Interview with Director Tiina Koppinen of Skanska

Tiina Koppinen is Business Development Director at Skanska Finland. She was kind enough to answer my questions regarding her career and the use of BIM in Skanska’s construction business.

Aarni: Could you tell a bit about your background as a researcher and what motivated you to start working for a building contractor?

Tiina: I am M.Sc. in structural engineering (HUT 1994) and MBA (Laurentian University, Canada 2000). Research work I have done 1995-96 in HUT (related to large wooden structures) and 2002-2008 in VTT (mainly related to project delivery methods and BIM). At VTT I enjoyed the opportunity to work with different clients and very different tasks to be solved. Skanska was one of the clients with whom I worked then.

When I started at Skanska, there was a large Nordic development program going on, which I joined. So the transfer to the contractor organization was easy – from a research organization to a development program. The motivation behind the change was mainly curiosity – to see what is like in business world compared to research world.

Aarni: What are your responsibilities today and what was the path to your present position at Skanska?

Tiina: During the five years I have been in Skanska, I have had an opportunity to experience many different and challenging positions. I started in 2008 in the Nordic residential development program being first responsible for the design process development and then for BIM development. In these positions I had a pleasure to work within a Nordic team and met many very talented people from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

In the end of 2009 I got the responsibility for the development and operating system within Skanska Oy. This was a relative short assignment as in the fall 2010 I was nominated as a Business Development Director to Skanska Installation. At that time Skanska Installation suffered from bad financial results, and we needed to find a way to turn it around. It took a bit of time, some difficult decisions to be made, trainings, and now the situation has changed.

Based on the experience gained and a few other assignments performed during the past two years, I was nominated as the business development director to Skanska Oy in the end of 2012. Even during the line-responsibilities I have not given up BIM, as I still hold a position as Skanska’s global BIM Knowledge Manager chairing our global network of BIM experts. I have had a pleasure to work with this network since 2009.

Aarni: What are the key areas and tasks where Skanska utilizes BIM today?

Tiina: BIM has gained a firm position in Skanska’s own project development, where we are able to manage the whole process better from the start of the design all the way to hand-over. However BIM is being used increasingly also in other types of projects (DB and in US even CM). The use of BIM has started from clash checking of the design and expanded from there both to earlier phases of the project (like visualization of the project intent), as well as, to later phases like supporting production (4D, production planning, etc.).

The change in the atmosphere is also seen in how BIM related work has changed: earlier a lot of effort was put on convincing project people about the benefits of BIM. Today project people contact the BIM team automatically and the main challenge is to be able to provide BIM support to so many projects in parallel.

One key BIM area, which I always want to highlight as a contractor, is visualization. This translates to better understanding gained by all parties: clients, designers, contractors, subcontractors and finally those people who need to perform the work on site. Another area to emphasize is mobility, which I have seen rising with an immense speed.

Aarni:  What kind of measurable business benefits have you been able to get from the use of BIM?

Tiina: This is a very difficult question, which we have discussed for years. We have been able to show measurable benefits in terms of reduced waste on site, reduced number of design or production errors, improved safety, etc. However, it is very difficult to generalize these benefits from one project to another. Also, BIM is often linked to other operational improvement initiatives, like LEAN, Green or safety, which all affect the end result.

Aarni: What is required to make BIM a success story for a building contractor and can you mention an example of a project or a process that you are especially proud of?

Tiina: Pre-requisites for a BIM success story are that
1) Designers have performed proper BIM-based design according to the BIM standards and detailed design coordination – i.e. models are good and the content is reliable
2) Site personnel is interested in BIM, and uses the models themselves – i.e. motivation is in place;
3) There is enough BIM support both during the design phase and construction, to solve potential issues arising due to data transfer, model coordination, etc. – i.e. support exists
4) Patience – i.e. not all benefits realize in the first or second project.

It is difficult to pick only one example since there are so many I am proud of, but here you can review some examples:

Aarni: If a student were considering a career at your company what would make her or him an interesting recruit in the future?

Tiina: I have not started my career from a construction site, and have always considered that as a disadvantage. Gaining the understanding of the site is crucial. Thus, a new recruit should be eager to get his or her boots into dirt. She/he should be open-minded, innovative, have the right attitude, as well as, adequate skills and experience (reflected to the age).

Aarni: What are your goals as Business Development Director for the next three years?

Tiina: It is hard to say. In my career path three years has been a long time, as the length of my assignments in Skanska has varied from little more than 6 months to less than two years. This reflects the changing business environment where a cycle of changes is shortening.

Even though it is hard and laborious to step out of a comfort-zone, in the end it has always been rewarding. Based on my experiences I would like to put a bit more emphasis on looking outwards than inwards, and change the current, often reactive problem solving into more proactive solution creation. I believe that increased use of BIM and better overall information management (IT) have an important role there.

Contact Tiina: On LinkedIn, email at

Photo:  © Skanska

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