Thursday 25 November 2010

NBS Domestic Specification - How it was developed

Last week NBS Domestic Specification was launched as the first ever online specification service from NBS.
I always like looking back at the original sketches and then comparing them to the live product. Below are the pencil sketches from the start of the year compared to the finished product released in November:

Fig 1 - Sign up

Fig 2 - The My Projects area

Fig 3 - Adding your work sections

Fig 4 - Editing your specification

Fig 5 - Publishing your specification

Thursday 18 November 2010

NBS BIM Survey 2010

On Thursday 2nd December I will be one of the speakers at the CIBSE BIM conference.
What BIM is and how it is being used
At NBS we are very interested in BIM and are looking to develop our specification data into a rich information model that can sit alongside the CAD model. We’re members of buildingSMART and the IFD project and currently have two research projects looking at regulatory compliance and carbon impact and cost.

We have recently sent out a survey to construction industry professionals to see how BIM is being used. We sent it to over 6,500 UK architects, quantity surveyors and engineers and were delighted to get over a 6% response rate.

At the conference I’ll present this research which will give an insight into:
  • How many people are using BIM today and what software packages are they using to support them
  • What aspects of BIM are people taking advantage of.
  • For those not currently using BIM, but who intend to, when do they expect to take their first steps into using it.
  • How do those using BIM within CAD connect this data to other information models such as specification, regulations and standards.
  • For those using BIM, what are their thoughts on interoperability and object reuse.
Our Market Research team at NBS are currently analysing these results and following the CIBSE conference we will publish these results and then run this survey annually to see trends.

Friday 12 November 2010

NBS Domestic Specification - Now Live

I am delighted to announce that our new online specification service NBS Domestic Specification is now live. Many thanks to all of the Beta Testers who've given us help pushing this over the finishing line over the last few days!

Below is an article I have written for the upcoming RIBA Practice Newsletter about this service...

Best practice specification for domestic projects – now online
By Stephen Hamil, Head of NBS Software Development
There are around 2,500 architectural practices in the UK with only one or two practicing architects. A large portion of their work is on small domestic building projects. In 2007 NBS Domestic Specification, a loose-leaf paper specification template for use on small domestic projects was launched. Following its success and customer feedback received, it has been developed into the first 100% online NBS specification writing service and was launched in November 2010.
The Benefits
NBS have been producing specification writing tools for over 35 years, which include products to suit projects varying in complexity. NBS Domestic Specification is a new tool designed to better address the needs of those working on small domestic buildings. It is ideal for domestic clients, professional designers and domestic builders, including home owners/occupiers who need to produce technically accurate and up-to-date specifications.
Building on the success of the paper edition, this new online version allows the user to quickly and easily produce a professional specification online that can be published as a PDF. It works on a PC or a Mac and there is no subscription or installation required – users simply buy each specification for £40 (plus VAT) as and when it’s needed for a project.
As with all electronic NBS specification products, NBS Domestic Specification is updated three times a year by our team of in-house technical authors, and provides onscreen guidance to help complete the specification.
How it works
You can create a new specification using NBS Domestic Specification in just six simple steps:
1. Login/register
Firstly login to or create an NBS Website Account. Creating your free account is a quick and easy process that asks you for a few standard details.
2. Create
Create a new specification and give it some project details such as a title, client name and project address.
3. Select
From the full list of preliminaries and work sections available, select the specific content you need for your project. The service can be used with JCT or SBCC minor works contracts and the JCT home owner contracts. You are provided with around 25 work sections which allow best practice specification for work on small domestic buildings. These include site preparation, board and sheet cladding, ventilation and heating systems.
4. Pay
Pay for your specification using our quick and secure payment facility.
5. Edit
The principles behind NBS Domestic Specification are the same as existing NBS products. Each work section contains pre-written technical specification clauses that you edit to produce a project specification. The clauses are pre-written, so very little typing is involved. Where clauses require completion, optional drop down values and technical guidance are provided. Where information is not required, you simply exclude it. The result is a precise project specification without the unnecessarily high page count.
General guidance with information on materials and design, including workmanship advice and tips on how to avoid pitfalls is provided for each work section.
You don't have to complete your specification in one go – you can save your work and come back at any time. In the meantime, you can trust NBS to securely look after your data.
6. Publish
At any time you can publish your specification to PDF format which you can then print, email or put on a DVD. The specification is a priceable document. It has cash columns, collections and a tender summary to allow the tenderers to clearly enter their prices.

Using NBS Domestic as part of my construction documentation will certainly assist me, particularly in ensuring that all elements of works are considered in preparation of documentation, yet providing me with a document tailored to the specific project in hand. It's pay as you require, is brilliant in assisting in keeping practice overheads down particularly in the current economic climatic.”
John Cloonan
Michael Ahearne & Associates Ltd

NBS have been responding to the needs construction industry for over 35 years, providing the best tools for producing up-to-date, technically robust specifications. NBS Domestic Specification is the latest specification writing solution from NBS, designed to meet the needs of practices in the UK who require a master specification service for small domestic building projects. It has received extremely positive feedback from beta testers and was very well received when launched at the RIBA Guerrilla Tactics 2010 conference.

