Thursday, 13 August 2020

The importance of specification

 At NBS we regularly preach about the importance of specification.

In addition to articles like the one above, I think this tweet tells the story of why specifications are vital.

I think the photographs and the selected comments tell the full story.

A 3D model may look nice. It may help generate drawings. It may help with clash detection. But...

...if it's not linked to a robust specification that defines:

A. Product quality

B. Execution

C. Verification and submittals

...then you risk getting poor outcomes. And poor outcomes may be a lot worse than aesthetic issues such as stone-effect polystyrene falling off your block work.

10 reasons why specifications are vital:

Find out more about writing specifications with NBS Chorus:

Credit to: @peakay81 for in the tweet I took the screengrab from.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Podcast interview

Rob Charlton CEO of Space Group has been running a series of lockdown podcasts with people he thinks have interesting stories in the construction technology scene.

It was nice that he asked me in for a chat to help launch the series. Click below to listen to our conversation...

The discussion covers...

  • A little on my background - what I studied, how I got into developing construction technology
    From Wallsend to Durham Uni to the Old Post Office
  • A look back at the early days of the first software from NBS
    Working under Prof Steve Lockley in a start up uni spin out and delivering software to Richard Waterhouse at NBS
  • A look back at the last ten years where BIM really took off in the UK and around the world
    From the government BIM mandate to presenting to audiences in Las Vegas, Melbourne and Doha
  • What our vision is at NBS - where do we want to go?
    To create the best construction industry information platform - and take it global
With Rob also being a bit of a north east football fan, there is also a bit of reminiscing about Newcastle United and Kevin Keegan - but you can skip those bits ;)

Delighted to win the product of the year award for NBS Chorus at BIM Show Live 2020
Asking the questions - Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group

Friday, 5 June 2020

NBS BIM Report 2020

The 10th Annual NBS BIM Report is now live and free to download:

Over 1,000 participants gave their views and the survey was distributed by many leading organizations in the UK construction industry

NBS BIM Report 2020

As always, the findings are of real interest. A couple of items of note below that I thought worth taking screenshots of.

Over 70% say they are aware of and using BIM on projects. But then we are always asked each year - but what does this mean? Around 2/3rds of these do define 'using BIM' as following the standards (and not just 3D modelling). We break this down further in the survey to look at which aspects of the standards are being followed (CDE usage, naming standards, classification etc...) - all interesting stuff.
Another question we are quite often asked is whether BIM is happening in the private sector or whether it is just a public Government mandate thing. The stats show that, if anything, it is slightly more common now on private sector projects. So it may have originally been Government-led - but it's reasonably well spread now.
In addition to the findings, the articles from external experts are again excellent. A couple of screenshots from these below...

So, hopefully this post makes you want to know more. Download it using the link below...

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

NBS Source

At NBS, we are delighted to announce the launch of NBS Source, our new platform for manufacturer product information:

We have been working extremely hard at NBS over recent years to simplify our offerings and to fully move to the cloud. We now have three information platforms:

The information platform for the construction industry

1. The launch of Source:

We believe that Source is the best location to discover information about manufacturer product information throughout the project timeline. From case studies and brochures when preparing for a project, to digital objects and specifications when designing, through to manuals and certifications when assembling handover information.

Five great features for launch include...

1.1 Filters and comparisons
We've made it easier to find the product that meets your requirements...
Searching for 'window', then filtering to show composite windows from Velfac that have digital objects

Selecting three products to compare

Comparing the technical features of the selected products 
1.2 Linked information
By pulling all of the content from RIBA Product Selector, the NBS BIM Library and NBS Plus together we are connecting all of this content to make it easier to discover...
Discover a PDF brochure or case study, then jump to the technical data about the relevant products
1.3 Uniclass 2015
The primary classification system for the site is Uniclass 2015. So all products are categorised by their TE or Ss or Pr code.
Viewing insulated panels within the context of the 'sibling' classifications
Using the Uniclass terminology and structure - but with the codes in the background
1.4 Search suggestions
An innovative search interface within a responsive modern web platform
As you type your third letter, search categories, manufacturers and products are suggested

...and if you know the product you want, just type in its reference
1.5 Permalinks
Easy to use, very short hyperlinks, that can be used in emails, objects, QR codes... anywhere... that will always return to the NBS Source.
For any item on the site - click to get the permalink
Try this particular permalink below...

Or scan this QR code with your phone:

2. Enhanced data:

Now, in May 2020, all of the existing RIBA Product Selector, NBS Plus and NBS BIM Library has been ported across. The next stage is now to make the content even better.

At the point of renewal, we will be enhancing all of our manufacturers' content. In particular...

2.1 Certification
Our focus groups, The Hackitt Report, our joint research with the CPA all clearly stated that manufacturers should display their third party certification that verifies their declared performance.

Making this certification more visible is a priority for us going forward...
Third party certification will be a primary search filter (left of screen)
2.2 Alignment to spec
We will be standardized the specification content - so that Source is a mirror of Chorus
Each manufacturer product's specification will be aligned to the NBS specification clause definitions
2.3 Sustainability
In addition to third party certification, our focus groups have clearly told us that the industry needs better quality sustainability information. Even without focus groups, it is clear that this is a global challenge that government and the industry are giving real focus.

To support the industry, we will be asking all of our manufacturers to provide us with the following information for their products:

  • Relevant third party certification (WRAS, EPD, FSC...)
  • Recycled content
  • Recyclability guidance
  • Embodied carbon
  • Contains Red List materials
  • Country of origin

So, we're really pleased to announce the launch - and we're also really pleased with the road map we have committed to ahead. Our vision is to be the information platform for the global construction industry. With Chorus, Source and The Construction Information Service we believe we have the foundations to achieve this.

