Managing building information modelling on a large-scale infrastructure project is not an easy task.
In this episode I spoke with Armin Khagebahri, BIM Manager at WSP, working on the client-side of the New Slussen Project in central Stockholm.
It was great to hear about the innovative methods they are using to manage cost and risk on the project.
Today we are joined with Armin Khagebahri is here on the New Slussen Project in Stockholm. Thanks very much for joining me on.
Thank you for having me.
How are you today?
I’m good. I’m good.
As you can hear, were actually on in the project office here in the New Slussen Project. So it might get a little bit loud, but hopefully we’ll carry on. It’s just authentic. So if you could start Armin by telling us a little bit about yourself how you got into the world of engineering and construction.
Yeah. Well, yeah. Thank you for having me again. First time I got in touch with them was in college. That was the first time I saw… we had two guys doing a presentation about 4D BIM and 5D BIM and just explained 4D and 5D BIM is that when you add time to the model, you call it 4D BIM and when you add cost 5D BIM and they were doing a presentation about comparing using BIM models for that comparison with the traditional way. And that was when I got interest in a curious, “What is BIM and what can you do with this technology?” Because I’ve always been really, really interested in innovation, automation, technology so the strange part is that I never heard about BIM during my major during the college. I never heard we didn’t have anything about any courses or anything, any news or information about them. So that was the first time I got and heard about and it got me curious. And after that presentation, I started to do some research checking, like looking at which companies are using this technology and what can you do with this? what are the benefits? And that was when my journey started.
Great. Really interesting and fast forward to today. You’re now the BIM Manager with WSP and you are working here on the New Slussen Project.
Can you perhaps just describe, for anyone that’s not familiar with the projects, what it is the scale of the project here? Yeah, if you can please describe that.
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. I can explain little bit first about the New Slussen Project. So it’s an infrastructure project and it’s a reconstruction of landscaping, work, roads, bridges. We actually have one bridge that’s going to be manufactured in China. It’s going to be shipped in Sweden the end of this year. So it’s really interesting, not only because of the scope on how big the project is and it’s because in the central of Stockholm, it’s also a really special for Stockholmers who lives in this area because of historical reasons. Like we… 3 to 400 years ago, we had a lot of kings that were living here. So when you do a lot of excavation work, we find a lot of archaeologic equipment. Yeah, under the ground. So this is a… It’s a challenging project and it’s been… the key goal is to make it short, to have a good transportation between the old town and Soddermom where we’re sitting right now. Yeah, to make sure easy way for the public to know we have. It’s a really stressful and hectic and a lot of people working around here so we need to find a way to have a solution for that in terms of transportation and for those that don’t know about so much about this Listen Project, it’s a huge BIM Project, model-based. So every delivery from design teams, every discipline are working with BIM models. And that’s a requirement since the beginning from the client team, that we are demanding to have model-based project. Yeah, that’s, uh, that’s Listen.
That’s a good… it’s a really good intro. Yeah, so we know a little bit more about it in terms of the scale. We know it’s a 12B Swedish Krone, which is roughly about £1 million project. And how far are you into the project whereabouts? For those who can’t see what we see.
Yeah, it’s really hard to say exactly how much. But my guess is percentage 20% to 30% is how far we are right now. Yeah, because the product is going to end in 2025. And I forgot to say that we started this product in 2016. That was when we started with the reconstruction work. So quite nine years long project.
Well, there’s a lot of dive into that, you mentioned the model-based delivery, so we’re definitely going to pick up on that bit later. But in your role as BIM manager, talk about some of your day to day tasks. I think you’re on the client side. Yeah. Can you explain what that means?
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So we have a design team, we have a contractor, and we have the clients. So I’m part of the client organization representing the client, which is Stockholm city, a public government client. And I’m hired since 2015 before we started to do the reconstruction work as a BIM manager to make sure that using the models for cost follow-up, cost estimation so, like explained the 5D BIM, the fifth dimension. So really briefly to explain what I’m doing is that every year we got two deliveries from design team every six months from every discipline, and I gather all the models, I merge them together, and I check the cost changes, which is the base where we talk about quantities of every material. The changes in in information in the models. Like if we change the material, I am required to make sure that our team members knows about this. So I am the guy that is like between the design team and the contractor, making sure to see the changes in the quantities and how much that will affect our cost, because something that is special with New Slussen Project is that we design and build on-site at the same time. This is a method to make sure that we are under the budget all the time to check if the costs increases, we can always make sure that we either change the material or make sure that maybe we change a part of the scope.
[08:20] I’m not… I wasn’t sure what you mean there. So you design and build in the same time?
Yeah. If we talk about this whole scope of Listen Project, we have first of all, every element. We talk about element, we talk about like walls or columns or beams, etc. Every element has a status. Either its status is the schematic design. Yeah, or we have the detail design, which is a status on the element. So we are pretty much in the detail design right now, obviously. And so some of the zones are designing for the other part that are we are doing the construction work. Yeah, all the design is already done. So that’s the raid for us to see that. Okay, the parts that are doing construction work, that’s the cost we know right now. That’s the actual cost that we know. For the rest of them that are doing still doing some design work, we can always make sure to see then check if they we are over or under the budget. So pretty much not like, for example, let’s say that to be clear, more like if they are doing some excavation work, etc ., they’re already done with the design, So that’s finished. So we close the book for that part, but we have other zones like, and I always say, like pizza slices or cake, so that slices that we are other zones off the part of the project they are doing still design work. So that’s yeah.
So you do one pizza slice design and construct it and then move onto the next pizza slice? Interesting how you focus on the small zones than do the design and construction in the same time.
And it’s like we’ll say like it’s like a work breakdown structure so we have these zones to be able to, like, find out exactly what’s… if we have a high cost in this zone. What is the reason? Is it because of the quantities? For example, we have increased with 500 square cubic meters concrete and that’s something I need to make sure that our team members knows about this, going through the report and then discuss this with our project managers so we can make sure that we give feedback to design team. I have an explanation of why are we increasing.
That’s really interesting, because on these really big mega projects, you always hear about the challenges of delivering such huge scale. There always goes wrong and delays. So you actually you’re just segmenting little bits of it, making sure that’s correct.
Yeah, make it always a small. It’s more like puzzle pieces.
Yeah, you’ve got intelligent cost data in your models by the sounds of it so you can always compare zones.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we’re like, we always want to work with automation. So, we connected all the models for cost. That’s something that we don’t need to do again after we get a new delivery. So obviously, if we get new elements and you knew because the more the parts that are still doing the design work, the detail design, we will get more information. We’ll get more elements. That’s the part that I do, like the new cost that I do. But the rest are automation. So as soon as we get the models and we compared this, automatically we’ll see a new cost, and we get a report off the quantity differences.
Okay, Interesting. And to the more practical level, what kind of tools are you using to carry out these?
My daily tool that I use when I work is Vico Office. It’s owned by Trimble. Trimble is an American company. They are owners for the Tekla Software which is a structural part of software. They own Sketch Up and Vico Office and Vico Office is, just to briefly explain., more for using for 4D and 5D BIM, integration between these two. Obviously, I work a lot with Autodesk Revit as well, because most of our models are modelled in Revit so…
And your design teams exchange models or…?
No, just native models that’s a requirement from us, because my work is not to do any like class protection work or just then native models is a requirement.
And you mentioned about the cadence, like the timing of your announces every six months, you said, you get the new design models in, and you update the costs and you, review the updated cost. That seems like a long time to make, like six months before you get fresh design models. At this point, I want to point out that the six-monthly reviews were actually only for the costs, not general design reviews. So, I got a bit confused here they receive and federate design teams and models on a weekly basis.
Our first goal was to make sure make this to be delivered every three months, every quarter. Then we saw that, okay, there wasn’t so much up so much of changes. So let’s just increase this with six months instead because then we see a lot of more changes. That’s why we change from going four times deliveries to two times in each year.
Yeah, Okay. It’s interesting.
And sorry, one thing I forgot to tell you and explain is that my work is not just internal to control just the cost for us, internal for the client team that the quantity that I generate to report I use this report and send this to the contractor for them to use for their delivery when they buy materials and for them to add distributor budget as well. So the contractor doesn’t put any effort on doing quantity costs. I deliver that to them.
As the client, you’re telling them how much quantity they need to go buy.
So instead of traditional way, either the contractor does that if it’s a paper drawing, they do the quantity costs in a traditional way, on the drawing or the design team do the delivery to send them the bills of quantity to the contractor. But in this case, I’m the guy to do that because the client wants to make sure that all the information that goes to the contractor is going through us. And that’s a little bit different as well if you compared with other projects in Sweden.
Yep. At least you know exactly how much quantities are in the model when you’re not going to get a contractor bill you for, and we want to earn 20%.
