Born in Phnom Penh as the second of three children, Nhem Sovandy studied civil engineering and has a passion for new technology. Always a good student, he embraced self-learning quite easily as well.
Civil engineering was not his first choice of a major. Sovandy always thought of pursuing a degree in information technology, but sometimes father knows best. Taking his dad’s advice, he pursued civil engineering, earning a degree in 2011 from Norton University.Yet, he still found a way to pursue his passion.
“While in college, I spent so much time researching and learning on my own about new technology, reading articles online, in magazines and e-books,” Sovandy, CEO of STEPP Design and Construction, told The Post.
His self-studies paid off.
“I wrote and published tutorials on software in the Khmer language and sold about 30 books to fellow students while in university,” Sovanday says. There was a good demand for such materials as the explanation and descriptions were in Khmer, making it easy to grasp.
“Reading about different IT topics helped me to understand how technology is utilised in architecture, engineering and construction in other countries,” Sovanday says. For example, he learned that the application Autodesk Revit is very smart and intuitive. It’s capable to handling project visualisation in 3D, and helps architects to explain a project’s concept to clients in ways unheard of two decades ago.
After graduation, Sovandy landed a couple jobs, one of which was for Gold 42 Tower. This project inspired him to apply new technology in high-rise construction.
As a result of his hard work and determination, Sovandy was offered an opportunity to train and live in Japan. There, his knowledge continued to grow, and he could merge his education and passion.
“In Japan, I learned about the concept of a ‘smart city’,” he says. Smart cities use technology and data collection to help manage resources and assets in an efficient manner.
“I was trained to use BIM [Building Information Modeling] to design future smart cities,” Sovandy said, referring to the modern process that enables construction experts to work and collaborate with each other. “So when I returned to Cambodia, I made developing a smart city a major goal.”
This was when Sovandy started STEPP Design and Construction, with “STEPP” standing for “Smart Technology and Establishment of Phnom Penh”.
He hopes his company can help Cambodia’s building industry to use specific strategies to create smart cities and speed up construction, reduce errors and lower costs.
As of right now, most building firms still apply old construction processes which are very costly and riddled with human error, Sovandy said. “At STEPP Design and Construction, we offer a training program that helps to spread information and knowledge,” he says.
Design Training Center (DTC) was set up to offer educational opportunities for young Cambodians interested in architecture, construction and engineering (ACE) fields.
DTC offers various programs such as AutoDesk Revit, BIM, and other software and equipment such as Oculus Rift, Virtual Reality, and programming languages like Unity and Unreal Engines. DTC also offers courses in BIM for university students and the public.
“If the government can offer incentives to students studying technology and AEC to learn about BIM, they will use this to create a new architectural vision and change the face of Cambodia,” he said.