3. Further reading:

I have written a few articles for the NBS website to accompany the launch of Source. Check them out below...

The launch of NBS Source
A bit of a 'long read' that goes through the same structure as our launch event presentation

NBS Source and Industry Standards
A more technical article:

But enough words, have an play with the platform now at:

Manufacturers that want to be part of Source, find out more at:

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Short codes for similar system types

At NBS recently, we've been doing quite a few webinars. One of the most frequently asked questions has been about how practices are using codes to group similar types of systems together.

For example, if your project has 5 of 6 different floor covering systems, then giving each of these a code such as FCS001, FCS002, FCS003 etc... so these codes can be used in planning sheets, annotations, schedules etc...

Examples of this are shown below...
Planning the specification and drawings

Annotating drawings from a linked model and specification
So to get further feedback, I posted a request within our NBS Chorus ideas forum.
(to follow link you need NBS ID linked to Chorus subscription)
Chorus ideas forum

Request for contributions
It was great to then see some of our subscribers passing their codes to us to create a 'crowd sourced' Google Sheet. Thanks to Patrick C from AHMM for the list below...

Architectural codes
Lewis from Hydrock then pointed me in the direction of Carl from CIBSE who provided more...
Building services codes
It's an interesting subject. I personally really like the balance between Uniclass 2015 for the in-depth classification, but then an accompanying short code (a bit like a car registration plate) for packaging items and quickly verbally referring to a specific type.

Please keep the feedback coming in. Message me on Twitter or drop me an email into NBS.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Coordinated Project Information - 1987

Found this on youtube.

Promotional video from CPIC (Coordinate Project Information Committee) back in 1987.

The members of CPIC contributed towards publications such as BS 1192 and then the PAS 1192 series. They also published versions of Uniclass for many years.

This video below was put together by BRE, found by Keith Snook in the archives, and uploaded to the web by Stuart Chalmers...

A section worth watching is at 19:17 with the NBS binders visible on the table...
NBS Binders bottom right - huge set of paper drawings centre screen

Essential publications for every office library

Strike out the clauses not needed with a pen and complete the clauses relevant to the project 

Thursday, 19 March 2020

From the archives - Press articles on NBS from 1974

I got a nice email from Levitt Bernstein's Andy Jobling yesterday, he'd found some of the very first reviews of NBS from the Architects' Journal from back in 1974. Since I started working on developing NBS in 1999 Andy has always been one of those that has been hugely supportive with ideas on our customer groups and also one-to-one sessions. So a big thanks to Andy for sending this through.

Click the scans below to see them at a larger size.

10th July 1974 - Architects' Journal
Some interesting points from the first article:
  • An interesting debate over specification responsibility - architect or quantity surveyor?
  • Drawings, specifications, bills and schedules were not coordinated adequately
  • Controversary on classification :) - SMM or CI/SfB?
  • Computers mentioned - but generally 'architect makes amends to clauses and hands it to a secretary to type the clause in full'
  • Stressing that specification needs to be done by a professional - Modify NBS 'wisely rather than wilfully'.
  • Mentions of names from the past - Tony Allott (Technical Director of NBS Ltd) and Stuart Hendy (FaulknerBrown Architects) - notably FaulknerBrown's are still NBS users nearly 50 years later!
  • Early compters do not reduce the need for sound judgements - but do have the advantage of improving the speed and accuracy.
  • Using NBS on computer for a large job was estimated to have cost £1,000 - but this included a cost of 40p a page to print out!!!
  • Manufacturers should 'produce literature consistent with NBS'
  • Using NBS 'makes the job architect think'
  • 'It takes some initial courage and effort...but after that... its benefits are great' :)

31st July 1974 - Architects' Journal
And then a few weeks later.
  • Reflecting on the initial need for NBS - 'In 1968 the Economic Development Council for Building concluded that the general standard of building specification needed improvement, and that wide use of a national library of specification clauses would increase productivity and facilitate communication between the professions, the contractors and other limbs of the industry.'
  • This review is from two quantity surveyors from BDP. As with FaulknerBrown, BDP have been long-time NBS users.
  • A set of exemplar documentation from real projects had been published and reviewed.
  • A focus on drawing standards, referencing the RIBA Project Manual and the BRE paper 18/73.
  • More confusion between classification systems SMM vs CI/SfB.
  • 'Education an architect towards better specification writing is... fundamental'

A few other 'from the archive' blog posts below for those interested in this sort of thing...

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Moving from NBS Building to NBS Chorus

As part of a recent webinar, I got the chance to ask an NBS user, Nick Greenwood from Maber Architects, about how their experience has been moving from NBS Building to NBS Chorus.

This ten minute sequence from the full webinar has been extracted and can be watched as a youtube video below...

If you only have a couple of minutes free, you can jump to the questions at the following timings... as Nick answers, he shows software (NBS and ArchiCAD) on his machine and illustrates his answers.

  • 1:20 - What are you opinions on structuring specifications by CAWS or Uniclass 2015?
  • 4:06 - How do you approach specifying differently whether specifying traditionally or writing a performance spec for a contractor design portion?
  • 5:53 - How do you add manufacturer information to your specifications?
  • 7:20 - How do you make sure that the specification and model have coordinated information?
  • 8:27 - How do you use specification information within schedules?
  • 9:40 - What have your first experiences been like with NBS Chorus?
  • 10:50 - How do you share specification best practice across Maber Architects?
To watch the full webinar, on demand, see the link below: