Monday, 23 February 2015

Harry Potter Studio Tour

My kids are currently into the Harry Potter books. I must say, I am guilty of falling asleep (in parts) watching the movies, but I strongly recommend the studio tour. Most people that browse my blog are into design and construction - and purely from this angle - the set design, the models and set constructions are extremely impressive.

Photographs below - click for bigger...
Borat's wife from Les Miserables with some of the Potter stars
After an introduction in a cinema, the screen retracts to reveal the Great Hall
Original costumes of Dumbledore, Snape and Samuel Johnson from Blackadder III
Winged boars protecting the gates to Hogwarts
Dumbledore's study
Actual-size house
Who needs to film on location when you can build your own street?
Fantastic pencil drawings and paper models (from 2000 so mainly hand-drawn - not level-2 BIM) 
Plan and elevation for Diagon Alley - I imagine that the NBS spec is in the cupboard somewhere and didn't make it onto the wall display
Not sure if these designs will  comply with Approved Documents A of the Building Regulations
Some fantastic paper models
Some of the conceptual artwork
Absolutely incredible 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts - the work of a design and construction team of 40 people
More on the Harry Potter studio tour

Harry Potter was also filmed on location including the North East - Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle

Sunday, 8 February 2015

NBS BIM Object Standard and shared parameters

There has been a bit of debate on linkedin and twitter over recent weeks about our NBS BIM Object Standard and our shared parameter file. As a general rule I try not get into social media discussions - but in this case, here are some views from me in this blog post.

In recent months, as part of our NBS National BIM Library website, we have published our BIM object standard and our shared parameter file. These are part of the tools that our team use to ensure that content to the BIM library is consistent and of a reliable level of technical quality.
National BIM Library tools and guides
So what is the advantage of having well-structured information? In the examples below, I have tried to demonstrate this. In addition, I've deliberately not taken any screenshots from Revit or ArchiCAD to try and make this software neutral. Imagine this information has been exported from the design software and is being manipulated externally.
Selected National BIM Library objects for example
Selected National BIM Library objects for example
The information parameters from a typical library object
Consider the situation where the user would like to analyse the information for a U-Value calculation or a BREEAM Assessment. Having this information in a standard format allows it to immediately appear as per the example below. No further post-processing or mapping is required and any software routines can read the data in a standard format.
Standardised information
If every data provider and software vendor and design/construction organisation used their own rules for naming properties then the data could still be present but the industry would be doing a lot of extra hours in manual post-processing.
The alternative
A further example is given before where a client want to answers a plain language question wanting to know how the design is maximising the use of recycled content? This is a simple question, but pulling all of this information together from various data sources is a a large task for any project team. A snippet from an information take-off from a model using National BIM Library objects is below:
Extract from recycled content report
Standardisation can create huge efficiencies here - structured data and the corresponding efficiencies can provide greater value and help with informed decision making.

The current social media debate
The social media debate appears to be centred around whether NBS is trying to force others to use our way of working. This is absolutely not the case. We are simply sharing our way of working in the hope that it is of use to others that are on the same journey as ourselves.

Over the last few years with National BIM Library we have been on a journey ourselves. It is a huge task to create consistent, high quality content for thousands of generic and manufacturer construction objects. We must firstly have our own strict internal processes - and then we are faced with a decision, do we keep this learning and knowledge private to our own organisation? Or do we share so others (should they choose) can benefit?

Other organisations I have personally been inspired by who have shared their way of doing things include:
Other points raised on social media include:

There are already standards out there for BIM - why is this even needed?
At NBS, our chief executive is chair of the BSI B/555 committee looking after the UK BIM standards. We are also executive team participants on buildingSMART UK. Our BIM object standard painstakingly references these BIM standards and brings this knowledge together in one place. We a promoting the use of BSI and buildingSMART standards and pushing this hard.

Manufacturers are being forced to get NBS to author their content
This isn't the case. In-house manufacturer teams can choose to use the NBS object standard should they wish. Where manufacturers out-source this, they can choose to ask for this authoring task to be to the standard should they wish.

In either of these situations, manufacturers that have objects to our standard can then discuss hosting options with us in terms of putting their content in front of the decision makers and specifiers on projects.
nationalbimlibrary.com/bim-for-manufacturers

Manufacturer information such as shown in this blog post shouldn't be in a BIM object but in an externally hosted cloud library
If this is the way the industry turns, then we have this information in our NBS National BIM Library cloud library and can expose it through API. We can 'flick the switch'. But until the software vendor products work this way - our current approach is to deliver it in the objects. Scheduling and delivering information take off and analysis in the design model is how the industry currently works.