To write your first NBS Domestic Specification visit:

Friday 5 November 2010

NBS and Autodesk Revit - Software Tutorial Video

There is now a software tutorial video showing NBS Building and Autodesk Revit interoperating.

It is titled NBS Specification Software - NBS Building and Autodesk Revit and can be found at the webpage:

Topics covered are:
  1. Annotating elements (windows) within Revit from NBS clause references
  2. Automatically generating schedules within Revit that reference the NBS keynote
  3. Annotating materials (brick, plasterboard, block, insulation) within Revit from NBS clause references
Fig 1 - The same objects exist in the CAD model and the spec model

Fig 2 - Generating a schedule from the CAD model and keynote references

Update (11/11/10):
Nice little mention on Simon Gillis's Autodesk blog thanks Simon!

For information on NBS interoperating with other CAD packages please see:

Thursday 4 November 2010

BSRIA BIM 2010 - My Thoughts

After spending the day at the BSRIA BIM 2010 Conference here are my thoughts on the key questions. Please leave comments to these opinions below.

1. Who owns the Building Information Model (BIM)?
  • (For the forseeable future) through the design and construction of the building there is not a single BIM owned by one project team member – there are individual BIMs owned by the project team members. For example, a CAD model in ArchiCAD owned by the architect, a CAD model in Revit owned by the engineer, a specification model in NBS format owned by the architect...
  • A single interoperable BIM (iBIM) may be created at any time and be used for reporting and analysis. There is no single ownership of this, it can be generated and used by a designer or the contractor.
  • At handover to the client an iBIM must be provided. This must contain the key information. The owner of this iBIM is then the client. At the conference Asda made this clear and Paul Morrell made this clear. They both said if you want to be designers/contractors for them then they own the BIM.
2. How can we make money from BIM?
  • “We” being the designers can make money through efficiency gains (existing design tasks – done faster - improved margin)
  • “We” being the contractors can make money through efficiency gains (scheduling, clash detection, more accurate costing - improved margin)
  • “We” being the clients can make money through more efficient/certain design and construction and then through the operating costs through the life of the building (sustainability/fm)
  • “We” being the software vendors and data providers can make money through the demand for BIM from the designers, contractors and clients
  • “We” being the manufacturers/suppliers can make money though increased usage of our products if in BIM format
3. How can we persuade clients that BIM is worthwhile?
  • We need more case studies showing value for money over the operation of the building
  • We need more case studies showing greater certainty in knowing what you are getting before it is built
  • And this should be a short term concern.  BIM will be the way buildings are designed, built and managed in the future – it will be a default expectation, not an option. But it will take significant work and investment to get us to this point.
4. What do we need to do to make BIM happen?
  • Bigger clients need to insist on it – great to see the likes of Asda and the Government moving on applying pressure
  • The government needs to fund software vendors and data providers to make the UK a leading force in this. BIM is happening, the UK construction industry must lead it and not follow years behind the Scandinavians and the Americans. "The UK construction industry must be equal if not better than any other in the world"
  • We have to create software that allows BIM to happen behind the scenes. Let engineers engineer and contractors construct – the software and structured content will take care of BIM without anyone knowing about it.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

BSRIA BIM 2010 - Paul Morrell

I attended the BSRIA BIM 2010 conference earlier today. Delegates and well known industry speakers debated key questions throughout the day.
The final speaker of the day was the government’s chief construction adviser Paul Morrell. He gave the same inspirational presentation that he'd delivered at the Autodesk conference a few weeks earlier, he then concluded by presenting his thoughts on the four key questions that had been debated.
Mr Morrell answered the questions from the point of view of BIM being used on government funded projects, my scribbled notes are below...
  1. Who owns the BIM?
    If the government is the client. And you want to work for the government. Then the government will own the BIM.
  2. How do we make money from BIM?
    By doing clash detection analysis on every job, by stopping information getting lost through the timeline, knowing what you are going to do before you begin - a zero change order contract.
    More money can be made for the designers and contractor through slightly better margins, more money made for the client through better value.
    If you don't do BIM and your competition do it, they will get better. They will attract better people. They will get even better. You cannot afford to let this happen.
  3. How do we persuade clients of the benefits of BIM?
    Asset management is the greatest benefit. How can you manage what you have got if you have no electronic record?
  4. What do we need to do to make BIM happen?
    There will be a five year plan published. Each year there will be a greater step towards BIM usage on government jobs.
I didn't catch all of the items that were to be in the five year plan, but the BIM that the government require will be non-proprietary and interoperable (i.e. not a [Insert name] CAD software model). There was a mention of Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBIE) format being one of the initial requirements. This is of particular interest to a master specification company like NBS as this format is an asset record without full geometry.

I'll do a separate blog post summarising the day and my thoughts on these key questions. It was a really super day and I think everyone attending left feeling positive that BIM was really now taking off.

Download all of the presentations from the BSRIA website:

Building Information Modelling Hub at

The mini-site was launched today.
It will be a central resource where NBS will regularly publish guidance and information on BIM resources for the construction industry.

The site currently includes articles on BIM, a learning channels video with buildingSMART's Nick Nisbett, interviews with BIM experts such as Jacob Mehus from the IFD project and software tutorials on linking CAD and NBS.