In the final stage of the construction of Fran Albreht Primary School in Kamnik, we talked to Grega Bajželj, A.C.E., who has been, together with the project manager Ivan Rus, BSc. C.E., performing the project control for this extensive and complex construction endeavour. Grega has been closely monitoring the construction investment of the Municipality of Kamnik from the beginning using AXIS’s XPERT environment. He shared key insights and experiences with us. 

The construction of the Fran Albreht Primary School in Kamnik is in its final stages. How do you assess the progress of the project? The establishment of a common data environment (CDE) and the implementation of project controlling have allowed you to have a detailed insight into what is happening all the time. Where are we momentarily with the works on the facility?   

Grega Bajželj: “Yes, the works are in the final stages. The work is always more intensive when we are nearing the end of the construction. We are currently in the process of carrying out artisan works (painting, facades, flooring, wood cladding), and electrical works (wiring, fine installation of electrical equipment, implementation of central monitoring system, active fire protection, etc.). There are also mechanical works (supply and installation of sanitary equipment), kitchen technology (construction of floor and wall coverings, kitchen technological equipment) and external improvements (parking, cycling and pedestrian areas, school playground and atrium). A tender for the equipment is underway. We predict the school to be put into use in the next school year. The final phase of this project includes the demolition of the old school. Any major construction project such as this one has many challenges during the construction process.  

Source: AXIS archive

Setting up a project management information environment is an extremely important factor for solving problems on time. A project portal allows for faster, better and more transparent information flow. The information environment must be used by all stakeholders. In the initial phase, there were several challenges as to the necessity to involve all stakeholders. Things have improved over time, but we would like to see speedier involvement and more active use in the future. The essential advantage of the information environment is the data collection in one single space, the real-time posting of updated, amended project documentation, reviews and change management, validation of materials and equipment, sampling of materials, qualitative inspection of the building, and preparation and maintenance of minutes.  

Project controlling is a wide-ranging area and includes ongoing support to the client with any changes or requests from the contractor and users. This is followed by continuous consultancy, finding solutions worthwhile integrating into the project, assistance with technical issues, preparation of expert analyses, and participation in meetings. The information environment and project controlling work hand in hand, and this is how we have been able to provide the client with the project’s schedule and financial preview at virtually any time. This represented the basis for the client’s key decision-making in a wide variety of situations. 

From a financial point of view, the project has always been under control and within the contract values. From a technical point of view, several changes to the project were proposed, accepted and largely implemented, but resulted in the prolonged timing of construction. We jointly work hard with all stakeholders to bring the construction to a successful completion within the agreed timeframe. I am confident that we will be able to complete the project to everyone’s satisfaction, and above all to the satisfaction of the children who are eagerly awaiting their new school.”

The construction industry is still facing a lack of transparency, especially in public investments. With the municipality of Kamnik, you started early with the digitalization of tendering procedures. That’s the pre-preparation phase, isn’t it?   

Grega Bajželj: ”Exactly. In general, there is a lack of transparency due to a large number of stakeholders, the nature of fieldwork and also the lack of knowledge in the use of construction digitalization tools. The main reasons might probably lie in the absence of dedication awarded to the use of digitalization tools and the overload of staff coordinating the work of all contractor stakeholders. In my personal opinion, the crucial obstacle is in the change of mentality – digitalized processes create swifter project communication and render work more efficient and faster. Furthermore, the use of IT technologies requires the contractor to have an up-to-date knowledge of the project (plans) ensuring conflicts and problems are detected very early in the process. This is fundamental for a successful resolution and ultimately a quality facility. 

In the case of Fran Albrecht Primary School in Kamnik, we specifically started with a technical review of the project documentation and the bill-of-quantities (BoQs) before launching the tender for the contractor’s selection. The bill of quantities was reviewed and edited upon the tender’s publication. We devised an appropriate structure to be used in the XPERT IT environment, which consequently resulted in any corrections to the bill of quantities being easily made already in the tender phase.  Consequently, the bill-of-quantities were easily entered into XPERT and then further processed during the execution phase. Such bill-of-quantities must be executed before the tender itself. Unfortunately, the client did not opt for the tender to be implemented in the XPERTopen IT solution, which would allow tenderers to prepare and submit data in a standard XML format free of charge and would further alleviate the client’s review and analysis phase during the tender process.” 