The NBS GUIDs are different from software vendor X
We are working closely with the different software vendors. Over time we'd like this to be a little smoother. Anything we are working on behind the scenes is under NDA.

Friday, 6 February 2015

BIM Toolkit - Update

It's full speed ahead now on the BIM Toolkit developments. We have just updated our website with an online video demonstration of progress and information on how to keep in touch with the development.

I also summarise things with a few screenshots below.
Watch our video showing the progress so far at our NBS web portal
The BIM Toolkit will be a free-to-use digital platform made up of:
  • A new unified classification system for the UK that is based on the ISO 12006-2 framework
  • A set of level-of-definition guidance pages for BIM objects
  • A digital plan of work tool defining who in a project team is doing what and when
1. Information exchanges
Fundamentally, the BIM Toolkit is being developed on behalf of the UK Government's BIM Task Group to support their level-2 BIM process.

As an introduction to the project life-cycle the PAS 1192-2:2013 standard is the best place to start:
bimtaskgroup.org/pas-1192-22013
(this is essential reading)

The BIM Toolkit will support this full process. It will help clients generate sections of an Employer's Information Requirement (EIR) document.  It will also help bidders and the supply chain develop their BIM Execution Plans and Master Information Delivery Plans in response to the EIR.
At the Strategy/Brief stage - the project participants may not be known
Tasks and deliverables may be defined that will answer an employer's 'plain language questions'
As a project team is appointed the roles are assigned to organisations
2. Level-of-definition guidance pages
In addition to BIM being about managing the process and the key tasks, it is also about modelling the project in terms of digital objects. The BIM Toolkit will include thousands of level-of-definition guidance pages that assist with this process. These will give bandings for level-of-detail (LOD) that covers geometric detail and level-of-information (LOI) that covers the associated information.

Each of these bandings is indicative of what is typically required for that stage of the plan of work. So the banding "2" is typical of what is expected at concept design, the banding "5" is typical of what is expected as part of the construction process.

Examples of LOD and LOIs are below. Thanks must be given to our expert partners BDP (buildings) and Mott MacDonald (infrastructure) who are doing amazing work supporting us in this area.
LOD-4 for a bridge expansion joint
LOI-3 for the same bridge expansion joint
LOD-2 for a floor covering system
LOD-2 for a boiler
LOI-6 for a boiler
3. Responsibilities
The default tasks and the object definition reference library may be used to set the responsibilities within a digital plan of work. This information may be exported to a digital format (COBie) for verification and comparison - or to a Microsoft Office format for more traditional exchange documents for briefing, tendering and appointments (ultimately PDF).
Objects may be added to a digital plan of work for a project
Responsibilities and notes can be defined against this object for a particular stage
In terms of verification, I'll blog more about this in a few weeks' time. But BIM Academy are doing some amazing work around their xBIM technology. This will include 3D viewing functionality around buildingSMART IFC and full use of the buildingSMART COBie data schema.
3D IFC viewing technology showing design information being verified against the requirements
Hopefully, this all looks interesting to those involved in the UK construction industry. If it is, please visit our official web portal:

...and if you want to meet the team face-to-face, come and see us at:
...and, as always, I'll sneak a few things up on this blog for those interested in some of the 'behind the scenes' stuff under the label BIMToolkit.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Enhancements to the NBS Plug-in for Autodesk Revit

Last year we re-launched our NBS National BIM Library website. We rebuilt the site from scratch and from the start our aim was to ensure that it was a digital platform that could be used on any device. This of course is good news for our free-to-download Revit plug-in which allows users to search and browse NBS BIM content before dragging-and-dropping objects into their designs.

