Thursday, 19 October 2017

PlanBEE - NBS Tech Experience

At NBS we are part of the PlanBEE initiative in the North East. This is an intense higher apprenticeship programme, spending four month spells with the industry’s leading companies, getting on and off the job training and earning from day one. It is a fast track to graduation, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity.
Collaboration from some of the largest AEC companies in the North East
As part of the four month experience at NBS, each student has a month in our BIM content team, our specification content team, our web team and also our tech team. I had the pleasure of putting together our tech programme and also mentoring the first of our PlanBEE students Jodie.
Our first two PlanBEE students
The tech month has four parts - the first three build up the basic skills needed to work on a real life industry problem and try and solve it using technology.

Week 1 - Web skills
With the help of the excellent w3schools website and Microsoft Visual Studio Community Edition the student learns basic web programming. Topics such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, JSON and XML are studied.
Loading data stored in XML into a website using AJAX
Week 2 - Desktop skills
To keep things simple on the desktop programming side, VBA within Microsoft Excel is taught to introduce the basics such as variables, loops, conditions, functions, user forms etc... The excellent Home and Learn website gives great training exercises.

As a data set to play with, Uniclass 2015 tables are provided.

Week 3 - Quality assurance
In week three, the student is introduced more to the NBS product range and spends a week in the QA team exploring and testing desktop and web solutions that are being updated for our customers. A lot of this is basic 'user acceptance testing' but there is also a little bit of time spent learning how to write automated testing.
Automated testing
Week 4 - Project
The project week is a chance for the student to put the skills into practice. They are given a pre-written web application which has three panels. The central model contains a 3D model of a building. The left hand panel allows objects in the model to be selected by GUID. The right hand panel receives events from the objects that are selected. The Autodesk Forge Viewer is used for the 3D model viewing.
The starting application
Jodie has just completed her tech month - so some screenshots from what she did in project week below...

The Challenge - Prototype a website that allows the facility manager to view and record the water temperatures for all hot and cold water taps in the NBS Old Post Office Building

Interview and video Mick, our maintenance guy, on how he takes and records the monthly readings

Put a plan together for the week (four day week! College on Monday)

Sketch design on the back of an envelope what the solution will look like

Start styling and laying out the test on the basic application

Add properties (using the NBS BIM Object Standard!) to a cube that will represent the tap
The SerialNumber property from the COBie PSet was used for the GUID

Place the cubes in the building - a beautiful representation of our lovely taps

Upload the new model to the website that has been created

Click on a tap to see where it is in the building, what the maintenance data is and instructions on how to maintain each month
So in a month, without much previous coding experience, I was amazed at what Jodie managed to put together. We'll have a student into the tech experience every two months now, and each one will be mentored by one of my colleagues at NBS. Hopefully some of these students will be inspired by what we do and will start successful careers in our industry.

From a BIM point of view, it's a simple example, but it shows how well-structured data from a common standard can be used to locate and use model data in FM. Some of the information is in the model (unique ID, classification, manufacturer name, description etc...) - some of this information is external to the model (photo, youtube video, maintenance records etc...). The end user can then access all of this connected information in a web application and use the 3D model to provide context.

To find out more about PlanBEE please visit:

A special mention to Ryder Architecture who started off this initiative:

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Digital Construction Week 2017 - Day One

Those of you that follow my blog know I like doing a review of the day whenever I am at a conference. So here goes the review of day one at Digital Construction Week 2017...

...I noted down an enormous amount of content - so in an attempt to keep it reasonably brief, mainly photos and bullet points below.

1. Mark Bew, Digital Built Britain
Mark reflected back on the Level 2 journey and looked forward to the Digital Built Britain programme. The Digital Built Britain slide deck now has some new impressive graphics - some of these are shown below...
Where can savings/improved outcomes be made?
Mark took time to reflect on how the British standards around BIM are now being promoted and adopted around the world.The ISO 19650 initiative, the EU client guide and the MoUs with government's around the world are all evidence that the UK is supporting others through leadership and also making it easier for UK companies to operate internationally.
How BIM Level-2 standards are now moving world-wide
...and finally, another slide demonstrating how things can get better - and going digital can only help.
Where the problems/opportunities are
2. Terry Stocks, Digital Built Britain
Terry followed Mark and concentrated on the message of how we must all get behind BIM Level 2 and make it business as ususal.

There must be a big focus around supporting clients on how to procure well-structured data in addition to the physical asset itself.

Terry promoted the MofJ documentation that is now publically available:
- MofJ guide documents for employers
The Productivity Opportunity
The final call to action was for clients to read the Govermnet 'What you need to know' guide:

3. Autodesk
Mike Haley, Head of Machine Intelligence at Autodesk showed off some of the latest emerging technologies.

Data is the new oil. The five biggest companies in the world are now digital data companies.

A couple of links to follow below:

There was also a look at how Google Maps has used millions of humans around the world to read signs (letters and numbers) for them, so the machine could be trained to instantly recognise letters and numbers better than humans.

