With new legislation, ever-smarter buildings and a heightened threat level, the demand for project management within classified projects is growing. In Norway, a growing project management team has taken on some of the country’s most critical functions and projects with a strong focus on security measures against terrorism, sabotage, espionage and other types of crime. 

The Royal Palace. The Norwegian Parliament. The Government Quarter. New water supplies for Oslo. These are some of the projects that fill the schedules of the team of project managers and security experts at COWI. And the trend shows no sign of slowing down: the need for security expertise is growing.

“Traditionally, architects, engineers and planners have not focused on security measures against terrorism, sabotage, espionage and other types of crime. In recent years, however, the threat level has changed and it has become more critical to plan the location and protection of important social functions,” says Julie Indrelid (29).

Indrelid currently heads the project management section within buildings in COWI in Norway as well as parts of the security department.


Norway’s most highly classified assignments call for strong project management qualities, along with experience from other industries.

“Our biggest asset is our diverse composition. Half of us are women and there is a range of ages. That is quite unique in our business. There is also a variety of skills and background,” explains Indrelid.

Some have Master’s degrees in public security or property development, some come from the police, while others are civil engineers or specialists in digital collaboration, or come from senior positions in the military, oil and gas or manufacturing.

“We don’t work in silos. This makes for a slightly different dynamic compared to a set-up where everyone has been ‘raised’ in the construction sector,” she says.


Parts of the project management team work alongside the security department. Co-locating these disciplines has positive side-effects: now most of the project managers have in-depth knowledge of how to work on classified projects, although not all of them do so.

A dependable and cohesive community: “We do not work in silos,” says Julie Indrelid, seen here with Øyvind Foyn and Roar Andersen.

“Many of our project managers will work on classified projects at some time in their careers. So it is important to instil security awareness into the team. This has raised awareness of security and the importance of making it an integral part of our early-phase work. I don’t think many people would doubt that this will only get more important in the coming years,” says Roar Andersen, security specialist and head of COWI's Centre for Risk-Reducing Design.


Pure security qualifications are only a recent addition to the curriculum at educational institutions. Most people have picked up their experience in other sectors, particularly the more senior team members.

One of their newest colleagues in the team, Øyvind Foyn, came from the oil industry, with previous experience in land-based manufacturing. His technical knowledge and project management experience were very transferrable.

“The elements to be established are actually very similar, although the scope may differ. And here, all the disciplines are completely interwoven.”

He is now a project director with dedicated portfolio responsibility, where he monitors the projects within a particular sector. He is convinced that the composition of the team within the company is effective.

“The industry needs this fluidity and mix of skills. It challenges the way people around the table are thinking.”


The work ideally starts before the site and the building have been selected. When the team set out to assess the security needs, they start by assessing the customer’s assets. These assets are not necessarily physical or monetary; they are often associated with functions, explains Roar Andersen.

“People’s feeling of security and stability is an important asset in a democratic society. Unfortunately, threats cannot be eliminated, but protection and safeguards against existing and new-found threats can be broadly planned and implemented.”

When the assets have been identified, the location is next on the list. Is the property in a complex and crowded urban setting, in the middle of a deserted island or somewhere in between? In some cases, the building has to be moved if exposed areas or critical infrastructure are too close by.

Diverse section: With experience from oil and manufacturing, the military and property development and management respectively, Øyvind Foyn, Roar Andersen and Julie Indrelid embody the diversity in their section very well.

In recent years, risk-reducing design has become an important – though often invisible – part of the urban landscape. Where bollards and lifting gates marked yesterday’s design, we now aim for solutions that are as integrated as possible. Security measures should have a minimal footprint in the urban environment and should be adapted to its surroundings where possible.

Julie Indrelid highlights the security at Norges Bank as a good example where the aesthetic aspect was addressed with permanent sculptures and other barriers.

“Still, we sometimes have to take temporary measures which may not be as aesthetically pleasing but are necessary,” she adds.


The New Year saw a change in legislation which could make the team’s schedules even more crowded. The Act on National Security now covers more areas than before. Indrelid believes that this will mean new businesses being made aware of inadequate security. Particularly because government ministries now have sanctions they can apply, such as fines, which they could not do before.

“Services and critical infrastructure are now covered by the Act too. That could potentially mean banking, energy and manufacturing services, as well as busy intersections and public transport systems. Many developers will probably see an increased need for security expertise,” says Indrelid.

Isolated and instructive: Life on security-classified projects makes for an immensely steep learning curve, and requires you to leave your mobile and internet access outside the office. Julie Indrelid (29) currently heads the team working on some of Norway’s most highly classified projects.


The office premises are never open to outsiders. Phones, smart watches and ordinary PCs with internet access often have to be left outside. Life in the project office on classified projects takes some getting used to.

“More than this we are not allowed to say under the Security Act. It is a bit of a change, but you soon get used to it,” says Indrelid.

One of the advantages is that you get close to the other people working on the project.

“Communication works well and it gives you a kick to be part of the interdisciplinary project flow. The learning curve is extremely steep, particularly for the younger people working alongside the experienced hands. The experienced ones also get a buzz from seeing the juniors absorbing the knowledge and delivering incredible results very quickly. It is great fun and really inspiring,” says Øyvind Foyn.

Steep learning curve: Four years ago, Julie (29) was still at college. Now she is Head of Section for project manager Roar – with many years of experience in project management and security.

That’s also how Julie Indrelid started her career with COWI. She was the trusty sidekick to the very experienced Roar Andersen.

“I shadowed Roar closely on one of my first security-classified projects. I was there through all the preparations, meetings and inspections with experienced people. I actually still shadow him quite closely now, even though I am officially his manager,” Indrelid smiles.

About COWI’s project management section in Norway:

  • The project management section is made up of project managers and administrators and security staff.
  • The section head keeps an eye on staff and skills development, so the project managers and divisional project directors can focus entirely on their subject-areas and projects.
  • We have everything from small jobs within one discipline to huge projects for large government bodies.
  • The division’s project directors are responsible for their own portfolios and follow up the projects within various sectors.

Get in contact

Julie Indrelid
Head of Section
Buildings Oslo, Norway

Tel: +47 928 36 382