catch the prevailing winds. Then, those winds are funneled throughout the complex which provides 50% of the building’s cooling needs.
Construction for this project started in December of 2017, and it took 6,000 workers and four and a half years for it to be completed. Of course, like many other megaprojects during that time, the biggest challenge faced during construction was the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic caused global supply chains to slow down, meaning that the large quantities of materials needed to continue the construction had to be sourced a lot closer to home. As a result of this, the team made a plan to source all the materials from within a 500-kilometer radius of the building.
Everything was manufactured nearby, from ceramic tiles to ceiling panels. Amazingly, a glass factory was built on site in order to produce the large number of windows the building needed.
Now, the building is completed and serves as a symbol of pride for its builders and for the city of Surat as a whole, and also to DREAM City, which is another megaproject that the SBD is part of.
DREAM City stands for Diamond Research and Mercantile City, and it’s an upcoming business district in Surat meant to be India’s diamond capital. It will be built on 2,000 acres of land near Khajod, along the lines of the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, or GIFT City, and Dholera Smart city near Ahmedabad.
Its first stone was laid in 2015, and it’ll be Gujarat’s third smart city once it opens in 2030. It will include office space, residential areas, and multiple different facilities for these residential areas.
Additionally, it’ll also include the country’s first ever textile university. The university is likely to be set up on 100 acres of land and act as a catalyst for the growth of India’s textile industry, which contributes to India’s GDP by 2.3%.
The establishment of such a university is a strategic move on India’s part as it will help it compete better in the textile industry in the region, as well as globally. India’s nearest competitor Pakistan has had a textile university since 1959, while another country with a huge textile industry, Bangladesh, got one in 2010.
India’s Growing Economy
To conclude, we’ll say that megaprojects such as the SBD and DREAM City add a lot of value to India’s construction industry, as well as its emerging and rapidly-growing economy.
The Indian economy is expected to surpass both Germany and Japan and become the world’s third largest economy in 2027, which doesn’t come off as a surprise when you consider the country’s massive investments in megaprojects such as this one, which contribute a lot to its economy.
It’s certain that many in India and even outside it greatly anticipate the completion of these projects, which will definitely set India up as one of the world’s top economic superpowers.
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