And this on a day when a new Google computer has beaten a human 100-0 at AlphaGo after only three days of training by itself.

4. Smart Cities
Smart Cities were a big theme of the conference.

Gavin Summerson from BSI presented all of the new standards around Smart Cities.
The BSI Smart Cities standards
NBS Paul Swaddle also looked at Smart Cities and focused on the data security considerations and the guidance that can help project teams be security conscious.
NBS Paul Swaddle talks smart cities and data security considerations
5. Soluis and Spurs
Soluis have done a number of promotional videos for NBS over the years.

But their case study on what they have produced for Tottenham Hotspur in terms of helping stakeholders understand the designs and vision for their new stadium is absolutely stunning.
Soluis and Spurs new stadium
The video below shows off the work...

6. Google and Balfour Beatty
Balfour Beatty showed off how they have invested and gambled in innovative technology to solve internal challenges.

They called in the Google Flux team to do a three day hackathon around four key challenges they had never managed to solve. They were that impressed that all four projects were commissioned and these stories were showcased.
Balfour Beatty get challenged to a game of pool at Google's offices
...and three months later they have an app telling them where all of their vehicles are

7. HP goes to Mars
HP presented two pretty cool competitions with some amazing results.

The first was around modelling the Bank of England building from the original 17th century drawings:

The second was around modelling a city on Mars:

Both well worth a look at!
Nevermind Level 2 BIM, let's design a new city for 1 million people... on Mars

8. Bryden Wood
I've always been impressed by the work from Bryden Wood.

In the final presentation of the day I attended they showcased how they help clients with Design for Manufacturing and Assembly through consultancy and BIM object creation.
Where the 49% of waste goes (click for bigger)

A BIM library tailor made for a client
Two free downloads accompany this work that I may blog about in the coming weeks...

If you are a classification-fan then the series of pages on Uniclass 2015 in the second of these downloads is fantastic. Showing how each table can be used to classify items of different scale using the appropriate table (from complex, to activity, to space etc... down to products). And then showing how assets can be analysed and grouped by classification - fantastic stuff!
Best Uniclass 2015 case study ever

Finally, a couple of videos I recorded from the exhibition stands.

Me getting stuffed off a robot at Jenga :)

Me finalising the colour options on my NBS company car

...and a big shout out to Invest In Ireland for hosting the reception at the Irish Embassy the night before. Great hospitality!
A welcome from the Ambassador and then a Minister!
Sadly, no Ferrero Rocher :( - but the disappointment more than made up for in liquid alternatives

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Specifying manufacturer products

The free-to-download sample NBS specifications have been updated on our website to include manufacturer information:

For each discipline there is now has an example where the performance of the system  has been specified to inform contractor's design and also an example where a system has been fully specified including a selection of manufacturer products.

The screenshots below show how this works in the NBS software using the 'NBS Plus' manufacturer library and also the final output.

For each product clause in NBS the manufacturer selection may be either left to Contractor's Selection or a specific manufacturer and product reference may be specified.

In the Landscape example, the manufacturer Charcon is selected
Once a manufacturer product is specified, the specification options for that particular product are provided within the software. Accompanying guidance is provided in the NBS Plus window to the right.
In the Services example, specification choices are made from the Schneider Electric catalogue
At any time, a report of all manufacturer selections may be generated. This can be generated within the software or published to PDF.
Within NBS Create there is a report of every manufacturer product specified
The specification information is very well structured and can be exported digitally. However, on most projects, a well-presented PDF or print out in the company brand is typically needed.
Example 'print out' from the Structures example

The case study from the NBS Old Post Office Building is a good example of NBS Plus in action on a real project:
Real-life 'NBS Plus' content used in the specification for the NBS Old Post Office Building 

Download the sample NBS specifications to learn more about the different methods of specifying depending on design responsibility:

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Photo to 3D

There is technology being used currently the construction industry to take a set of arial 2D photographs and turn this into a 3D model.

On a similar subject, a colleague at NBS pointed me at the following website which constructs a 3D face from a 2D photograph.

It's pretty clever stuff - and easy to play around with for free if you have a spare two minutes.

Select a pre-loaded example - or upload a face of your own

Not just a 2D face

...but spin it around and it's an OBJ file created with intelligence about the depth of face features
A little creepy, but give it a try...

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Watch the presentations from Autodesk University London

One things Autodesk University do extremely well is post videos of the classes online for the wider global community to benefit from.

It's really nice to see the two classes I was involved with at AU London are now online.

If you are interested in them, please click below to watch...

Introducing Autodesk Forge and its role in BIM workflows: A success story with NBS
Learn about what the Autodesk Forge platform is capable of and how you can benefit from it. In this session Brian Roepke will introduce some of the features within Forge and explain how this powerful, cloud-based software platform can be the build block for your next tool or product. Dr Stephen Hamil will then demonstrate how NBS have utilized the power of Forge to allow coordinated models and specifications to be viewed through the web browser. Live demonstrations of practical customer examples will also be shown from UK architecture and engineering BIM projects.
Class 1 - Presenting cloud opportunities with Autodesk and BDP
Practical examples of how to develop and coordinate information on a BIM project
This class will present how project teams can collaborate to develop information on a BIM project. We will initially look at setting up a plan of work to give clarity on which team members are delivering what information and when. Following this we will look at how designers can develop their designs using standardised BIM objects in Revit. Practical examples will then be given on how to link these objects digitally to the associated specification to better coordinate this information and reduce risk. We will finish by exploring the role of the cloud and big data in future workflows and show practical examples of how the Forge platform can accelerate this. Stephen was part of the team that developed the UK government’s BIM Level 2 standards and tools. As director of research and innovation at NBS, he has been fundamental in developing the products that led to NBS being the first UK Autodesk Solution Associate in 2016.
Class 2 - looking at the BIM workflow
To browse all of the AU Online content click below:

Friday, 14 July 2017

Sample specifications from NBS

When writing a specification it can be a little daunting seeing a blank screen and wondering where to start.

So, in a further improvement to our online support material there are now a number of sample specifications available to download from our website. There are a number of sample specifications for:
  • Project management (roles and definitions)
  • Architecture (door and window systems)
  • Electrical engineering services (low voltage system)
  • Mechanical engineering services (heating systems)
  • Structural engineer (piling and pilcap systems)
  • Landscape architecture (paving system)
Each download comes with a guide from the individual NBS Technical Author who writes and maintains the content. The specifications themselves can be opened in Adobe Reader or NBS Create.

The structure of each specification is consistent across each of the disciplines showing what can be achieved when the whole project team used NBS.

Some screen captures below:
Commentary from each NBS technical author

Samplle full specification for a doorset system
Sample performance specification for a traffic kerb system
All of the downloads are free - so please have a look at them at:

Thursday, 13 July 2017

EU BIM Handbook

This EU BIM Handbook has been published and may be downloaded for free from:

The drivers for BIM across europe are essentially the same as those in the UK - better information management allowing for more informed decisions that will positively impact the environment, society, resource availability and economic performance.

Those defining policy around public procurement can greatly influence BIM adoption in their region.

The handbook is a joint effort from over twenty european countries. However, in the UK, Mark Bew, Adam Matthews, Barry Blackwell and Richard Lane have all played a big effort here.

The handbook is written in plain language (in English - but presume translations will follow) and has three main sections: 1. Introduction, 2. General guidance and 3. Action recommendations.

1. Introduction
This looks at the business case for BIM and how the handbook can be a central reference point for the European public sector. The basic idea is that by following the guidance and recommendations then digital capacity can grow, a consistent way of working can be developed and behaviours can be changed through communicating the value.

2. General guidance
Section 2 goes into further depth into the business case for BIM. In particular, there is a good section on the value proposition.
Value proposition
The four most important strategic areas are identified:
Strategic focus
...and keeping the theme of 'four'... four core definition areas are highlighted:
Definition areas
3. Action recommendations
Following the guidance chapter, clear action recommendations are given at both a strategic level and an implementation level. Against each recommendation there are actions that are either 'encouraged', 'recommended' or 'highly recommended'.
Example recommendation
The influence of the UK's experience from recent years is there to be seen. Whether this is around communicating the strategy, funding and forming a stewardship team, engaging with industry and institutes, developing a framework for the technical process, use standards for classification and information exchange, develop an educational framework, measure progress against clear goals, provide tools and templates for the development of key documentation etc...

The Handbook also contains a number of case studies from across europe highlighting successes.

At 84 pages in length the handbook it seems a little daunting at first glance, but it is laid out extremely well with a mix of text, illustrations and tables - it is a really good easy read for anyone working in this field.

Download now for free and share with your colleagues :) :

Saturday, 1 July 2017

parkrun UK

Today I completed the 14th of the 14 parkrun's that surround Durham.  A quick blog post to say what an absolutely amazing initiative I think parkrun is.

It's completely free, it's run by volunteers in beautiful open spaces around the country and it has a great sense of community whether you are a top club athlete or a six year old wanting to jog/walk around a 5km route with their grandparent.
All fourteen of the parkruns surrounding Durham - Done
After completing the 14th of these local runs, I though I'd look back at my phone for photographs...
Whitley Bay in the rain - keeping pace with my little boy
Christmas Eve - 9am - Chester le Street

The National Trust owned Gibside Hall near Rowlands Gill
The hottest of June mornings in Costa-del-Hartlepool

Almost as hot in South Shields the following week

Newcastle Town Moor and the iconic Wylam Brewery
Sunny Waaaaalllllsend
Saltwell Park Gateshead

My hometown course in Durham running just behind my little girl

...and putting a bit back through volunteering once or twice
The volunteers get ready on at Durham for the junior parkrun
34 runs now across 18 different locations

In the rain at Prudhoe
So what is next? I think I may now need to spread the net and try out the runs at Druridge Bay further north and the likes of Northallerton further south.

So, if you like sport or just want to keep fit - I strongly recommend you try out a parkrun near you: