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...
https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/national-bim-report-2020

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:
https://source.thenbs.com/

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...
https://nbs.fyi/SUOA0E

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
https://manufacturers.thenbs.com/resources/knowledge/nbs-source-a-new-future-for-manufacturer-product-information

NBS Source and Industry Standards
A more technical article:
https://manufacturers.thenbs.com/resources/knowledge/nbs-source-and-industry-standards

But enough words, have an play with the platform now at:
https://source.thenbs.com/

Manufacturers that want to be part of Source, find out more at:
https://manufacturers.thenbs.com/

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.
https://support.thenbs.com/support/discussions/topics/7000040360
(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:
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8691137346108267788

Friday, 28 February 2020

Follow best specification practice - or equivalent

At BIM Show Live 2020, as part of the 'State of the nation' address, Rob Charlton (Space Group CEO) made the point that quite often what is specified does not get built. This can lead to serious problems.

This point was made by illustrating how a trip to the supermarket can go wrong. Photos from these slides are below...
What was specified

What the client ended up with
This generated a bit of discussion on Twitter. The daily challenge of battling against 'value engineering', but also the valid point that as long as there is a robust change control mechanism, then the same (or even better) outcomes can be achieved with different products for a lower price.

To continue the analogy, maybe the client will prefer Tesco cornflakes over Kellogs cornflakes.



So... how can it be ensured that the client gets the quality that the specifier has specified?

A big part of the answer is for the industry to write better specifications.

Consider the examples below...

1. Or equivalent
In the example below, naming a brand and then saying 'or equivalent' - or, indeed using similar language that is ironically equivalent, can significantly increase the risk of not getting what had been hoped for.
'Or equivalent' specifications
If I sent one of my kids to the supermarket and said 'Get me Kellogs Cornflakes or equivalent with this fiver and keep the change' - I suspect I'd be somewhat disappointed with the outcome. In fact I from experience, I know I'd be disappointed with the outcome.

Equally, if a hotel chain specified 'Kellogs Cornflakes or equivalent' to their supplier who they were paying a fixed price to supply breakfast each morning - the risk of getting an inferior product would also be greatly increased.

This topic is looked at in depth in this excellent technical article on theNBS.com from my ex-colleague John Gelder...
https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/substitution-and-beyond

2. Specifying by brand
This next example is simple, if you know what you want and the procurement rules allow, then specify what you want. Be clear and be concise.
Be concise
It is worth making the point that most procurement routes allow substitutions to be proposed. The rules around this should be specified in the prelims.
Example template NBS clause setting out rules to be followed around substitution
3. Giving the choice to the contractor (1 of 2)
At times, the brand used is not essential, it is the quality of the product that is important.

If this is the case, specify the minimum quality level and let the contractor choose. Where relevant, specifying a third party certification scheme to ensure that the declared quality has been tested is recommended.
Specify min quality level - let contractor decide.
4. Giving the choice to the contractor (2 of 2)
In the above example, the specifier may know of a product that meets this minimum quality level. The phrasing 'deemed to comply' may be used if considered appropriate.
Using 'Deemed to comply'
5. Asking for proposals that meet the specification
An alternative phrasing used within NBS is 'Submit proposals'. It should be noted that this should be accompanied by the requirements for the submittals process and any further information. This includes (a) which party the submission must go to, (b) the timescales and (c) the method of assesment. For subjective requirements such as aesthetics (or for Cornflakes, something like taste!) the method of assesment should be made clear.
Requesting proposals based on quality requirements
So a big part of the answer to the question 'How do we ensure the client gets the quality the specifier requires?' is write better specifications.

However, this is only part of the answer. A robust change control and verification process so that all product decisions are digitally recorded is another big part of the answer (Golden thread). Is it too much to ask that client's receive record specifications at handover in addition to construction specifications at the end of the technical design stage?


Hopefully the Kellogs Cornflake example (nicely illustrated in the slide by Rob) is food for thought.

If you think your specifications could be better on the projects you work on, check out the RIBA approved CPD from NBS on Better Specification Writing:
ribacpd.com/articles/nbs/5340/an-introduction-to-specification-writing/200002

To find out more about NBS Chorus see:
-   thenbs.com/nbs-chorus


SMALL PRINT
* No payments were received from Kellogs Cornflakes for the writing of this article. This blog does not recommend any particular cornflake provider.

NBS Chorus - Best new product

At the BIM Show Live 2020 Awards we were delighted to win the 'best new product award' for NBS Chorus.
Best new product - NBS Chorus
Accepting the award on the evening
It was great to accept the award and get the chance to thank the whole team back at NBS for all of the hard work and skill that goes into producing a product such as Chorus. It was also nice to be able to thank all of those customers on our focus groups who have helped steer us as to how the features should work and which features we should prioritise.

To find out more about Chorus, please watch one of our webinars and also make sure to check out some of our customer case studies.

All of our upcoming webinars are listed on our events page - you can also watch past webinars here...
thenbs.com/events
Find out more about Chorus
We have a range of customer case studies from small technology-led architects up to global multi-disciplinary practices on our website:
-  thenbs.com/knowledge/case-studies
Customer success stories
Find out more about how using Chorus can benefit your practice:
thenbs.com/nbs-chorus

Monday, 24 February 2020

Following the ISO 19650 series of standards when publishing specifications

Introduction
The ISO 19650 international series of standards looks at information management using building information modelling. When developing the publishing features within NBS Chorus, these standards have been used as a guiding framework.

Information quality with respect to classification and codes to indicate the status and revision of each published specification is core to these standards:

  • Classification - NBS content is classified to the recognized national standard in each country. With respect to the UK and Australian NBS content, Uniclass 2015 is one such classification system which is an implementation of the ISO 12006-2 framework.
  • Revision code - The revision code for each published specification should be to an agreed standard
  • Status code - A status code system should be agreed to indicate the permitted use of the published specification.

Furthermore, each published specification should be given a human readable ID which is unique and based upon an agreed and documented convention comprised of fields separated by a delimiter. The Publication details window in NBS Chorus allows this information to be captured based on the agreed standard on a particular project as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 - The Publication details window in NBS Chorus
When working to BS EN ISO 19650-2
The BS EN ISO 19650-2 standard includes a National Annex that expands on the basic requirements for those working to UK standards and practices.

The screenshots below show an example of how publication history may develop within NBS Chorus when following the UK BIM Framework guidance.

Figure 2 below shows that by using the Uniclass 2015 classification system, the information within the published specification will be structured to classification system that follows the ISO 12006-2 framework. Consistency in the Suffix codes used (FCS for Floor covering systems for example) can also help with ‘packaging’ similar systems.
Figure 2 - Uniclass 2015 classifications within the specification

Figure 3 below shows how a record of specifications published from NBS Chorus can be viewed in the Publish history tab. In this example, it is worth highlighting some of the fields that have been populated:
  • Number - A unique ID for the published specification that follows the BS EN ISO 19650 standard has been recorded here. The delimiters of the ID LAKR-HAM-43-XX-SP-A-00006 show that this a specification (SP) from the architectural (A) practice Hamil Design (HAM) on the project Lakeside Restaurant (LAKR). When this PDF is then uploaded to the common data environment, this data can be quickly seen by using this naming convention.
  • Status - The status S4, as defined in BS EN ISO 19650, indicates that this particular specification was published for stage approval.
  • Revision - The revision code of P02 shows that this publication is still provisional and it also shows where it is in the sequence of publications.
Figure 3 - A Publish history showing unique ID, Status and Revision codes
Figure 4 shows that when using a consistent coding system, it is then easy to quickly filter a large list of publications to find the information that is needed. For example, this could be all publications of the floor covering systems or all publications that are suitable for stage approval.
Figure 4 - Using the search filter to quickly find published specifications

The UK BIM Framework website has extensive free-to-use guidance to support those working to this series of standards.

- https://ukbimframework.org/standards-guidance/

When working outside of the UK, there may not be the same guidance available at a national level. There may be great variance between organizations as to how they indicate revision or status codes. It is advised that the project team agree on what these will be and document this in a Project Information Standard so that each team member can consistently publish information which can then be uploaded to the project common data environment.

Doing a quick Google Search - this publication from BrisBIM provides some guidance for working to ISO in Australia from contributors from organizations such as Aecom, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Woods Bagot.

In Canada, there is a buildingSMART Canada working group developing something similar.

To find out more about NBS Chorus see:
https://www.thenbs.com/nbs-chorus