Thursday 25 August 2011

NBS featured in Architects Journal AJ Specification

Great to see NBS featured so heavily in the latest AJ Specification. Editor, Felix Mara introduces the issue "...last year's article looked at the general principles [of green specification], in this issue we focus on the use of systems, in particular NBS Building, their role in green specification and their integration with BIM and CAD software."
Following analysis of NBS and CAD software systems, three case studies are considered.

Case study 1 - William Leech School, Lynemouth, Ryder Architecture
"Since adopting Revit for the technical design in 2006, we have linked our specification clauses to objects within the BIM model."
Peter Barker, architectural director

Case study 2 - Castle School, Newbury, Nightingale Associates
"NBS Specification references were included on the drawings and other documents, for ease of cross referencing."
Lindsay Webb, project architect

Case study 3 - Open Academy, Norwich, Sheppard Robson Architects
"By combining standard NBS clauses with our office master spec we were able to produce a sustainably robust specification. For example, in section M60 we limited VOC content from the outset in order to meet BREEAM requirements."
Gavan Knox, specification writer

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Free NBS Half Day BIM Conference

Yesterday we released details of our 2011 BIM Conference. It's in association with New London Architecture (NLA). Details from the press release below:

Set to become a key part of public procurement, BIM is one of the hottest topics in the construction industry yet nearly half of professionals working in the sector are neither currently using it or aware of its benefits.

Held in conjunction with NBS, this free half day conference will seek to get to the very heart of what BIM is, who can benefit from using it and whether the pros do really outweigh the cons.

Join us for a morning of lively debate and case studies that will provide you with the most accurate, up to date and honest assessment of BIM.

Friday 16 September 2011, 8:30 – 13:00
Building Information Modelling (BIM) - Are you ready for the digital switchover?

NLA, The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London WC1E 7BT

Speakers include:
This conference is free to attend but registration is essential. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR PLACE.

Looking at the conferences for August on the NLA website most seem to be fully booked out - so book now to get a place.

Update 11:56 - 250 conference places all booked out
Also nice to see this blog post is "trending" on the Construction area of linkedin :)

Monday 22 August 2011

NBS Create - Specifying construction products

This is the latest in my series of posts on our upcoming new specification product, this month the topic is "specifying construction products". Previous posts have been on Outline and Performance Specs (May), Improved Data Structure (June), Adding your Practice Knowledge (July).

1. Descriptive specification
NBS may be used to describe the construction products that you require on a job without naming the manufacturer or product reference. The NBS guidance and drop down values provide "most likely" values and the very latest links to reference documents such as key construction standards. The example below shows the specifier giving the product selection choice to the contractor but describing the required specification.
The specifier can see an instant "on-screen" report that details precisely where in the specification decisions have been left for the contractor or where the contractor has been required to submit proposals.

2. Proprietary specification (NBS Plus)
Within NBS there are over 20,000 proprietary product specifications from over 600 construction manufacturers. When a product clause is selected, then the available products are displayed to the user to the right of the screen. This is functionality that current NBS specification users are familiar with.

The screenshot below shows that now the available manufacturers are also available to select from the manufacturer drop down.

Once a manufacturer is selected then the available relevant products from that manufacturer are shown against the "Product reference" keyword.

The user may then simply select a product and the NBS generic options within the clause change to the relevant specification options that are required to specify that particular product. These have been pre-authored by NBS technical staff in partnership with the manufacturer.

3. Proprietary specification (user defined)
If the specifier would like to specify products from manufacturers not yet in NBS Plus they may select "Other manufacturer". This allows details for the manufacturer and the product reference to be added as shown below...

4. Reporting on the manufacturers and products
As with the Contractor Design "on-screen report" feature, it is also possible to navigate the specification by the proprietary products that have been specified. This is shown below...

Finally, all on screen reports may also be published to PDF. The example below shows that all of the products from all manufacturers are grouped. The manufacturers' contact information is also displayed in a concise report...

Further reading...
For all blog articles on NBS 2012 - click the NBS 2012 hyperlink to the right of this page.
To join our Beta Testing Program and help us develop this product, please see:

Thursday 18 August 2011

TV Times

At NBS we have recently launched a new service that is free to all NBS subscribers:

NBS TV covers a broad range of online video programmes, including case studies, technical guidance and interviews with leading industry figures. These online videos cover key topics in the construction industry examples of which are below:
  • SustainabilityCode for Sustainable Homes - UPDATE 2011
    Featuring Mel Starrs. Mel Starrs is an Associate at PRP Architects where she is a specialist in sustainability and green buildings. She is also a Blogger/ Twitterer on all manner of technical issues.
  • BIM - Interview with Paul Morrell, OBE, Government's Chief Construction Advisor
    Paul Morrell OBE discusses how BIM will impact the construction sector, and how this will lead to a very different, increasingly collaborative approach to building design and management.
  • Regulations and standards - BS 8300 - Designing for Disability
    Featuring Fausto Pereira, director with PH Partnership. An architect with special expertise in designing for people with disabilities and access-related issues, Fausto is a National Register of Access Consultants assessor and was also the Vice Chair and CPD-Coordinator for the North East branch of the Access Association. He is also a visiting lecturer teaching accessible design at Newcastle University.
  • Design and specification - Vicky Richardson, British Council
    Interview with Vicky Richardson the new director of architecture, design and fashion at the British Council. She took up her position on 1st March 2010, just in time to commission muf architecture/art to design the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
  • Building services Wind Turbines
    Featuring Ian Bogle – BFLS Architects, studied architecture at the Mackintosh school of Architecture, and subsequently worked for the Parr Partnership in Glasgow before joining Foster + Partners in 1995 where he worked on projects including the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, The Dubai Cultural Centre, the Swiss Re Headquarters and the Bexley Business Academy, buildings which won and came second in the 2004 Stirling Prize respectively. He joined BFLS (formerly Hamilton Architects) in 2002 and became a director in 2005.
  • Practice management Cloud Computing
    Featuring Tim Cowen head of the 'Open Computing Alliance', a network of IT companies operating 'within the cloud'. He is also the immediate past Chairman of the CBI competition panel and was the longest serving member of the board of BT's international businesses and General Counsel.
  • Contracts and law Pre-Development: The QS's Role
    Interview with Julian Heard Director of Cost Consultancy at Cyril Sweett.
  • Building technologies Design of Steel Structures to Eurocode 3
    Featuring Dr Graham Couchman MA PhD Ceng MICE - Chief Executive of the Steel Construction Institute and a specialist in the analysis and design of steel and composite structures, the behaviour of steel connections, light gauge steel and modular construction, and the behaviour of metallic cladding. He has authored a number of industry guides relating to steel and composite constructions.
  • Health and safety Designers' Health and Safety Responsibilities
    Giles Meredith is the portfolio holder for designers and CDM Coordinators in the Health and Safety Executive's Construction Management Unit.
    Much of his time is spent working with design stakeholder groups, working to produce and improve guidance for designers on CDM and their wider health and safety responsibilities.
So current subscribers to NBS specification products, contract adminstrator, building regulations - check out this added value service:

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Isn't BIM just 3D CAD?

Quite often when I'm out and about I'll hear people talking about the BIM and what they really mean is the 3D CAD model.
(Update: Also see linkedin groups discussion thread: "Where is the "I" of BIM If a model is used only for clash detection and generating 2D drawings")

In the article I have written for the August NBS e-bulletin I ask the question "Isn't BIM just 3D CAD?". This article is also posted on

A CAD example
When analysing the benefits of Building Information Modelling it is often worth taking a step back and looking at a very simple example:

Consider an external wall (as illustrated in Figures 1 and 2). Within the latest CAD systems, walls are now three dimensional objects. The wall object is then broken down into the key products that make up its structure. For example, render, external brick leaf, cavity insulation, internal block leaf and plasterboard dry lining. Each of these is an object itself; this allows the creation of automatic schedules and quantity take-off. For example, within a click of a button, the number of bricks or the sheets of plasterboard within the building can be calculated.
Figure 1 – An 'out of the box' wall in 3D CAD

Figure 2 – Products that make up this wall's structure in 3D CAD

In addition to automatically generated quantities, 3D CAD models from different disciplines can be combined for clash detection. Users can add quite complex constraints so that the objects interact as expected. And, of course, spectacular visualisations can be created. However, can the full benefits of BIM be realised in these present 3D CAD models?

Consider the same external wall in a master specification system, for example, NBS Domestic Specification, our product for domestic new build, refurbishment and alteration work. Figure 3 displays the template description of the wall as a system in NBS Domestic Specification.
Figure 3 – External wall description in NBS Domestic Specification

Additional key products
Immediately, it is apparent that in addition to the key materials such as bricks, blocks and insulation, there are a number of other products that are not described as objects in the 3D CAD model. The external wall in NBS describes wall ties, cavity trays, weep holes, and lintels, and it's also evident that key products vary above and below the damp proof course.

Product definitions
Below this system description of the external wall, each of the products that make up the wall may be defined in greater detail, as for blocks in Figure 4.
Figure 4 – Specification clause for one of the many products that make up the wall

In the vast majority of cases this detailed information would not be in your 3D CAD model. For example, what standard a particular product must comply to or what its compressive strength and thermal conductivity is.

The question arises: "Will this information one day be in CAD?"'. If so, the follow-up question is: "Who will maintain its currency?".

A true BIM must contain all of the information required to build and maintain the building. The expected standards for workmanship are a crucial part of this. Figure 5 displays a sample of the level of detail required to specify workmanship for our external wall.
Figure 5 – Specification clause to ensure high quality workmanship

Performance requirements and their verification
The final component of a true BIM that this article considers is performance requirements - crucial in many designs. In modern procurement the designers quite often produce outline schemes and describe the included systems in terms of their performance requirements.

For instance, our external wall will not be specified in terms of the materials it is made from, but in terms of its structural, acoustic, thermal or aesthetic performance. However, listing performance requirements is only half of the picture, how these requirements are to be verified once the wall is complete is also essential. Master specification systems world-wide are increasingly providing and maintaining this content. This information must now be linked to the corresponding objects in 3D CAD systems.

It is clear that the use of 3D object-based CAD packages provide huge benefits over traditional 2D CAD. However, to really appreciate the true benefits of BIM, the information in 3D CAD models must be coordinated with information in master specification systems.

Figure 6 is an illustration from the very first edition of NBS in 1973. It shows the information on the drawing coordinated with the specification, quantities, standards, regulations and manufacturer information.
Figure 6 – Co-ordinated project information

Technology is now allowing us to accurately and more efficiently coordinate this information. This process has adopted the buzz word 'BIM'. The 3D CAD example that has been considered in this article is a simple wall, but multiply this across all of the systems and products that make up a building and its surrounding landscape and it is clear that integrating CAD and specification information is a vital step to truly adopting BIM.

When you say you have adopted BIM, pause for a moment. Ask yourself have you really adopted BIM or are you currently just using 3D CAD?