Friday, 25 September 2020

Manufacturer product data and standards

Su Butcher who runs the Just Practicing consultancy - - is currently working with the IET to look at how manufacturers can digital structure their product information.

The following report was published and the request for feedback made.

I dropped an email through to Su and also had a quick web meeting to discuss ideas. She mentioned that I should share my thoughts, so here we go...

A. The general principles

I think there is no doubt that the construction industry needs to do more in terms of adopting digital. So any discussions that are out there encouraging this are good discussions to have.

You only need to look at websites like RightMove or AutoTrader to see how much easier it is sourcing house or car information if you can digitalise and move into the cloud. Equally, where data structures can be openly agreed then even greater efficiencies are possible. Search for cinema times on Google or Microsoft Bing for example to see the data results being fed immediately back from different commercial outlets.

There is no doubt, we need to start harnessing the power of digital more across construction.

B. Declaring performance and third party certification

I thought the report itself could have been a little clearer with respect to third party certification. It sometimes talked about certifying physical product characteristics and at other times it was looking at certifying data structures. Looking at physical characteristics first, there are broadly three steps here when describing a product.

How secure is this door?

(Quick example picked - so apologies if this isn't technical perfect, it's just to illustrate principles)

  1. Marketing information
    Example: The ABC Security Doorset meets all of your security needs!

  2. Self declaration against national/international standards
    Example: The strength and durability of the ABC Security Doorset is Class 3-4 to BS EN 1192.
    (CE Marks are examples of this)

  3. Third party certification against national/international standards
    Example: The BRE Redbook LPS test certificate confirms that the strength and durability of the ABC Security Doorset is Class 3-4 to BS EN 1192.

Certifying digital data structures is a different thing. The BS EN ISO 23386 and 23387 standards do a great job of explaining the framework that should be followed to actually digitally model product information such as the information above.

It covers concepts such as the property 'strength and durability' should have a link to the standard that defines the testing method (say BS EN 1192). Then what the property value is as a measure and a unit or whether there is a defined enumerated list of values etc... 

An interesting side topic here is whether the same physical door has the same digital information in different countries. In the above example, in France or Germany the data may simply be a translation of languages (as the standard is a BS EN). This is great as a manufacturer can get a product tested once, declare the information and sell into many countries.

But in Australia, the standards defining doors are different, so the the information could be Security classification G0, G1, G2 to AS/NZ 2343. So the same concept of 'security' - but completely different terminology and measurement rules. So that same physical door would have different digital data. The doors coming out of the factory heading for Australia would be stamped with different information and any landing page on the web would show country specific info.

The report pulled together by Su looks at whether there will be third party certification for the digital structures to the 23386/23387 framework. It's certainly an interesting topic.

C. Agreeing on digital structures and file formats

Finally, the report looks at whether manufacturers require further support from industry bodies who could manage a governance process to develop templates to assist manufacturers to produce standardized information. Do the research once and then share with the industry.

There have been a number of initiatives over the years (the first I remember was hearing about the buildingSMART DataDictionary project back almost 20 years ago) - there have been others to - to try and do something similar. Looking in at these initiatives there always seems to be tension between developing a commercial model to run and maintain the services and keep it current or whether it is government funded and largely run by expert volunteers.

As one person said at today's review meeting, 'the market will decide where this all goes'. I think that is right - digital is not going away!

But certainly good to keep the conversation going.

For those interested to see a little more what we are doing in this field at NBS, please read the following article:

Thursday, 24 September 2020

NBS usage by smaller practices

Up until now the majority of NBS Chorus case studies have been featuring larger practices. Practices such as Maber, Ryder, AHMM, BDP, Franklin Ellis... large practices working on big projects.

However, since the launch of NBS Chorus Small Works a few months ago, we're now seeing smaller practices use this tailored package to make it work for them.

The Small Works version of Chorus makes use of a selection of the CAWS work sections from the trusted minor works and intermediate SpecWriter/Building libraries. Perfect for works of a less complex nature, but utilising all of the power of the Chorus software platform. You might not be able to write a performance spec for a curtain walling or green roof package whilst on a design and build project - but most small projects don't need these.

Our small works case study features the practice J Foster. Find out more about J Foster's experience in the full case study at the URL below. Some selected screengrabs and quotes in this blog post.

A list of work sections with pre-written specification clauses and guidance
Specifying manufacturer products prior to tender

A published PDF record of the various revisions of the specification

Manipulating the content to produce a priceable spreadsheet with highlighted items

Integrating the specification with 3D model to ensure all information is coordinated
Issuing drawings and schedules knowing they are fully coordinated with specification

Please read the full case study and listen to the interview on youtube.

...and to finish with a couple of quotes:

Working on a Mac
"The way I work, is that there is a desktop PC in the studio and a Mac at home and I have been able to work pretty fluidly and seamlessly between the two. This is a major difference from how I used to work with NBS Building which was PC based and work could only be carried out in the studio space."

How a good specification can be more important for a small practice than large
"For small practices, although the jobs are smaller, there is a lot more risk as you are doing a lot more yourself. So what I learned from when I worked at a big practice is the true power and risk reduction through management of a project through a specification. For a small practice environment it’s even more crucial. It is your safety net, it allows you to deliver projects to a level of quality whilst protecting yourself. Making sure everything is included and priced."

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