Rather than lots of words in this blog-post, I thought I'd just drop in ten screenshots that show how well the plug-in connects the design model with lots and lots of fantastic information from NBS.
Our plug-ins can be downloaded from our NBS National BIM Library website
The new responsive design allows the same website to look fantastic when viewed in a thin side-panel
As a design progresses, National BIM Library generic objects may be swapped for manufacturer objects
Objects to the NBS Object Standard have IFC and COBie properties - these are exposed in the data grid in the plug-in
NBS subscribers can benefit from the NBS technical guidance from their subscription that matches the selected object
The NBS technical guidance contains maintained hyperlinks to the Construction Information Service for further related knowledge
Associated NBS project specifications may be viewed - select the object and see the corresponding spec
NBS project specification clauses may be associated from Revit system objects, families and materials
A browse and search facility allows the user to select the corresponding clause in the specification
When specification clause links become broken, they can be fixed using the plug-in
The NBS plug-in is a free download for Autodesk Revit. It can be found at the website below:

Sunday, 25 January 2015

New water turbine for Durham

My journey to walk each day takes me past the River Wear to Durham train station. It's great to see some of the exciting developments on the riverside, in particular the installation of a new hydro-turbine within the existing weir. There is a decent height difference between the upper and lower sections of the river so utilising the power of the water that comes through seems to make complete sense.

I took a couple of photographs last week (on a typical warm, sunny day in the North East)...
The water drops through the levels of the weir
The 13m, 20 tonne, Archimedean screw
Some of the facts I could find from the internet are as follows...
  • A 100kw generator that will supply 75% of the energy to the new Freeman's Reach development
  • Designed and manufactured by Spaans Babcock it is 13 meters long and 20 tonnes in weight
  • The design also features a fish pass that will allow fish to more easily travel upstream (and will count them) 
...and some further info from the web...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

In praise of - Scratch

Both of my children are in Primary School and they are now learning "coding" using the fantastic Scratch website. I remember reading about this in the news a few months ago, but now I am helping them with their homework I cannot speak highly enough about this initiative.


As a youngster myself I remember playing around with a BBC Microcomputer.

10 CLS
20 PRINT "STEPHEN IS COOL"
30 GOTO 20

At university I remember doing a bit of C, FORTRAN and VBA to help analyse results of lab work. This then took me into my day-job which is creating software and websites for the construction industry.

Anyway, back to Scratch, it allows you to build fun visual computer games using "building blocks" of code. It reduces the typing needed as you can get started by just sticking blocks of code together and seeing what happens.

Once you get used to it - fun games to try and write (especially if you are working with kids) are:
  1. Pub quiz games - Click on the correct answer - import some nice images - keep score - give the result at the end
  2. Platform game - Control the Sprite with the cursors and make fences and clouds and food fly past to produce a "Mario" style platform game
  3. Shooting game - Make targets appear and shoot them to make them disappear, add the points up as you go along.
Some screenshots from a recent piece of homework that came through the Hamil House are below. Really simple, but needed designed (sourcing images, resizing them, working out the flow of logic), developed (sticking the code blocks together) and then tested (does it work?). All great fun learning activities for kids. The homework was to do a fun quiz about a European country...
Images appear and disappear when clicked on
In the background the score is being remembered
Different end-screens are shown depending on your success
Events, sensing, appearance and commenting in the simple to use code
Finally, the whole web community is embraced as you can share projects with your friends and explore other people's code so you can keep getting better. Top stuff!

Further info:

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

National BIM Library - Getting bigger and bigger

Looking back through blog posts from the end of 2013 I noticed one looking at all of the manufacturers that had joined the NBS National BIM Library that year.

National BIM Library manufacturers - December 2013
One year on now in December 2014, it's fantastic to see that the number of manufacturers has exploded (now it's tricky to put all of the logos on a single screenshot).

National BIM Library manufacturers - December 2014
It's been a great year for National BIM Library, in particular around content developments. Three things worth mentioning:

1. The growth in number of manufacturers in the service
As above. See link below for a full list:
nationalBIMlibrary.com/manufacturers
and if you know a manufacturer that isn't on the list - please send them the following web address:
nationalBIMlibrary.com/bim-for-manufacturers

2. The investment to provide 100s of generic objects for service engineers
Early in the design process, it is likely that generic objects will be used. This year we released a fantastic library of free-to-use objects for service engineers.
http://constructioncode.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/national-bim-library-free-to-use-mep.html
MEP objects
3. The publication of the NBS BIM Object Standard
The industry is crying out for consistently authored BIM objects.
This year we published our BIM Object Standard. This allows construction professionals to create their own objects to the same authoring rules as NBS use. It also means that manufacturers with their own authoring teams can produce their own objects for hosting on National BIM Library.
To download for free, please see:
nationalBIMlibrary.com/nbs-bim-object-standard

...and this is all in addition to the new website we released and the enhancements to our BIM plug-in.