Monday 19 December 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - 2011 almost over now.
Thanks to all those who have visited this blog and have provided feedback to the various NBS developments through the year. The chart below shows that this blog has had over 5,000 unique visitors this year compared with 2,000 in 2010.  

The top five articles in 2011 were:

1. Paul Morrell talks to NBS about BIM
A video interview with the UK Government's Chief Construction Advisor.

2. National BIM Library - Draft Content for Comment
The initial draft of walls and doors that were available for user comment.

3. NBS Create - Specification throughout the construction timeline
How the latest specification product from NBS allows specification to develop from outline through to performance to full to record.

4. The COBie data format and the Government's BIM Strategy
An introduction to the COBie data format that will be mandated on all central government projects.

5. NBS-NLA BIM Conference report
An overview from the first ever NBS BIM conference

The top five search terms were:
  1. paul morrell bim
  2. constructioncode blogspot nbs
  3. nbs specification clauses
  4. national bim library
  5. nbs create
Have a great Christmas break. Back again in 2012 for more on developments on National BIM Library, NBS Create, RIBA Product Selector, RIBA CPD and the Construction Information Service to name a few!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Google Analytics Real Time

Google continue to amaze with the functionality they give you for free.

Screenshot above is me checking this blog in Google Analytics at 11pm on a Thursday night. 3 visitors at that point in time. All arrived from Twitter. One from the North East, one from Midlands, one from South East.

thinkBIM - Half Day getBIM Conference - an update

Just a quick blog post to say that the BIM conference in Leeds on Wednesday was a really fantastic day.

Update from Paul 15/12 - All slides from the event will be available at the URL - 

A really good atmosphere and great use of technology to make things interesting and also involve others around the UK (and the world!).

1. Dedicated twitterers
There were two full time tweeters/live bloggers active on the day, Su Butcher (@SuButcher) and Paul Wilkinson (@EEPaul).

These two have an incredible 80,000 tweets and 14,000 followers between them. So they probably have forgotten more about Twitter than I'll ever know. :)

2. Live presentation from the USA
Mark Sawyer, CEO, VICO joined the conference by Skype to present his views on BIM.

3. Pecha Kucha Showcase
I'd never heard of  Pecha Kucha (although I thought I once ordered it in a restaurant with a.pint of Kingfisher to accompany it) But this was rapid fire presentation like never seen before. Exactly 20 slides, exactly 20 seconds per slide. Then done.

4. Roundtable discussions
I chaired the discussion on BIM and specification. The second of these was streamed live on the Internet and the live blogging by Su Butcher can be viewed at the website:
(click link above and scroll down page to the cover it live blog).

Some screen captures from this below...

3:12 The roundtable had started

3:25 Will the CAD model and the specification model integrate to form a true BIM?

3:35 How can the problem of interoperability possibly be solved?

3:58: We need standards, we need high quality library information for BIM

4:09 Software and data providers need to get together and give the users what they demand

And finally, a big "well done" to @ckegroup for doing a great job of putting the day together and running it so smoothly!

Monday 12 December 2011

thinkBIM - Half day GetBIM conference - Leeds

This Wednesday I am attending the GetBIM conference in Leeds. I'll also be chairing one of the roundtable sessions. An overview of this session is below:


BIM and Specification 
Construction documentation has traditionally included drawings, specification and bill of quantities all issued on paper. The aim of Building Information Modelling is to fully coordinate this information digitally and for this information to flow from briefing through to the operation of the building in use.
This will fundamentally change the construction industry.
This roundtable session discusses what BIM means for specification.

  • Level-2 BIM is a managed 3D environment with data held in separate BIM tools. This is what UK government is mandating for 2016 on central government projects.
  • Level-3 BIM is a single BIM model through integration of the data in all BIM tools.
Key Questions for Roundtable Debate 
  • To reach level-2 BIM, how should the information in the specification and the CAD models be coordinated?
  • What does level-3 BIM mean for traditional drawings, specification and bill of quantities?
  • In a BIM-world, where will the technical guidance and cost (environment and financial) guidance come from?
  • In a BIM-world, where will the specification workmanship information come from?
  • How can manufacturers assist construction professionals in their use of BIM?
  • Will construction professionals be more likely to specify manufacturers who embraced BIM?
A couple of interesting articles on this subject are below, it'll be interesting however to see what the delegates on the day think.
  1. - RIBAE Exec Director Richard Watson gives his thoughts as part of the NBS specification survey 2011
  2. - NBS Head of Specification Ian Chapman looks at how BIM will change specification practice

Thursday 8 December 2011

BIM Opportunities - video from NBS TV

Check out our latest NBS TV video about BIM online now...

Speakers include:
  • Claudio Benghi, member of the BIM Academy, Northumbria University
  • Hannah George, Associate, Norman Disney & Young
  • Karl Redmond, Chief Executive; Construction Sector Network
  • David de Yarza, BIM Director, Lydig Construction, Inc. USA
  • Richard Brindley, Group Director Membership & Professional Support, RIBA
  • Richard Saxon, RIBA Client Design Advisor
  • Me :)
  • Ruth Reed, immediate past-President, RIBA
  • Peter Caplehorn, Technical Director, Scott Brownrigg

Thursday 1 December 2011

RIBA and BuildOffSite - Towards Intelligent Construction Conference

Yesterday I was one of the speakers at the RIBA and Buildoffsite Towards Intelligent Construction Conference at the RIBA in London.

The conference was kicked off by talks from Richard Ogden, the chairman of BuildOffSite and Angela Brady, President of RIBA. A few quotes I tweeted...

  • "Build off site is not a cottage industry anymore"
  • "Stunning design is possible by building off site"
    Richard Ogden

  • "Architects must make the most of the latest technologies, such as BIM"
  • "BIM - we need to grasp the opportunity now"
    Angela Brady

The first part of the conference was a number of presentations from the team behind the Leadenhall Building (aka The "Cheesegrater"). On stage were representatives from British Land, Rogers Stirk Harbour, Arup and Laing O'Rourke. It was absolutely fascinating stuff. And for BIM fans there was lots and lots there. How the structural steel was modelled and also a key part of the architecture. The myth that BIM is a single software package was dismissed as presentations showed rich digital information being passed from Tekla to Rhino to ANSA to Excel to Nastran. My favourite quote from Andy Butler from Laing O'Rourke was that "the construction was engineering, the engineering was architecture and the architecture is what is making the project work".

The second case study was from Circle's hospital construction team. Representatives from Circle, Fosters and Partners and Brydon Wood took the stage and again it was an inspirational set of presentations. How costs can be brought down from £3,500 per m2 to £2,500 m2 with a view to going down to £2,000 m2 whilst maintaining architectural integrity was shown. How was this being done? By using BIM to standardise rooms and equipment within the hospitals and also from learning from the previous build and feeding this knowledge into the next one - standardising what can be standardised, but giving enough freedom for the architecture.

Those that have been on this blog before will know how much of a BIM fan I am. But one thing I especially loved today was the completely un-ashamed use of slides showing initial concept designs using felt tip pens and pencils. When it comes to designing and developing the RIBAE software we use the latest technology and push the boundaries, but it all starts with pencil sketches on the back of envelopes. So I show no pictures of hospital or cheesegrater visualisations with this blog post, but some simple early stage sketches...

At the end of each case study was a RIBA presentation to summarise. This was a presentation from myself and one from Paul Fletcher. My job for the day was "BIM - the future". Whenever I think of "presenting the future" it takes me back to childhood and BBC's Tomorrow's World. So here are some slides, hopefully the narrative is self-explanatory...

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Construction Computing Awards 2011

NBS sponsored the recent Construction Computing Awards. Richard Waterhouse from RIBA Enterprises presented the awards. It was really nice to see so many faces from the various construction computing companies that we have been collaborating with this year in the lead up to the launch of NBS Create and the National BIM Library. A selection of some of the pictures from the website are below. Also, great to have some fantastic company for the night on our table Eric, David, Robert, Nick, John and Alistair.
"One to Watch" - Vectorworks

"Collaboration Product of the Year" - 4Projects Solutions
"BIM Product of the Year" - Graphisoft - ArchiCAD 15
"Project Planning Product of the Year" - Asite Key Professional
"Structural Design Product of the Year" - Tekla Structures
"Building Services Product of the Year" - Autodesk Building Design Suite
"Structural Analysis Product of the Year" - Bentley Systems STAAD.Pro V8i
"Company of the Year" - Causeway Technologies
A great evening - let's hope NBS Create is on the winners' list next year.

Thursday 24 November 2011

NBS Domestic Specification - One year on

It's now one year since we launched our digital version of NBS Domestic Specification.

In this last year, it's been used by well over 500 practices. Many of who have used it on multiple projects. A few screenshots below to demonstrate why it has been such a success:
Figure 1 above shows that the specification system is entirely "cloud-based". It is accessed through your preferred web browser on any platform. This means that there is no need for you to install or purchase any software - it's pay-per-project - and very reasonably priced at £40. In terms of scope of content, NBS Domestic Specification is ideal for domestic clients, professional designers and domestic builders, including home owners/occupiers who may or may not have engaged a consultant to oversee the work.
Figure 2 above shows that after you have taken the specification template and made it project specific then you can publish and issue a professional looking specification document.

Many core NBS benefits such as technical guidance, template clauses and suggested drop down values are included in the web application. The technical content is updated throughout the year, so at the point of specification creation you can be confident in the currency of the content.

So one year on, it is great to see that our first step into a 100% software-as-a-service (SAAS) offering is going from strength to strength.

Monday 21 November 2011

NBS Create

NBS Create was installed and used by the first customers on Friday. A lot has changed since 1973. Exciting times.

RICS BIM Conference 2012

It's now possible to book slots at the RICS BIM Conference 2012 on their website:

An opportunity to learn about BIM, how it will impact you and how it can benefit your business. The speakers include Paul Morrell and Mark Bew who have been instrumental in terms of developing the UK Government's construction strategy. Also speakers from URS Scott Wilson, EC Harris, CIC Task Force, Pinsent Masons, Rider Levett Bucknall, Balfour Beatty, John Lewis and RIBA Enterprises (me :)).

Wednesday 16 November 2011

NBS Create Roadshow

I attended the NBS Create Roadshow in Newcastle yesterday and it was fantastic. Some pictures below:
David Grainger outlines the key benefits
Head of Specification Ian Chapman - live product demonstration

Still some places for Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham next week - book a place below:

Essential reading - Ian's Chapman's article introducing the product:

Essential reading #2 - John Gelder's article introducing the CPI Committee's new work section table classification structure:

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Naming Convention for the National BIM Library

This blog post details the initial naming convention that will be used for the library objects for the launch of the National BIM Library. This is not being presented as a standard, this is simply the initial naming convention we have chosen to go for with release one. The National BIM Library will be a maintained library of BIM objects that will grow and develop over time.

1. Introduction
The principle is to provide just enough information to allow the user to find the object they want quickly. It is then the end-users responsibility to configure this object and adopt a project naming convention of their choosing to ensure unique names within a project.

To demonstrate this point, I will put my Software Development hat on and give a Visual Basic example.

Consider an object representing a car:

Class Car
    Public NoOfWheels As Integer
    Public Colour As String
    Public Model As String
    Public Property Get DescriptiveName() As String
        DescriptiveName = "Car_" & Model & "_" & Colour & "_" & NoOfWheels
    End Property
End Class

Using this object, good practice may be:

Dim objCarType1 as New Car
objCarType1.NoOfWheels  = 3
MsgBox “The number of wheels the car has is: “ & objCarType1.NoOfWheels

What would be not so good would be:

Dim objRedCar4Wheels as New Car
objRedCar4Wheels.NoOfWheels = 3
MsgBox “The number of wheels the car has is: “ & objRedCar4Wheels.NoOfWheels

Immediately we have a clash between the object name and the parameters within it.

In this example the return from the parameter “DescriptiveName” would give a fuller name that is accurate and constructed through adding specific parameters together.

Moving on to BIM now, for this reason, just enough information is provided in the National BIM Library object names to allow users to find what they require quickly. The reference to parameter values are kept to an absolute minimum to avoid the possibility of conflict.

“Tag” descriptions based on the actual parametric values are encouraged within the proprietary BIM tool and in the context of a project.

2. Library Object Naming Convention
  • Fields to be separated with the “_“ symbol
  • We suggest that Field 02 is the only compulsory field, although National BIM Library objects will have"nbl" for Field 01.
  • Data within fields to be separated with the “-” symbol
Field 01
  • Optional field to indicate the author of the library object.
  • This is chosen as the first field to allow objects from different authors to be grouped when sorted alphabetically.
  • No more than six characters will be used.
Field 02
  • Compulsory field to indicate the system or element
  • The full name or shortened name may be used. Must be camel case for multiple words.
    For example: Door, Wall or AirConUnit.
  • Note that where types of a common parent are used then the parent name may be dropped. So “Ext” may be used for “External Walls” where Wall is clearly the inherited item.
  • The common names used will be provided within supporting documentation.
Field 03
  • Optional field to indicate the supplier name for objects representing proprietary items.
  • The full name or shortened name may be used. Must be camel case for multiple words.
    For example: WidgeLtd.
Field 04
  • Optional field to indicate the supplier’s model code for objects representing proprietary items.
  • The full name or shortened name may be used. Must be camel case for multiple words.
    For example: Widge1000
Field 05
  • Optional field to indicate the content that is within the object.
  • Just enough information should be added here to allow the user to successfully select the library object the user requires.
  • Shortened names should be used.
    For example: ClyBrck-Insul-Blck or Sgl-Pnl-02
  • The common abbreviated names used will be provided within supporting documentation.
Further notes
  • Classification will not be included. This information is best placed within the property sets.
  • Version information must not be included. This information is best placed within the property sets.
  • Field 05 will not attempt to list all of the information within the object as this will lead to conflicting information as the user changes property sets and materials within the context of a project.
  • nbl_DoorExt_Sgl-Vsn-Pnl-01 for a generic door object
  • nbl_WallExt_Stone-Cavity-Insul-Blck-GypPlstr for a generic wall object
  • nbl_WallExt_Stone-Cavity-Insul-140Blck-GypPlstr for a generic wall object where a similar object with 100mm of block is offered.
  • nbl_Chair_WidgeLtd_Widge1000 for a manufacturer chair object

Friday 11 November 2011

NBS Create - The revolutionary new specification system

Anyone wanting to know more about NBS Create, the new revolutionary specification system from NBS - please try and catch us on our road shows around the country. More details at the URL below:


To read my blogs on NBS Create from the last 6 months click the label "NBS Create" to the right of this page.

