Wednesday, 16 April 2014

From Digital to Physical to Digital

One of the emerging trends in the construction industries digital journey is how to go from digital to physical (3d printing/assembly) and how to go from physical to digital (laser scanning to a model).

Well, this little video below shows the full round trip. Not 'quite' construction though - it's a bear walking up the stairs...


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

NBS Specification Report 2013

Our NBS Specification Report 2013 was published recently.

Some interesting findings:
  • 1/2 of users are using RIBA POW 2013 on at least one project
  • 2/3 believe that the brief is the first stage of specification development
  • nearly 80% reuse old specifications
  • 1/4 still mark up a paper copy
  • The biggest cause of difficulties is "the drawings and spec contradicting each other"
  • 95% agree that "there should be a direct link between specifications and drawings"
  • 94% now believe that in the future specifications will be distributed digitally only
...and in addition to the analysis, also some very good articles.
  • An insight into specification future from our CEO Richard Waterhouse (@rpwaterhouse)
  • Some thoughts from specification expert Andy Jobling from Levitt Bernstein
  • Specifications through the project lifetime from our Content Development manager John Gelder (@JohnGelderNBS)
  • Thoughts on how specification is taught from Architectural Technology student Elisabeth Matuki, graduate Alex Nesbitt and Nick Ivill.
So download your free copy from...

Thursday, 3 April 2014

thinkBIM – Spring Conference 2014

There was a super line-up of speakers at the first thinkBIM conference of 2014.

First up was Richard Ogden from Build Offsite. I’d first came into contact with Richard at the RIBA Build Offsite conference in 2011 where the Leadenhall Building and Circle Private Hospital case studies were presented (read this blog post here).

A few screenshots from Richard’s presentation are below. Building offsite and then assembling on the construction site is one proven method of bringing the cost of construction down. The UK Government 2025 Construction Strategy is demanding some big efficiency and environmental impact enhancements and this was discussed. The analogy with the auto-mobile industry was given. Volkswagen have a standardised process, 80% of their cars come from the same components – yet the customer still gets 2million+ possibilities in terms of customisation. Can the same be done for buildings to achieve the efficiency and environmental impact savings?
Ogden puts up the 2025 headline goals
How big is the parallel between assembling cars and assembling buildings?
Richard also mentioned that a lot of the thinking is not new - it's just the technology is enabling better things now. Check out the History Channel documentary on Building the Empire State Building on youtube.

Jaimie Johnson from Bryden Wood then gave a web presentation from St Petersburg Russia. Jaimie started by presenting a case study from some of their work for Anglian Water. They designed and digitally built modules on the computer. They then prototyped and built them in a factory. Then when they were sure they were correct they then formed a build-offsite-kit-of-parts for numerous Anglian Water facilities.

The St Petersburg project that Jaimie is currently working on is a $1.2bn new district. The largest level-2 BIM project ever (although the Qatar world cup may have something to say about that). Brydon Wood have followed the same principles as before on this project. They built a digital kit of parts using BIM methodology. The architects on the project now know to use these components and assemblies to design their buildings.

Jaimie reflected that they had tried to do the same on the Olympic athlete’s village project, but on reflection they did not have enough time to achieve this. How this current project is progressing is an excellent example of getting things right at the strategy stage and preparation+brief stage of a large project. Get things right at the start. Learn from previous projects.

Some headline statistics where that the modular buildings were 1/3 of the mass which produced a large saving in embodied carbon and 25% cheaper in terms of materials. The delivery time was also reduced by 8 months.
A selection of digital library objects that were developed in preparation for the design of the buildings
How the objects come together to form a floor of a building
Check out a PDF case study on this project so far at -

The thinkBIM conferences always have a set of excellent roundtables that the delegates can select from and take part in. It was pleasing to see that there was a full table for the session I was hosting on BIM and LODev. (See my previous post on BIM and Level of Development for a bit of background information on this).