And we want to avoid that discussion with our contractor, the quantity discussion. We want to just talk about the prices and the cost. Yeah, and how much that cost outside Because we have the product itself, it’s the models, and then we have the actual cost outside that we want to make sure, too, for them to avoid that, because usually it’s like the discussion is always about the quantity if it’s right or wrong. Yeah, in this case, we just avoid that because it was delivered by us.
Yeah, it’s completely open and you know exactly what’s going on there. Seems like there’s more trust in the project and there’s more collaboration cause you’re not fighting over the quantities.
Yes, yes, Will. We want to have an open book with the contractor into just focused together. Focus on the points. The areas where we can actually make sure that we are under our project. If we increase, why are we increasing. An open discussion.
Okay, good. That sounds interesting. I want to speak a little bit more about the model-based delivery. So you’re receiving models from your design consultants?
Yes. Yes, The design consultants. We have two companies, ELU Konsult, they’re a consultant firm. They are the general consultant for the two big contract areas in this project. And the other third part is the bus terminal which WSP is the design general consultant for that part. Yeah. So they deliver every discipline besides the architect design. The architect is hired by WSP. Be. Yeah, because we don’t have any architect in WSP. Yeah, Yeah.
Okay and they send you only models?
Yes. Only models. Even the civil areas. If it’s a problem like they can’t actually deliver and model, they deliver an excel sheet with the quantities. So we said either models of just the excel sheet if you can’t deliver. But if I say of 10 disciplines, nine of them are sending the BIM models to me.
Okay and who coordinates those, is that you or the contractor?
The design team as they are responsible for the coordination work so we don’t do we just require the information in the models and what we want onsite in the reality. The rest is handled by us in terms of the quantities. And yeah, that’s But that’s our responsibility**.**
So okay. And so how do they coordinate them? Was it between themselves or they have a separate…?
They have engineers. They have BIM coordinators in from part of the design team to make sure that the quality is right and the coordination work is right so that they don’t have any clashes between any the disciplines.
Okay, if that’s decline, you just leave them to that.
Yeah, yeah, yes, we actually, this is infra project. Of course, we have clashes between disciplines. But the priority is not that right now, because right now the status is, the excavation work, the pile work, the foundation work right now. Then, when we are going over to the land part, when we’re going to have more MEP installations that’s going to be built yet then we’re going more over to the coordination where we can be more involved. So right now, our priority is not that part. And we let and trust our design team to make sure that it is a quality model that’s delivered good.
And then to bring that one forward, when you are on site if you have completely model-based processes, how are your sites seems finding? Are they building directly from the 3D models or do they have those detailed design models on an iPad?
Some of the parts, they can actually use models. For us, it’s more like an information carrier for them if they want to see, for example, what kind of wall it is, and if it’s a casting place or is a prefabricated concrete wall they can just by clicking on the iPad… the model in iPad they can get the information. But in terms of details, they have the paper drawings on site that they’re using. But it’s like a combination with both they using the models, but drawings as well.
Okay, yeah, for the technical engineering details that you need to be 100% correct. Yeah, yeah, yeah**.**
Probably makes sense. Okay.
And what software are you using on the iPads?
I’m not sure to be honest, I think they’re using being BIM 360. That’s my guess. I think the contractor using that software**.**
Cool. That is really interesting. Sounds like you’ve got some cool things going on the project. Do you say that this is typical in projects in Sweden, or have you had some other ones that are very different?
I’ve been seeing a lot of like high level, like we talked about not just the quality of the model, why we talk about information I’ve been seeing some products that are really, like highly level of details, but It’s an amazing project when it comes to weight. We are talking about material grading, fire rating, sound ratings, like really detailed information is added. Every information we know about the project is added in the model. So for me, the new part is it’s a requirement from the client.
The client? Yeah, they said we want your rich information models.
Yeah, we have. We have, like, a VDC and a BIM execution plan that is a guideline for the design team to follow all the time and we have a good design team as well that know what they’re doing. So they we that was our first priority to make sure for them so if we’re going to use only models, we need to make sure that the design team knows what they’re doing. So we have a good dialogue all the time. But for me, the new part is I will say if we compare during my seven years, I’ve been working with BIM project. It’s what we talked about before that you’re designing and building in the same time. That’s new for me. I’ve never been in that kind of involved in those projects before.
Very interesting. Yep. And you think is this something you’re trying to share with your colleagues and WSP?
Yes, absolutely. As a BIM manager, it’s my responsibility that, if I work, this is a full-time job for me. So it’s important for me to like once in a month or whenever I find time to when I go back to my office in WSP to share the knowledge that I got so that’s part of our job. Every employee that goes out working, this is the way for us to progress as a company, as an organization to learn and teach and give a shared enologist with each other.
