Big Help from Sweden

Dr. Bo Berggren, Sweden
Dr. Phung Duc Long, Vietnam
(This paper is based on a final report from SGI on the specific project)

During the period of 1979-1989, VSSMGE received a big help from Sweden via the support from Sida/SAREC of Sweden. The main objective of the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, Department for Research (Sida/SAREC) is to strengthen the research capacity of developing countries and their access to knowledge in areas of central importance for poverty-reducing development. A research cooperation program betwwen the Swedish Geotechnical Institute (SGI) and the Institure for Building Science & Technology (IBST) of Vietnam was carried out. Two well-known professors Sven Hansbo and Bengt Broms CAME TO Hanoi early in 1989 and gave lectures on the the two soil stabilisation methods: band drains and lime columns. Two machines, band drain  and lime columns, were also imported to Vietnam. Among the Swedish geotechnical experts, who took part in the program were late Dr. Leif Andreasson, Dr. Jan Hartlen, Dr. Bo Berggren, Dr. Hakan Bredenberg (KTH), and other experts as Rolf Larsson, Bjorn Moller, Ulf Ericksson, Ingmar Forsgren, and more. With the help from SGI, VSSMGE joint ISSMGE in 1985. Since then the VSSMGE’s international activities and connections developed quickly. Below are the valueable details of the SGI-IBST research cooperation program based on a final report from SGI).

Geotechnical research cooperation, 1979-1987, between the Swedish geotechnical institute (SGI) and the Institute for building science and technology (IBST), Vietnam


The programme of geotechnical research cooperation between SGI, Sweden, and IBST, Vietnam, started 1979. The concept of the programme was formed 1976 when a delegation lead by Professor Nguyen Manh Kiem from IBST visited Sweden. In 1978 equipment for installation of lime columns and band drains were delivered to Vietnam and a cooperation programme on geotechnical engineering between SGI and IBST was drafted. In 1979 the cooperation programme started officially.

The cooperation was concentrated in the following subjects:

  • Application of band drains and lime/cement columns for stabilization of soft soil, from the start
  • Application of modern piling techniques, from 1982
  • Underpinning of buildings damaged by foundation causes, from 1982
  • Application of laboratory and field test equipments for investigation of soft soil, since 1981

The cooperation first contained primarily technology transfer. Gradually the cooperation turned to research work at a high level.

The cooperation was successful. In some cases, the application of new techniques was beyond the preliminary targets and the results can be considered as new contributions to the geotechnical field.

Forms of Cooperation

The two principal targets of the programme were to transfer new technology techniques to IBST and to increase the research capacity of IBST. The forms of cooperation changed during the cooperation period to get the best results.

Agreed minutes

Every two years in average, agreed minutes was signed by the two institutes. The document included remarks on the cooperation results in the previous periods and agreements on the future cooperation with details for the coming 2-year period. The agreed minutes was an official document of the programme and was submitted to ministry levels on both sides.

Technology transfer

Advanced techniques suitable for Vietnamese conditions were transferred to IBST. Swedish well-experienced experts visited IBST to guide Vietnamese geotechnicians to use and service the new equipment, and members of IBST visited SGI to be trained on the new techniques. About 80-90 % of the equipments transferred to IBST have come into full use within 1-2 months except in some cases from the initial period of the programme. The applicability of the new knowledge was regularly reported by IBST and short information or technical reports were given to SGI.

Creation of new technologies

Because of a limited budget of the cooperation, equipments have not been imported for every subject of the cooperation. Some technologies have therefore been developed based on Swedish experience and by equipment and materials available in Vietnam. This manner of cooperation was effective, in which some new techniques were successfully applied in Vietnam.


Research works was important in the cooperation to increase the research capacity of IBST. The research results of IBST were often discussed with SGI’s geotechnicians, directly or by mail. Some research of mutual interest for both sides was performed by members of both institutes in cooperation, a manner of cooperation on a higher level than just technology transfer.

Technical reports

About 40 technical reports on research projects and applications within the cooperation were written in English. Many reports were presented in seminars by both sides as well as in Vietnamese conferences. A few reports were sent to international/regional conferences.

To widely spread the new techniques transferred or created within the cooperation, recommendations for application were published in Vietnamese booklets.


Training was an essential ingredience in the cooperation programme. The intention was to help IBST members to properly use new equipment, as well as to improve the knowledge in geotechnics. In special cases the intention was extended to make it possible to take a doctor’s degree.

Main Activities And Results Of The Cooperation

The cooperation achieved results that have been highly appreciated by the organizations of both sides. The main results and the most important activities are summarized below.

Stabilization of soft soil by band trains and lime/cement columns

Band drains

  • 1978-1979, a band drain machine was delivered to IBST.
  • 1980-1981, 2,000 m of band drains were installed at a test site in Nam Ha where the measured consolidation settlements under static load of a sand fill were compared with those of another area without band drains.
  • 1981, totally 10,400 m of band drains were installed for one three-storey building in Hai Duong and one five-storey building in Haiphong.
  • From 1983 to 1987, about 20,000 m of band drains were installed for four five-storey buildings in Hanoi and Haiphong.
  • 1985, recommendations for design and installation of band drains was drafted and published in Vietnamese.
  • 1987, samples of coconut-fiber drains were fabricated and tested.

Lime/cement columns

  • 1978-1979, a lime column machine was delivered to IBST.
  • 1980-1982, laboratory and field tests were performed with lime columns.
  • 1983, the applicability of installation of cement columns by the lime column machine was studied.
  • From 1984 to 1987, a total length of 25,000 m cement columns were installed for 11 buildings in Hanoi and Haiphong including eight 3-4 storey buildings and three 5-storey buildings.
  • A method of installation of cement columns by a hand operating equipment was developed and applied in Haiphong, Hanoi, Hue and some other cities in Vietnam.
  • 1985, recommendations for design and installation of cement columns were drafted and published in Vietnamese.

 Piling techniques

  • From 1981 to 1985, modern piling experiences, both in design and installation, were studied and applied in some cases, including some state projects such as the Hoang Thach cement factory supported by Denmark, and in the International Airport of Noi Bai in Hanoi.
  • 1983, a driven mini-pile technique was created based on Swedish experience and equipment, with materials available in Vietnam.
  • 1984, driven mini-piles with a diameter of 130 mm were installed for a five-storey building in a narrow site in Hanoi. About 150 piles with a total length of 1,500 m were installed.
  • 1985, a modern stress-wave measurement system was delivered to IBST.
  • From 1985 to 1987, stress-wave measurements were performed at three different sites.
  • About 30 load tests on different kinds of piles were carried out by equipment delivered from SGI.
  • A computer program for interpretation of stress-wave measurements was developed by IBST and SGI in cooperation.
  • 1985, recommendations for proper application of different types of piles and the chapter of pile foundation of the Vietnamese Building Code were drafted and published in Vietnamese.


  • 1981-1982, an inventory investigation of buildings damaged due to foundation causes was made in Hanoi, Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City.
  • 1982-1983, modern underpinning techniques were studied in Sweden to choose those suitable for Vietnamese conditions.
  • 1983-1984, Mega pile, a jacked concrete pile technique was created by equipment and material available in Vietnam using Swedish experience. The technique was successfully tested in field.
  • 1985, Mega piles were used for partial underpinning a seriously settled five-storey building in Hanoi. Totally about 400 m of Mega piles were installed.
  • 1985-1986, an investigation of the damages of the Vietnamese Sweden Children’s Hospital was planned and carried out by IBST and SGI in cooperation. The damage causes were analyzed, and a restauration method was suggested.
  • 1986-1987, the idea of application of Mega piles for foundation constructions for new buildings was promoted. The technique was applied for two buildings in Hanoi constructed in narrow sites, adjacent to existing buildings.
  • The soil-structure interaction in underpinning design was studied.
  • 1985, recommendations for design and application of Mega piles were drafted.

Application of laboratory and field test equipment for investigation

  • 1979-1980, different field and laboratory test equipments were delivered to IBST.
  • 1980-1984, the equipments were used for about 40 construction projects for research and design purposes, including:
  • 350 static penetration tests with a total length of 5,500 m
  • 80 weight sounding tests with a total length of 800 m
  • 1,000 samples taken by the piston sampler with a total length of 1,200 m
  • 100 vane tests
  • 1983-1984, by using the new equipment in combination with data from earlier soil investigations, IBST supported the Haiphong authority to form a geotechnical map of the city.
  • From 1985 to 1987, the equipment was continuously used for research and design purposes for an average of 15 to 20 projects each year.
  • 1985, recommendations for application of field vane test equipment, static penetrometer and piston sampler were drafted and published in Vietnamese.

Technical reports

Reports in English

About 40 technical reports were written and published in English. Most of these reports were completed by IBST members during their stay at SGI. Some reports were contributed to the IBST-SGI geotechnical seminar in Hanoi in 1985. Five papers were written by IBST and SGI members in cooperation for the international geotechnical conferences in Bangkok in 1986 and 1987, in Ottawa 1988 and in St Louis 1988. These reports are literature studies or reported results of research or application in the following fields:

  • Laboratory and field testing
  • Piling techniques and other foundation methods
  • Application of band drains and lime/cement columns
  • Underpinning techniques
  • Soil-structure interaction problems

Reports in Vietnamese

The cooperation results were also published in Vietnam in different ways as final reports of state research subjects, papers for national conferences and seminars, papers for technical journals, recommendations for design and or installation. These documents were effective in distributing the cooperation results to other institutes and companies, in accelerating the application of new techniques as well as increasing the status both of IBST and SGI in Vietnam.

As an example, to the third National Geotechnical Conference held in Hanoi, in December 1984, IBST sent 18 papers on different subjects of the cooperation.

Six booklets of recommendations för design and application of new techniques have been published.

Technical visits

IBST and SGI sent members to one another every year following the agreed minutes.

At total, 10 Swedish visits with 12 Swedish geotechnicians visited IBST with an average stay of two weeks. The purpose of their stay was to guide IBST members to operate the new equipments, to give lectures, to participate in technical discussions and to give advice for the application of new techniques tested by IBST, to make regular controls of the equipment operation as well as to agree upon the cooperation results in the previous periods and to give implementations to the future cooperation.

Totally, 6 Vietnamese groups with 12 Vietnamese geotechnicians visited SGI with an average stay of four months. The purpose has been to be training on the use of new equipment, to make studies, to learn Swedish experiences in the geotechnical field and to discuss common reports.

Besides, officials from SAREC visited IBST as well as Dr Lennart Börgesson in July 1988 to evaluate the cooperation works.


The stays of IBST members at SGI have proved to be effective, first because the persons sent to SGI had a good knowledge in both geotechnics and English. During their stay their planned working programmes were fulfilled, and their knowledge was improved considerably. Most of the technical reports in English was completed during their shirt stay and some of the reports had a high standard. It was found important that the stay is that long that meaningful results can be achieved.

A fruitful result of the cooperation is that two members achieved a PhD after studies at SGI and Chalmers University of Technology. The studies were financed by SGI, the Swedish Institute and by Chalmers University of Technology.

Equipment and information

Within the framework of the cooperation, IBST received laboratory and field equipment for the following purposes:

  • Soil investigation
  • Settlement observation
  • Pile load testing
  • Stress-wave measurement and analysis

Necessary spare parts for the equipment were now and then sent to IBST.

IBST received regular information and modern literature from SGI in the following subjects:

  • Application of band drains and lime columns
  • Application of field and laboratory test equipment
  • Modern piling technique
  • Underpinning
  • Soil-structure interaction
  • Application of computers in geotechnics

Main Achievements of the Cooperation

The cooperation programme started with technology transfer and developed to a higher level. Important results were achieved, highly appreciated by both the Swedish and the Vietnamese sides.

Successful applications of modern foundation techniques in Vietnam

Some modern techniques suitable for Vietnamese conditions were successfully transferred to IBST, like the band drain and the lime/cement column methods, different field and laboratory testing techniques for investigation of soft soil as well as stress-wave measurement system. These techniques allow to achieve economic efficiencies, to accelerate the foundation installation and to considerably save material.

Some other effective techniques were created using equipment and materials available in Vietnam in combination with Swedish experiences, like the underpinning technique by Mega piles and the driven mini pile method. This made the cooperation more dynamic and allowed to overcome difficulties caused by a limited budget of the cooperation.

The advanced techniques transferred or created within the cooperation reached a good reputation and favors in Vietnam. For example, the cement column technique was applied for many buildings and based on this principle a type of hand operating equipment was developed and used in Hanoi, Haiphong, Hai Duong, Hue and some other cities. Driven mini piles first applied by IBST were used in various manners. The Mega pile technique of IBST was the only effective underpinning technique in Vietnam and has been more and more used in practice, not only for underpinning but also for new foundations in confined sites.

The application of the new techniques for many buildings has resulted in large economic savings and to reduce the need of building materials, especially imported steel reinforcement. For example, in a case where the originally designed pile foundation was replaced by cement columns, the foundation costs were reduced about 30 to 50 % and the amount of steel up to 70 %. The application of mini piles has resulted in a considerable increase of bearing capacity of piles by the same amount of concrete. The partial underpinning at the La Thanh Hotel was performed with a cost much smaller than with a conventional method.

It should be emphasized that information on the new techniques was given to other companies in Vietnam in forms of completed technologies resulting in more foundation variants to be chosen by the designers.

Considerable increase of IBST’s research capacity in equipment and information

Several field and laboratory equipments delivered to IBST within the cooperation increased the research capacity of IBST in the geotechnical field. With this equipment, IBST can perform a large range of field and laboratory tests and measurements, including soil investigations, laboratory testing of soil, settlement observations, static load tests and stress-wave measurements with a good accuracy and a quick handling. Some of the equipment is quite modern.

Most of the equipment has proved to be suitable for the Vietnamese conditions and has been brought into full use after only a short time. This is due to the following process that has been strictly obeyed:

  • Careful study on different types of equipment before the choice
  • Training in Sweden under supervision of SGI, both in theory and practice
  • Quick transportation of the equipment to IBST
  • Quick installation and application
  • Regular exchange of results and experiences
  • Drafting of recommendations for operation and application of the equipment

Besides, technical information was often sent to IBST, including the most necessary technical journals and periodicals, the most interesting geotechnical books and references and fresh information on the particular subjects of the cooperation.

Noticeable improvement of the knowledge of IBST members

One of the most important targets of the cooperation that was reached was the improved knowledge and research capacity of IBST members, simultaneously to form effective research groups that can manage the urgent needs in Vietnam and approach the international level of geotechnical engineering.

Through the activities of the cooperation, the increased level of knowledge of the IBST members have had a positive effect on the change of the form of cooperation from technology transfer to creation of technologies based on equipment and materials available in Vietnam or research work carried out by both institutes. Some of the results can be considered as new contributions to the geotechnical field such as the application of cement columns for multistorey buildings and partial underpinning with piles.

The knowledge of English of IBST members improved that abled IBST geotechnicians to use English in technical discussions, writing reports and listening to lectures.

Through the cooperation, other technical skills of IBST members such as planning of research work, technical contacts and writing technical reports was also considerably improved. One of the most positive effects of the cooperation was that two of the IBST members has presented a doctor’s thesis in Sweden.

The noticeable improvement of knowledge of IBST members together with the considerable increases of IBST research capacity in equipment and information has allowed IBST to carry out a large range of activities:

  • Research
  • Consulting
  • Design
  • Information installation of foundation elements by modern techniques.

Distribution of the cooperation results in Vietnam

The results of the cooperation have been multiplied through the papers to different national technical conferences, seminars, journals, and periodicals in Vietnamese and other technical publications, through lectures by IBST and SGI members and TV films, and especially in the case where new techniques were applied within the cooperation. Such activities have good effects on the development of the geotechnical field in Vietnam. IBST, through the cooperation, confirmed its leading position in the geotechnical field in Vietnam.

Reasonable use of different budget sources

The budget supplied by SAREC and SIDA has been effectively used for the right purposes according to both IBST and SGI. Most of the equipments were quickly transferred and brought into full use. The geotechnicians of IBST that took part in training in Sweden are all persons who took direct parts in different subjects of the cooperation and had worked with their full capacity and knowledge. The Swedish geotechnicians who visited IBST were all leading and well experienced experts.

However, it is difficult for such a cooperation to get good results if relying only on the Swedish budget. Different financial sources in Vietnam were also mobilized for the cooperation. The budget for urban constructions, that accelerated the need and application of new techniques, was one of the most successful results of the cooperation. Also, the state supported budget in Vietnam for research was used and together with the cooperation the state-financed research subjects achieved good results.

Conclusions and Suggestions

The above-mentioned results are encouraging, and achievements of the cooperation are due to a combination of especially the following factors:

  • The choice of the institutes taking part in the cooperation. SGI had a leading position in the geotechnical field in Sweden and IBST had a group of geotechnicians strong enough to fulfill the heavy duties of the cooperation.
  • The cooperation form during the programme changed to a higher engineering level, which proved to be suitable for each stage of the cooperation. The change depended fully on the cooperation results and the level of knowledge of IBST members.
  • The careful preparation for the cooperation of both institutes, especially in the personnel aspect and working conditions. Both institutes, SGI and IBST, promoted good working conditions and well-knowledged persons to the cooperation. On the Vietnamese side, the careful preparation in English played an important role, if not decisive, to the positive development of the cooperation.
  • The vale support of the high-level organs of both sides: The ministry of Construction and the State Committee of Science & Technology of Vietnam and SAREC and SIDA of Sweden.

The temporary difficulties in the early days of the cooperation such as the differences in technical schools, in the way of thinking between the two institutes, the limited knowledge of English and the equipment of IBST have been gradually overcome. A close relations and good understanding was formed between the two institutes.

To achieve even better results in future cooperation, the following suggestions are brought forward:

  • The cooperation subjects should be of interest for both sides.
  • The stay of Swedish geotechnicians in Vietnam and of Vietnamese ones in Sweden should be long enough so that they can catch and solve the important targets of the cooperation.
  • A further training of IBST members with the intention of taking a doctoral degree should be targeted.
  • If there will be any Swedish supported construction work in Vietnam, the two institutes should cooperate to find a good foundation solution.

After a long period of cooperation, it can be said that the programme was successful and highly appreciated by the organizations of both sides and especially appreciated by the two institutes themselves. One of the most important efficiencies of the cooperation was that through the cooperation the friendship between the Swedish and Vietnamese people is more and more deepened.

Both SGI and IBST like to express grateful thanks to the State Committee of Science & Technology, the Ministry of Construction of Vietnam, SAREC and SIDA of Sweden and the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi, as well as institutes, universities, and companies of both sides for their help in the cooperation programme.

Table of Contents