How challenging is the financial controlling phase of the project? Is this the final part of the project or does it run from the beginning of the project? And most importantly how do you handle so many different stakeholders?   

Grega Bajželj: “From the client’s point of view, the most important information is, of course, the price of the project along with the quality and timeline. That’s why we must be always in constant control of the financial aspect of the project thus, enabling the client to make crucial decisions at any time. To be able to implement “financial controlling”, it is necessary to properly manage the project and collect relevant information throughout the entire duration of the project. 

The key information and tasks in this phase contain: 1. preparation of monthly billing situations, 2. production of the schedule, 3. revision of the schedule, 4. project change management, 5. up-to-date project documentation and its interpretation.   

Source: AXIS archives, website: 

All this must be done from the start of the project, i.e. from the launch. The key to managing stakeholders is to establish proper communication, which has been achieved by setting up the process protocol and a project portal. All information is thus stored in one place and accessible only to relevant stakeholders responsible for specific areas of the project. This results in swift project management and timely response to specific circumstances. In the case of Fran Albreht Primary School, processes have been running according to the agreed protocol, yet there is always room for improvement. All stakeholders should be aware of this, and when one of them fails to do its job, everything becomes much more difficult, if not in vain.”  

AXIS has been fully digitalising construction investment processes, using in-house developed IT tools for more than 20 years. What are your insights from the Fran Albreht Primary School perspective in Kamnik? What advice would you give to other municipalities embarking on similar public investments?   

Grega Bajželj: “I have realised that the construction industry itself and related project management are very complex and extensive. Covering all areas and phases during the project’s duration requires a lot of knowledge and commitment. I can claim that AXIS has practically covered all segments in the construction investment processes, from the initial stage of creating project documentation to handing over the facility for use and operation. A lot of effort, knowledge, R&D and, ultimately, finances were invested in all of this. 

Source: AXIS archives, website: 

I believe that the Fran Albreht Primary School construction has benefited greatly from the establishment of a pre-defined work protocol and cooperation and proved to be the right decision. Nevertheless, it has outlined the added value of the project. There were many challenges, dilemmas, questions, concerns, and even harsh words on the way. Things are rarely ideal, especially in construction. We know that the project has experienced some delays due to various circumstances, but this was out of our control.  

Overall, I rate our cooperation to be more than excellent. As to my advice for other municipalities, I would suggest that they approach construction projects with patience, prudence and the awareness that things cannot be rushed. Stakeholders must be required to do their work correctly and within the agreed deadline. Consequently, the work will proceed as smoothly as possible and to mutual satisfaction. 

In any case, I advise investors and clients to use appropriate information technologies. I am certainly biased in my advice, but the XPERT information environment is an excellent solution that has successfully guided us from the beginning to the near completion of the project. It is an example of good practice when it comes to public construction investments. We have similar experiences with other municipalities as well.” 

Will you be attending the opening of the new Fran Albreht Primary School? 8,000 square metres gross floor area, 32 new classrooms, 18 classrooms… contemporary and safe classrooms for a new generation of pupils. A great achievement! How does it feel to complete a project like this?   

Grega Bajželj: “I will if I’m invited. Such a great achievement! This is truly a unique project as we are not talking about a standard school. The idea of Mr. Hočevar (project manager) matured for quite some time and underwent many transformations, changes, and rationalizations, but all in all with a single objective. The Kamnik children to get an institution that will offer appropriate standards or even better facilities for a smooth process of continuous learning that will equip them with many early learning adventures which they will not forget and remember for a long time.

From the project design point of view, I can say that this school is unique in Slovenia and the wider European environment. I believe that all Slovenian children would like to attend such a facility. On the other hand, it will also provide a suitable working environment for teachers so that they can successfully transfer knowledge to budding pupils. I am happy that the construction is nearing its successful completion. This is going to be a happy and proud moment for all stakeholders to see satisfied schoolchildren who are looking forward to the new school environment.”

 Source: AXIS archive

Thank you, Grega, for your valuable inputs. It has been most insightful. 

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