Yeah, I got it. Really interesting. We were speaking beforehand, you talked about how all the companies on the projects, apart from the master plan architect, Is that all from Sweden? Yeah. Yeah. All based on Swedish companies. Can you just talk about that in a bit more detail? Maybe the reasoning behind that? If there is a reason, you know.
I’m not exactly sure what the reason is exactly why we work so local in Sweden. But I think it’s just a working culture, the feeling that for being what you’re used to and we know the market is really good in Sweden. We are used to using this method that we want to keep on working with, people that we know. So we’re not so much in need, like hiring. We come to that they were in need for like and one part that is that we don’t have an experience in then we hire, obviously, a company that’s not local. And I explained that before way have some projects in Sweden where we don’t have just local companies like the New Karolinska Solna hospital project that was built by Skanska. It was a huge quote collaboration between Skanska Sweden and Skanska UK. So there are some examples of… but over here we have mostly our local companies: the contractor, the consultants, engineers mostly.
I think that’s interesting because the thing that struck me most when you mentioned that before is your building, these huge projects, these mega projects and if all of the supply chain is Swedish, then all that knowledge is staying within the little country. So I think that’s really important for when you build your next project is not going abroad to the UK with these expertise that you build up when you deliver these big products. Yeah, that’s really interesting. I’m sure there’ll be another New Slussen Project maybe not immediately, but soon. And that knowledge will be so important.
There should be like a reason why you hire, like, outside of Sweden. For me, it makes sense if you hire someone if you don’t have the knowledge for some part. I know that for new, Karolinska University Hospital project, that hospital project. The reason why they collaborate with discounts, get healthcare in the UK for a team was because we’re not so experienced with hospital projects. So we need to have you know, a huge collaboration with the other offices outside of Sweden to get more help and get more knowledge in this area. So I’m sure that that’s going to happen in the future as well. If we got, like, really challenging infra or building products in the future.
Interesting. And do you think that maybe switching gear slide in talking generally about BIM adoption in Sweden? Do you think that these things that we just discussed there… do you think this helps with the adoption of BIM more generally in terms of how do you think that the market is responding to the needs to deliver projects more efficiently?
I think the Swedish market is, uh, I won’t say it’s positive is increasing really fast just over the last five years If I compare the time I’ve been working for WSP. Since I started working for this company, it’s growing really fast, and I think the key role in this is the human mind, how people are responding to this and it’s getting like from the conservative mindset. It’s more open now and we realize that as the young generation are coming to the to the industry with this knowledge, and it’s revolutionizing the industry and the whole world. For me, Sweden has been increasing really fast. And it is more given now, like it’s no more discussion about should we do this? At least 3D modelling is some part of every project now. Now, if it’s BIM or not that’s something else. But 3D is common as given that we should use in every product, especially for the huge infrastructure projects.
Is that model only delivery, you know? Do you see that a lot in Swedish projects?
Yeah, I will say, at least for not a huge project, but mostly projects are using BIM in 3D right now. Yeah. I mean, you can see that really tiny, tiny, small products that there’s no need in that to you to do any 3D, but the question is, it’s the benefits. And for those that don’t know such about BIM and the technology, they only question themselves, that is it benefit or it’s going to cost us. You know, it’s a lot of question about that, but in the end, it’s safe time for us, and it’s open for everybody to use a model to discuss and we see would be actually what we’re going to build. So why 2D when we can see everything in 3D and visualize?
Yeah, is there any advice that you can give for maybe a project or company on doing this model-based delivery, but maybe they want to? Are there any things that you need to bear in mind to make your project successful, make sure the risk isn’t too high, when you adopt this new way at work?
Well, even if it’s… like I said before, it’s common, and it’s given. We have a lot of clients that are not exactly sure how to start… start-up for them. Like when they when they start the project, start the design. So how should we go? What’s the plan? What’s the strategic plan right now and we need to make sure the people that are in this industry that have experience and have the knowledge, we need to support this when we are involved in these products to make sure that the client gets told what they need. The area that’s always been the hardest part is that if we’re going to have models. First, question yourself what’s the purpose and what we’re going to use the models for, and then the information. That’s something that the client don’t know. Okay, so how can we require and demand this? Where should they add the information? What kind of information? And in what level should we should we have? That’s the discussion I think the communication is really important there to be clear about, hear what the client wants, make sure that they get what they want in the project.
