Friday, 14 September 2018

CanBIM Toronto 2018

Last year NBS acquired Digicon, the leading specification company in Canada.

Now we have this Digicon specification content available in our NBS Chorus specification platform.

Next week I'll be at the CanBIM conference in Toronto speaking about BIM and Smart Cities and also exhibiting NBS Chorus and Natitonal BIM Library. I'll also be with David Watson President of Digicon.

If you are based in Toronto, interested in specification/information management and want to catch up - please drop me an email through:
Stephen.Hamil [at]


Agenda for the main speaker day
I'll be tweeting from Toronto when doing customer visits and also from the conference from @StephenHamilNBS

Friday, 7 September 2018

Be specific

One of the topics that my colleague Dave Watson covered at the recent BiLT North America conference was the importance of language when writing construction documentation.

(This was actually a topic that had stuck in my mind after hearing John Gelder present on it back in 1999 as part of a set of NBS Education modules.)

The article on our website is below:

And there is a print-out-and-keep infographic for those that want to either print out and stick on the coffee room wall or email to colleagues:

Seven essential tips when writing specifications.

Of course master specification systems, such as NBS, can help everyone across an office or on a project produce documentation that follows these principles. The template content provided follows these principles - in addition, the software guides/enforces the user to maintain the structure when making a specification project specific.

...and what is the alternative? I saw this amusing poster on Twitter the other day...
(Not sure who originally did this - but happy to credit if someone drops me an email)

Find out more about our NBS specification products below:

Friday, 10 August 2018

Creating BIM Objects to International Standards

This blog post includes a few extracts from my BiLT NA presentation at St Louis, USA. Rather than a printed 'hand-out' this is a brief summary with hyperlinks to useful links and some of the video sequences from the live examples...

1. The need for standardization
Standardization allows for efficiencies and reduced risk. The illustration below shows a number of examples of where geometry has been standardized (bricks, blocks, opening sizes or ceiling tiles, air conditioning units, lighting) and where technology has been standardized (HTML, CSS, Scripting in websites. The earliest examples of standardization are believed to be from the Indus Valley civilization when weights were used for trading.
Improve efficiencies and lower risks through standardization
The history of NBS has been around standardization, more specifically around standardization of specification structures in the UK. NBS was formed in 1973 around an industry need for this and has played a leading role in the Uniclass initiative over the decades.

When the UK Government BIM mandate was announced, process, information exchange and classification was standardized for BIM projects. However, at NBS we believed that there was a gap in the market with respect to standardizing BIM objects. We had been part of the team developing the BS 8541 series, but believed that the industry needed more.

2. Common areas of frustrations
Following a number of customer focus group sessions and practice visits we discovered that there were a number of frustrations around the quality of BIM objects being distributed and used in the industry. An illustration of three of these frustrations are highlighted in the examples below..

Example problem 1 - Badly built objects
Modelling tools such as ArchiCAD and Revit had allowed functionality to be linked to parameters. But many objects broke when these parameters were modified. In the example below, when the generic tank object is modified, the geometry completely breaks.

Example problem 2 - Objects with inconsistent information
BIM is about information in addition to the geometry. However, if care is not spent keeping the information consistent, then it cannot really be utilised for scheduling, material take off, analysis etc... In the example below, two doorsets are shown from the same content source. Immediately inconsistencies are apparent.

Example problem 3 - Objects that are 'over-modelled'
Modelling tools allow the object author to model as much geometry as they wish. Equally, many tools allow for fabrication models to be imported into workflows designed for architecture. The result is objects that have a file size that is far bigger than needed for the purpose. In the example below, every screw-thread and bolt is modelled on an air conditioning system.

3. NBS BIM Object Standard
In order to support the industry, at NBS we developed an easy-to-understand BIM Object Standard. This can be accessed for free at:

This standard was developed in consultation with industry, working with experts in the UK, Australia and Canada. The standard pulls in the best practice from sources such as IFC, COBie, international classification systems and the BS-8541 series. Although the examples provided in this blog post are illustrated using Revit, the standard has been written to be platform independent.

This standard is split into five main sections and examples are provided below from each of these sections:

NBS BIM Object Standard - 1. General requirements
This section covers the use of language, generic or manufacturer identification and IFC class type.

NBS BIM Object Standard - 2. Infomation requirements
This section covers the type/instance properties, naming, IFC and COBie property sets, standard properties and properties to cover certification and environmental credentials.

NBS BIM Object Standard - 3. Geometry requirements
This section looks at the Goldilocks principle of 'just right' - not too much geometry, but enough geometry that it is fit for purpose. An example of too much geometry would be the nuts and bolts on the air conditioning unit. An example of not enough geometry would be wanting to show doors and windows at a particular scale and not showing the correct visuals per the international standard.

