Tekla Podcast #6 – Tekla Journey (Raido Schiff from Esplan)


12 min read + 53 min interview

Episode #6 of our Tekla podcast features Raido Schiff from Esplan. It is a construction designing company in Estonia. They have been one of the tops for 30+ years now and continue to make their mark in the construction design industry. A few of their master designs include the Ülemiste City high-rise, Rocca Towers, Tallinn University of Technology, Mickey’s Kindergarten, and Kääriku Sports Center.

ESPLAN - creating digital synergy

The application of Tekla in Esplan is what this article will discuss. Besides, there will be many details about the company itself. How they operate, what they do, how they collaborate, and so forth. For this reason, we have invited Raido Schiff to come and share his experience with us. He has been using Tekla since 2012 and has been working for Esplan as a structural engineer since 2016.

Tekla Podcast #6 - Tekla journey (Raido Schiff from Esplan)

or listen it in audio format here:

Don’t have time to watch the whole pod? Skim the questions and answers summary in a written format below! 👇

What was the first version of Tekla for you?

Well, it was version 16. It was the first one I saw and used.

How did you start learning Tekla structures?

To begin with, I went to work as a technician in Maru Ehitus. Firstly, I started by making shop drawings and general arrangement drawings for steel structures. Afterward, I got a small modeling job and it was followed by a large modeling job. Then I went to Esplan and took my Tekla experience alongside. 

So, I started using Tekla there. At that time, I was the only one from the structural department using modeling software. Fast forward to today, and everyone at Esplan is using modeling software. We no longer rely only on AutoCAD 2D drawings.  

Why did Esplan choose Tekla Structures? Even though it isn’t the cheapest software

We were comparing Tekla with Autodesk Revit and Nemetschek Allplan at that time. We were only using concrete modeling licenses back then, so the price difference wasn’t significant. In that plan, we didn’t do shop drawings. They were for a different project phase. We finished our detailed design with the general arrangement drawings.  

I tried using Revit for work, but it wasn’t for me. It was more complex.

And that’s how we started using Tekla. I was the first to use it. However, I began giving tips and tricks to my co-workers in the structural department. Thus, all nine of us are modeling right now. Some work on the design and analysis while others are on the models. But anyway, we are all Tekla-capable now.

How did you start working for a company from scratch and teach users to use Tekla?

It wasn’t very easy or smooth. I discovered a lot in the process. I started by setting up templates and the usual naming schemes for modeling parts and objects. Afterward, we created company standards for naming and then numbering various items. 

Then I asked you for assistance. So, thank you for all the advice. We currently have a huge table for our modeling standards. You can always find it open on the modeling team’s secondary screen. Also, we have our default object settings.

About the teaching part, the first thing everyone did was complete the tasks to study on the Tekla campus (https://www.tekla.com/solutions/campus/students). Therefore, that was where all the new guys and girls started. But still, whenever they had questions, I thankfully had their answers.

What would you recommend to companies starting from scratch? How can they avoid mistakes?

First, they should have a detailed manual on how to use the standards. Secondly, if, let’s say, someone doesn’t know anything about engineering drawings, structural engineering, or structure modeling, then a few seminars on the topic would help. 

But otherwise, I don’t have any advice except to start using the software. You will eventually get better with time.

Advice for users making rookie mistakes and the Importance of Modelling rules

Raido: Model hygiene. For instance, something that has improper prefixes or other filter settings won’t function properly in the drawings. That’s mostly the problem for beginners.

Sten: Tekla drawing automization rules are connected directly to the Tekla model and how it has been built up. Whenever I work for a company, I ask for their modeling rules.

You won’t believe how many times they ask “Why is it important to you?” The modeling rules will be our first focus. They are the basis for everything, particularly optimization and automization.

Raido: The workplace where I began got a huge project from a French engineering company. They also gave us a manual comprising 150–170 pages. And it had me falling off my chair. But now I understand why all of it was needed. 

Sten: The example of McDonald’s comes to mind. Wherever you go, the taste of hamburger remains the same. That is the importance of having a consistent manual and checklist. Keep it short and simple.

How can we improve the quality and minimize mistakes in Tekla models?

The best advice would be to take your time and thoroughly examine your models. The issue is that there isn’t enough time.

I advise that you make your models in accordance with the standards. Use as many standard objects and Tekla Warehouse (https://warehouse.tekla.com/) components as you can. This will save you from doing manual labor for a while. 

Model checking, clash checking, and checklists are all important. Additionally, ask others to double-check the model. If one or two guys do it, there are more chances for mistakes to go undetected. Extra checks will only be beneficial.

Furthermore, I would suggest looking over the model daily. Because if you directly look at the result after two months, you won’t be able to identify the small mistakes.

To sum up, thorough checks are the way to go

Which checklist are you following?

I primarily use checklists for structural design and detailing. One checklist is to check all the reports and then cast units. Moreover, it helps in identifying if there are any embeds without a cast unit or dummy bolts.

How can we raise the efficiency in Tekla and finish the projects faster?

Again, the answer is similar to what I gave for the quality question. Use the premade components instead of making them yourself. Because manual work will consume a lot of time. Besides, it is more likely to have errors. Repetition and using the same solutions in multiple projects will provide efficiency.