There was a good consensus of opinions on BIM and LODev. To summarise:
  • Having a set of LODev guidelines available is the ‘construction language’ that is needed for the collaborative project team to agree *who* is responsible for *what* and *when* information is needed to be delivered through the project.
  • There is a vacuum here in the UK in terms of guidelines. Those working on BIM projects are using the American guidelines. These are considered the best in the world, however, it would be really good to have a set authored for UK construction. It would be even better if this was available in a digital online database and not just a PDF.
  • It was clear that there was not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ for each system and product across all of the disciplines. Specific properties are required. Certain items need designed to a greater level of development earlier in the project.
  • Equally, every project is different. A ‘built-offsite’ project with standard components has a greater level of development early on. A bespoke project may go well into the design stages before as much information emerges.
  • Strong consistent project leadership is advantageous. A good project lead from concept stage onwards can really help.
  • Many professions were represented at the round tables (engineers, design managers, architects, manufacturers, civils…) – it was felt that a consistent approach would help all in construction.
  • Consistent classification is required and this must map to rules of measurement for costing.
  • If the LODev guidelines are digital, this should lead to a certain amount of digital validation. A client can request a certain amount of information. They can then automatically check this has been provided.
Two sketches are shown below that were developed as part of the discussion in terms of the design (LOD) and information (LOI) part of the levels of development.
LODev round-table one sketches
LODev round-table two sketches
The final presentation was from SKANSKA’s Rob Francis. Rob gave an insight as to what SKANSKA have been doing in partnership with Arup and Forest City to develop Brooklyn in New York.

The joint venture put in $12million in developing a factory to build modular housing to form part of high rise developments in the Brooklyn dock’s area. 80% of effort offsite in the factory and then 20% on the construction (assembly) site. Building offsite was the only feasible option here as there was very little space available on the tight building area available.

The photographs below nicely illustrate the designs progressing, the sequencing in the factory and then the assemblies being lifted onto the structure. Also fascinating was the extremely tight standards and regulations that come from building high-rise in New York. The building must be able to stand 8 on the Richter Scale – 200 mile an hour hurricanes and have a progressive collapse sequence.
The build-offsite and assemble process
The factory layout
'Made in Brooklyn' - the assemblies get lifted onto the structure
Here is a video of a factory tour I found on youtube below and link to the SKANSKA presentation.

The next thinkBIM is July. Looking forward to it already.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The NBS BIM Ecosystem

This week I spoke at ecobuild about BIM through the RIBA Plan of Work. Our marketing material was around the phrase The NBS BIM Ecosystem. In this blog post I give a summary of what this means and what my presentation demonstrated.
What is the 'NBS BIM eco-system'?
1. Preparation and Brief
Stage 1 of the RIBA Plan of Work is Preparation and Brief. The associated RIBA guidance details a number of key tasks that should be undertaken at this stage prior to the design commencing. One key task is that the ‘Project lead’ begins to develop the ‘Design Responsibility Matrix including Information Exchanges’ with the ‘Lead designer’.

This matrix details WHAT needs to be designed by WHO and WHEN the information is required. In the example below, City Centre Architects have been given the responsibility to design the rooflight systems for a project at RIBA stage 3 ‘Developed Design’. The level of development of this design is defined as a ‘performance specification’ and 1:100 drawings as exported from a model.
User the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 to collaborate and prepare for the project
Developing this matrix across all of the disciplines on the project gives a firm foundation for the design stages of the project to commence. Each party understands what they have responsibility for and how these designs must develop.

Note – The RIBA Plan of Work and associated ‘Toolbox’ may be downloaded for free at:
The associated guidance publications may be bought from:

2. Specification
The NBS Create specification software can then be used to develop your specification through the design stages of a project. It can be used to develop the right level of information as detailed in the Design Responsibility Matrix. For each system the user may specify (a) an outline description, (b) the system in terms of its performance, (c) generic specifications for the products that make up the system and (d) proprietary specifications for the products that make up the system.