If you cannot make a roadshow - check out the list of webcasts:

Monday 7 November 2011

National BIM Library - Draft Content for Comment

Those on the National BIM Library linkedin group may now download a sub-set of draft content to review and comment on. A bit of an overview on the why and how behind is below.

Why use National BIM Library Content?
  1. Richness of data
    The quality of property-set information attached to the object is of a high quality in the NBL objects. Acoustic designation, Fire designation, Electronic Lock, Break out facility, Hold open… this is in addition to the standard COBie parameters. This is the information that is required behind the basic geometrics. It’s been designed for what is required in schedules and care has gone into deciding whether these are instance or type properties
  2. Supports effective workflow
    Where manufacturer objects exist – their proprietary information will populate these standard property-sets. This allows the scheduling of generic and proprietary objects together. This also helps with product selection. This also assists with the maintenance of the facility after it is built.
  3. Intuitive geometric behaviour
    Whether a door is double action or has a planted stop. Whether it has architraves front or back or adjusting the sizes of the vision panels. All parametric behaviour for the geometric visualisations that is typically required on a project.
  4. Designed for UK custom and practice
    Where British Standards or Building Regs define dimensions these have been considered in the design of the objects. Equally objects are pre-configured in common UK metric sizes so they are ready to use immediately.
  5. Maintained objects
    The objects will not simply be written once and then left. They will be maintained over time. As standards and regulations change and new building technologies emerge, then the objects will be reviewed and updated.
A simple walkthrough
A walkthrough in Autodesk Revit 2012 is shown below. Those not using Revit may view the content in IFC 2x3 format using the free BIM viewing tool Solibri Model Viewer.

Fig 1 - Detailed help files are provided to get started

Fig 2 - Design a basic floor layout using the external and internal walls

Fig 3 - Load some door objects into your project and position in the building

Fig 4 - Where different wall type objects are used, rename these so they are unique to the project

Fig 5 - Make your door objects project specific too by modifying the detailed parameters

Fig 6 - Geometric parameters may influence the appearance of the object in elevation or plan

Fig 7 - Modify the COBie parameters

Fig 8 - Export the model to IFC2x3 and see the parameters come through in a platform neutral format

Friday 4 November 2011

Howitt Consultancy – What is BIM? Conference

Many thanks to the guys at Howitt Consultancy for inviting me to speak at their “What is BIM?” conference yesterday. It was great to get in front of a big audience of construction manufacturers again and talk about the changing world of CAD and specification with respect to BIM.

The day started with David Philp the Head of BIM Implementation for the UK Cabinet Office. And as always, David presented some inspirational slides.

There's always room for improvement in the industry...
Comparison to 7 years of feast and then famine in the Joseph story...
Don't be fearful of the government BIM strategy...
A light hearted look at when things go wrong...
If you want to watch a full David Philp presentation, here is below from our NBS BIM conference a few months ago:

Next was Nick Nisbet from buildingSMART. The government cannot mandate any proprietary software packages. So the data must be to open standards… And if you want to know about open standards, Nick has forgotten more about this subject than pretty much everyone else knows. Nick presented on BS 1192, the upcoming BS 8541 and IFC and COBie2.

Nick Allen and James Blood from Metz Architects then gave a live demo of the BIM  software package Autodesk Revit. Looking at a large building, the ease at which sections and plans automatically update when objects are modified really push the message home.

Steve Wright from Ramboll gave a BIM point of view from a structural engineer’s perspective. One stat that stood out was that through the use of BIM Ramboll have reduced RFIs by 80%. One particular case study that was used was the Ramboll Headquarters. I had the fortune of visiting this building –

Phil Palmer then presented from a contractors point of view. One striking stat from this presentation was that on their first BIM project they spent £25K on software and training but then saved £300K on construction. Phil was refreshingly honest on the drive to save money, this led to an animated Q+A session from the manufacturer audience on product substitution and how to maintain quality on D+B jobs.

I then presented NBS Create and the showing how rich-digital object orientated  information gives manufacturers real benefits. Especially those that decide now to be one of the early adopters.

Finally, Richard Blakesley from Howitt Consultancy said a few words on how manufacturers should take a step back and get their BIM strategy correct. Key messages included (a) ensure your information is interoperable and authored to standards and (b) ensure you own you BIM content so you can distribute through as many channels as possible.

A really good day.