What kind of tools do you use in Esplan?

We mostly use Peikko components and embeds in Estonia. As for the custom components, we have created for example for rebars around and inside hollow cores. It was because we didn’t find any good standard components for hollow cores in the Tekla Warehouse.

However, Tekla own tools and components are getting better and better. Reinforced concrete, sandwich wall elements, and window detailing are all things that we use a lot.

What other software do you use?

For analysis, we use Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis and Strusoft FEM-Design.

From IFC viewers for example BIMcollab Zoom. I like the keyboard shortcuts from there and the possibility to view all ifc models from different disciplines. I also like the section box feature and the opportunity to save your views.

How do you collaborate with others in Esplan?

We have a couple of short meetings with the design team every week. And here we discuss all the issues ranging from clash checks to the rest of the information. Moreover, we use instant messaging to talk with each other from home. Of course, we communicate in the office as well.

Furthermore, we try to solve the issues that anyone is facing and keeping track of them. Most of the discussion takes place in Microsoft Teams. However, we raise the issue in BIMcollab. Because if we present the issue in Teams, it will be lost in the daily flood of messages.

What are the Checking points for BIM models?

Although it isn’t my area of expertise, we have team coordinators and BIM managers for that. For this, they use the Solibri model checker. For various project parties, they ensure that the floors and sections are identical and that all of the coordinates match. If you’re talking about the third floor, everyone should be talking about it and not any other area.

Well, every project is interesting and special at Esplan. We work on a lot of different projects. They include office buildings, apartment buildings, schools, kindergartens, municipality buildings, factories, and so on. 

If we talk about a specific one, then there’s a school project that I can show. The reason it was interesting and a bit complex was its architecture. It has these large cantilevers and is a triangular structure sandwiched between a rectangular and a round one. 

Due to the building’s limited space, it was challenging to fit everything that was needed inside. We had to arrange all of the HVAC equipment on various paths and awnings.

Another thing is that we have many structures here. Precast wall elements, steel elements, frame structures with timber beams, and a lot more small detail.

How goes the Project workflow in Esplan?

Usually, we begin with the preliminary design. The client and the architecture team then discuss the client’s vision. The structural engineer also aids in identifying the locations that can support loads. If it’s another one of those difficult projects, we’ll start modeling the structural model right away.

After that, we proceed to the main design and begin the analysis. With time, the design keeps becoming more and more detailed. We also send these preliminary drawings without annotations or dimensions so that everyone can use them as references.

How do you divide the workload in Esplan? Does one person do all the work or are there teams where each person does a part of it?

Ideally, it should be a one-man show. A responsible structural engineer starts the project and concludes it as well. But unfortunately, due to a strict schedule, one person can’t handle all the analyzing and other details by himself or herself. 

Therefore, we work in teams and divide the project. For example, one person is working on piles and foundations that concern underground construction and another structural engineer works on the construction above ground. 

Other individuals make and validate the models. To track who is doing what and where, we use a lot of spreadsheets.

Additionally, the project managers manage some tasks using Jira software and for tracking spent man hours. However, there are so many tasks that adding them all at once could cause Jira to crash. As a result, the engineers don’t bother the project managers and keep the small tasks to themselves.

Do you use Google Drive, Excel Sheets, or any other special documents in Esplan?

Yes, we use cloud spreadsheets, which everyone can edit. It also helps keep the information circulating so everyone remains up-to-date.

How does the Jira software go with Tekla and Structural engineers?

Apart from the spreadsheets, you could use Jira for everything, but it would be inconvenient. The project managers use Jira Gantt charts after estimating the time of different project parts.

What kind of information and data do you track with the Power Bi software?

Power BI is used for both time tracking and issue management. It shows a graphically understandable chart depicting the active and closed issues. It also shows how the project is going. Moreover, they use it to see how much time has been spent on a specific project.

Do you track the time with Power BI or another software?

We log our time in Jira, and then it magically appears somewhere. In addition, people put little information about what they did. We mostly have three to four tasks for each project, or at least that’s what I have. We don’t go very detailed in Jira since it will be hard to find the right tasks of the right project in it if there are too many.

Do you use user-defined attributes in Tekla?

Mostly, we make use of the attributes that are already in Tekla. Though we had a couple of user-defined attributes for numbering stuff since we were using construction modeling licenses. And this license doesn’t let you automatically number stuff in Tekla. 

The other UDAs we had were for governmental projects, which is also a basic national requirement.

What are the future plans of Esplan with Tekla?

Working with graphite licenses as they have more features than construction modeling. It provides numbering possibility for rebars and then cast-in-place concrete. So, we need to adjust our current system accordingly. 

But yes, we will continue using Tekla because there isn’t a better alternative. It is the fastest and most efficient way to model structures. Besides, it has a lot of tools for detailing.

Where do you see the Construction industry in 5 to 10 years?

I hope they start using models on-site. As of now, it is very rare. Of course, augmented reality will aid in the verification of all details, from the piping to tolerances. 

It would indeed be revolutionary if the construction industry starts using the models on-site. As a result, we would not be making so many drawings as well.

Any last words, wishes, or recommendations?

Just stay safe and stay healthy.