You know, really interesting. So we’ve heard about some of the interesting, innovative things that you accomplished so far. Is there anything that you’re researching and developing maybe for the future, that you want to implement on the next project, or maybe in a few years’ time on new system? Is this something you’re working on that maybe isn’t quite ready, but really could be very beneficial and impactful?
We are using a lot of VR ,virtual reality models here as well. And for some areas, for example, in this in this Listen project, the contractors come up in this V R Room instead of going on site because it’s really hard to go there, and it’s hard spaces, the spaces are really tough, and they used the VR for that to make some measurements, for example. So for me, I want to be in part of the VR work, the VR process and, for example, seeing the costs in the VR models or you can be able to click on an element in the VR and you could see the cost for that element or see the time scheduling in the ER. Yeah, that’s my next step.
Great, Interesting. Very exciting. How long do you think you’ll be until they’re looking at costs in?
I don’t think it’s a difficult thing. It’s just when I finished my work here, I’m going to put my hands on the next level and not only the technology, I want to do something else as well and I think if we will look at the situation in Sweden and we have already good environment, a good infrastructure. I want to work with small communities, poor communities and in poor countries where they really need infrastructure and then having a safe and healthy environment. We have a world there, part’s in this world that are in big need in this area. Even if I don’t have all the knowledge for doing to be, I want to be part of it to help people. We are focusing a lot of what we have, what we see in our country. But sometimes we forget what what’s happening out there. And I think we have a huge population that needs our help in this area. Absolutely yeah, absolutely agree. And, you know, that’s a really good cause and I know you’ve done a lot of travel on work overseas. Is this was influenced your broadening of your mind? (31:17) Yeah, it’s part of it going out and working overseas. You get another perspective in this, not only of what you do for yourself. I think it’s good to help people that are in need for this. And I’m not talking about BIM at all because not that the technology more like, for example, I’m not sure how to say this, the underground, the pipes, for example. We have countries in India, for example, or Africa members in Africa that are having huge problems with diseases because of this and I wanted to be part of those things to help.
Yeah, that’s into perspective when you think about those international development projects, they’re required, okay. Now very good, Good goals for the future. And I wish you the best with that. Thank you.You know, we’re very nearly running out of time, but it’s been great to speak with you. Thank you. I want to finish with the quick fire rounds where I’m going to ask three or four questions and then if you could just tell me your first thoughts in 30 seconds? That sound good? So if you could change one thing about the Swedish construction industry overnight, what would that be?
Using robots as a labor. Yeah. Have you seen the movie iRobot? Then you know, kind of like.
So, are you for or against this?
I’m for it. Well, I just want to see, like, how would it be. This is like an imagination. Like how would it be if we had robots as a labor power. Well, we know. How would that be? How would that be? Will it be a big, huge problem or are we in the future and maybe 50 years? Are we able to do that?
Interesting. Okay, and, are you a reader? And if you are, then what book should everyone be reading?
Oh, uh, it was long time ago since I read a book. You’re asking the wrong guy for that. Sorry. Vico Manual. Yeah. Read about 4D and 5D BIM. Yeah. Yeah. So what are your goals for your career in the next 3 to 5 years? (33:32) Besides the BIM and the technology, innovation and automation part that is something that I’ve been ambitious about and have a passion for. Like I explained before, I think my next step I want to try to work with this area, like helping people working with what I’m doing on be helpful for the poor countries that need our help. That’s something that I want to do in the future.
Great. Okay. And finally, I know you mentioned you’ve worked a lot of different countries, you must have a big international network, who would you say is the most innovative person working in that you know is working in the industry space that we should meet?
Oh, it’s so many people. I’m not sure I can’t say any names, but there are a lot of people that I met during my journey like people that are taking thinking forward that are always have this kind of speech that makes you… I will not say any names, but I can explain it least that when I was working in Hong Kong. I was talking to one of the general managers in that office for WSP that every time when I talked to him, he inspired me. The way that I got so interested in is because every time I was passing through his office, I saw these huge drawings, huge papers, not only drawing papers everywhere on his desk, and I was always joking with him. And he knows that I worked with technology and BIM. And he’s an old, an older man. But every time I talked to him, he inspired me of not only in working in terms of work, but also in private that I learned from a lot as a person. That’s something I always take with me. I always remember when all of his… it was kind of like a wisdom-sharing. I got a lot inspired.
Okay. Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for hosting me here in the particular office in Stockholm. Wish you the very best for the project on for your amazing goals of the future.
Thank you for having me, Will. I hope the same for you, for the future. And I hope that you keep on your journey with a lot of speakers and you get a lot of knowledge from all of this. I’m pretty sure you will. Thank you.
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