Libraries are available for architecture, structural engineering, service engineering and landscape architecture. So all disciplines can work on their specifications and provide information in a constant standard format as described previously in the preparation and brief stage. Some screenshots below demonstrate the development of specification information:
A. A simple description of design intent for a system

B. A specification covering the performance of the system
C. A generic specification covering the products that form the system (no manufacturer specified)
D. A specification where the manufacturer, product reference and product options are specified
Note – For more information on purchasing NBS Create, please see below. Not shown in the screenshots are the clauses for execution, system completion and project management/contract prelims:

3. Drawings and schedules
When generating coordinated drawings and schedules from a modelling tool the National BIM Library can be used as a free resource of standardised BIM objects.

The National BIM Library objects come with different levels of detail in terms of geometry, standardised property sets (IFC, COBie, etc…) and functional parametric behaviour.

So in parallel to the specification development, the design model can be developed using the appropriate objects for the appropriate stage of the design. Some screenshots below demonstrate this:
Low level of information - but a indication of  typical clearance zones to help with space planning.
Generic objects with empty properties that can be used for scheduling and analysis
Manufacturer objects with properties with values - example shown Assa Abloy
Drag and drop objects directly into the model - examples shown Dyson and Dolphin
Note – to download BIM objects for free please visit:

4. Coordination of project information
Drawings and schedules may be coordinated using a BIM design tool. Between the disciplines, individual models may be federated to eliminate clashes and help programme the work. In addition to this, the specification information and the information in the model may be coordinated using the free NBS plug-ins.

NBS plug-ins are available for ArchiCAD, Revit and Vectorworks. The screenshots below show some of the coordination functionality for the NBS Plug-in for Revit.

Generate an outline specification in NBS Create directly from Autodesk Revit
Annotate and view clauses directly from the linked specification
Generate a report that shows coordination issues and provides support in correcting these
Note – to find out more about the free plug-ins for ArchiCAD, Revit and Vectorworks visit:

So hopefully that explains a little more about the ‘NBS BIM ecosystem’. For more information see:
...and a more formal article from myself on NBS Create and Level-2 BIM

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Brits Who Built The Modern World - RIBA Exhibition

Today I was at the RIBA and I took the chance to look around the exhibition 'The Brits Who Built The Modern World'. I include a few photographs below of some of the original protoype design models, Also below is the trailer to the accompanying BBC Four documentary (search on youtube and you will be able to watch the full episodes).

Free entry at 66 Portland Place London W1B 1AD
1. Hotel Lagos, Nigeria
An original visualisation by Seifert + Partners of the hotel..

2. Centre Pompidou
Richard Rogers -

3. Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank
Foster and Partners -,_Hong_Kong

4. Reichstag, New German Parliament

5. Lunar habitation modelling
Fosters and Partners -

6. Wuxi Shopping Mall

7. MCA Pune Cricket Stadium model 
Hopkins Architects -,_Pune

8. Fisht Olympic Stadium, Russia

9. Torre de Collserola, Spain

Monday, 3 March 2014

BIM at ecobuild 2014

NBS will have an advice pod in the "Building Performance and BIM" content zone at ecobuild 2014 this week. Find our stand at N140/239.

We also have speakers each day at the BIM Tech Theatre (N132). The full schedule for the BIM Tech Theatre is on the NBS website.
- BIM Tech Theatre Programme

Glancing through the schedule, three sessions from each day that have caught my eye below...

Tuesday 4th March
Wednesday 5th March
Thursday 6th March
  • 11.30am - Stephen Hamil NBS - BIM through the RIBA Plan of Work (edit - time swap to 2.30pm)
  • 1.00pm - Lee Townend Kingspan - BIM there done that?
  • 1.30pm - Ian Chapman NBS - Integrating building information in the supply chain
  • 2.30pm - Stephen Hamil NBS - BIM through the RIBA Plan of Work
I'll be at the NBS stand all day Thursday - please come over and say hello. I'll have my lap top and will be happy to show our latest developments to NBS Create, National BIM Library, RIBA Plan of Work, RIBA Product Selector and any other NBS developments.

Full BIM Tech Theatre Programme

Monday, 24 February 2014

International BIM Report Infographic

As with some of our previous surveys, we've produced an infographic that nicely summarises the findings from our recent NBS International BIM Survey.

Click on the image below to see the report summary and download the free infographic (or indeed the full report).