NBS BIM Object Standard - 4. Functional requirements
Considerations such as what surface an object should be hosted to, indication of operation and maintenace zones and functionality that doesn't break the object. The example below shows a generic MEP object that assists an engineer when designing around spatial constraints.

NBS BIM Object Standard - 5. Metadata requirements
Considerations around file naming and abbreviations. The example below shows that objects can easily be located when displayed in a list if they are named consistently.

4. Useful resources
This is the object standard that all NBS National BIM Library objects are authored to. This now represents objects from over 300 leading manufacturers and it is increasingly becoming the content creation guide used by practices around the world.

In addition the standard itself, the following links are useful for anyone creating objects.
  1. buildingSMART
    IFC 2x3 and 2x4 schemas are particularly useful for the class types and standardising key performance properties.
  2. BIMForum LOD
    Illustrative examples, mainly around geometry, for typical elements found in the built environment.
  3. BIM Toolkit
    Thousands of LOD and LOI definitions mapped to Uniclass 2015.
    Classifications for use when working to North America standards and practice.
    Classifications for use when working to UK BIM Level 2.
  6. National BIM Library
    Shared parameter files, Revit templates and plug-ins for Revit and ArchiCAD.
  7. National BIM
    1000s of generic and manufacturer objects that may be downloaded for either immediate use on a project, or for a basis of customisation to create an object for a particular purpose.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Producing coordinated project information in a digital world

This blog post includes a few extracts from my BiLT NA presentation at St Louis, USA. Please consider this a digital 'handout' to accompany the class.

1. The need for quality information
My colleague Dave Watson (President Digicon Canada, NBS) presented the first section.

Dave also wrote an article for covering the topic that can be read below:

The first part of this message is one that could pre-date the use of computers. The need for quality information - whether this is the template content-sets that a practice uses to write their technical information - or the final information that is issued out of the office.

Lots of great tips were given, I like the 'seven Cs' of specification writing in particular.
Master specification systems provide template content
The presentation then moved to look at the further benefits that a digital master specification system can bring over attempting to manage specifications using a tool such as Microsoft Word.

I worked with Dave to do an article for on this subject that can be read below:
Digital master spec systems - use the right tool for the job

2. NBS Chorus illustrating good specification practice
At the BiLT NA event, we were launching NBS Chorus, our new cloud-based specification platform. I used the opportunity to demonstrate a number of advantages a modern digital system can bring to information assembly.

2.1 Specification creation
When creating a specification, the user is offered a selection of content-sets. In the example below, it can be seen that content-sets from the UK, Canada and Australia are presented to the user.

2.2 Specification editing
When editing a specification, the user experience has similarities between the content sets. The content can be quickly accessed from the right-hand pane. The specification is edited in the central pane and synchronised guidance is displayed to the right. The differences are with respect the classification and section structure. Uniclass 2015 is the format for UK and Australia and MasterFormat for Canada.

2.3 Specification within other key workflows
The following example demonstrates how NBS Chorus will integrate with other software applications within the BIM workflow. As Chorus is a web platform with an exposed API, it will be relatively easy to embed in other applications and websites to give an improved, more integrated, user experience.

2.4 Formatting well-structured data
The well-structured data within NBS Chorus is preserved when assembling a document for printing/exporting to PDF. In the following example, the navigation pane in the exported output demonstrates how this content can easily be reformatted to present in its most suitable format as tender/contract specification.

2.5 Collaborating in the cloud from any platform
Typically specifications have been written on a Windows desktop machine and then shared as Word or PDF or paper documents. The example below shows how two members of the same team can work collaboratively from different devices - in this example, using Google Chrome on a desktop PC and using Apple Safari on an iPhone.

Find out more...

Further information on NBS Chorus is now available on website. Content sets include specification libraries to Uniclass 2015 for use on projects to UK standards and MasterFormat for use on projects to Canadian standards. We also have a preview library for projects to Australian standards.

Find out more at:

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Discover NBS

We have a number of different events coming up where you can come and hear about some exciting product developments from NBS.

Last week we published our Discover NBS web portal which will provide details on these plans:

Some dates for the diary - either to come and see us in person - or watch out for social media to keep in touch from a far:

  1. BiLT NA - St Louis, USA - 9, 10 and 11th August 2018
    Hear the keynote from our Chief Exec Richard Waterhouse. Classes also from myself on collaborative specification and standardized BIM objects.
    Register for a one-to-one meeting - or register for a class.
  2. CanBIM - Toronto, Canada - 19th and 20th September 2018
    Presentation on collaborative specification and smart cities. Also come to see us at our exhibition stand.
    More information here.
  3. Discover NBS event - London, UK - 25th September 2018
    A review of recent product developments, customer case-studies, networking and a look at the future of NBS.
    Sign up here.
  4. Discover NBS event - Manchester, UK - 2nd October 2018
    A review of recent product developments, customer case-studies, networking and a look at the future of NBS.
    Sign up here.
  5. Discover NBS event - Newcastle, UK - 4th October 2018
    A review of recent product developments, customer case-studies, networking and a look at the future of NBS.
    Sign up here.
  6. Discover NBS event - Edinburgh, UK - 10th October 2018
    A review of recent product developments, customer case-studies, networking and a look at the future of NBS.
    Sign up here.
We'll be publishing lots of accompanying web articles over the coming weeks to support the announcements at BILT NA - keep an eye out for them (and I'll highlight and supplement these on this blog). But some articles already live:

Read how we have been working with a group of customers that deliver projects around the world to understand customer needs around a online specification platform with global content:

Learn more about Dave Watson who is leading the NBS activities in North America:

Find our more at:

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DiscoverNBS

Monday, 16 July 2018

BiLT NA 2018 in St Louis USA

Between August 9-11, NBS will be playing a big part in BiLT NA in St Louis USA.

In 2017 NBS acquired Digicon Information Inc, the market-leading specification company for Canada. Earlier this year, we updated our BIM Object Standard to make it applicable to Canada and we also launched the NBS National BIM Library in Canada.

At St Louis we will be giving an update on both our specification offering and how it will integrate with the BIM content in the model.

I cannot give too much away in this blog post - but we have some very exciting developments to show.

If you are attending BiLT NA, then please come and see us and also add the following sessions to your event calendar:

Thursday 9th August

9.50am - Keynote sponsor address
A chance to hear about what we do at NBS.

3.15pm - Session 1.4
Producing coordinated project information in a digital world
Specifying globally
A presentation from myself and Dave Watson from Digicon Canada. We'll look at information structures for specification and objects. As this is a tech event - it won't be 'death by Powerpoint' -  live demonstrations will be given throughout of our Canadian content within an NBS specification tool, collaboration over the cloud and integration between specification and model.

Friday 10th August

1.30pm - Session 2.3
Creating BIM Objects to International Standards
At NBS we have created objects for over 300 different organisations across the UK, Australia and Canada. These objects have ranged from ceilings to boilers to external furniture - and all objects are to the same content standard.

Again, it'll be me doing the presentation - we'll be steering clear of Powerpoint - and looking at some live demonstrations of how we create BIM objects and how we ensure that these objects are to a quality standard.
Creating quality BIM objects
3.00pm - Session 2.4
BCS Roundtable - The Construction industry needs to standardize its processes and data structures and enable value through the use of digital technologies
We'll be chairing this and will look forward to what delegates opinions are on this topic.

Throughout the event we will also have an exhibition stand and access to a room for one-to-one meetings.

We're really looking forward to meeting lots of people interested in BIM and specifications. If you'd like to chat with us - feel free to reach out to any of the NBS team who will be attending through Twitter or by email:

Please remember you can sign up for these sessions in advance at the BiLT website:

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Come and visit NBS at the Great Exhibition of the North

If you are in Newcastle between now and 9th September 2018, please come and visit NBS as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

We're on the Innovation Trail and we have loads of interactive experiences for 4 to 94 year olds! So if you want to be inspired by the fantastic things happening in the world of architecture, engineering and construction - please pop in and say hello.
On the Innovation Trail
A quick tour of our exhibition below using photographs taken over the first few days...

Our #FutureBuildings trail takes you from the 1860s to the present to the future

A 3D printed model of our NBS building

An Augmented Reality view of some of the best buildings in the North East
Learn more about these showcase buildings and browse them in a 3D viewer at:
Inspiring around six classes of kids from different schools each day

How connected technology and the internet of things is changing the world around us
Watch our connected tech video below:
Whether you are a little kid or a 'big kid' - it's fun to design in 3D
Follow the tutorial below and design a house in less than five minutes using the free educational resource TinkerCAD:
Everyone loves designing using magnets
What isn't always obvious is how many people put the hard work in behind the scenes to make this sort of thing happen
It always starts off with a sketch on the 'back of an envelope'
A pleasure to watch sketches turn into concepts turning into the real thing
So please pop in, bring your families and say 'hello'.

We're open every day 0930-1800 until September 9th.

I'll be volunteering next on Sunday 1st and Sunday 8th July if you want to be shown around.


Friday, 8 June 2018

NBS Create - Latest software enhancements

The May 2018 NBS Create software update has introduced a nice new feature that allows users to search the content of their project specification.

When a job is opened, the new search interface is positioned above the Contents panel.
New search feature
Searching for text within clauses

All products referencing 'BBA' certification
All mentions of prototypes being required.

NBS Create users can download this latest software update from the location below:

As the specification content and library is delivered via web-services into the product, the content is always the latest. But please remember to update your software.

For non-NBS Create users, check out the three minute video below: