Wednesday 29 February 2012

RIBA Village - ecobuild

If you are attending ecobuild (20th-22nd March), then don't miss out on the joint RIBA Enterprises/RIBA stands - S1630 and 1640. We'll be presenting many of the latest RIBA Enterprises products and services, there will be speakers from the RIBA and also speakers from key industry figures.

From RIBA Enterprises:The launch of with Ben Councell

From RIBA:
RIBA is one of the Lead Supporters of ecobuild, and joining the RIBA Village stand will be:.


So a fantastic set of presentations spread over the three days, for more information see:

Monday 27 February 2012

Special values in a specification

I received the following email recently from a user of NBS...

I have been writing a schedule and was wondering if it is possible to have drop down boxes automatically filled with the text from a previous box?  For example, “Drawing Reference” – I am often referring to the same drawing and it is a pain to have to write it out again and again.  Likewise “To Architect’s approval”, which I often add into “Product Reference” if I have selected “Contractor’s Choice” under the manufacturer’s name.
Is this something that could be considered?

This is actually something that has been implemented in NBS Create.

Where a decision is to be left to the contractor or where the contractor must submit proposals for architect's approval, special values may be selected from the drop down options. The screenshot below demonstrates this:

This gives consitency of message and is obviously a time saver (rather than typing "Contractor's choice" again and again). Furthermore, it is possible to report against these values. This can be done at any time when writing the specification (as shown below) - or in a PDF report that may be generated or printed.

The second request in the customer email is to be able to reference drawings and documents external to the specification a little more easily. Again, with NBS Create, this is now possible.

Firstly the set of drawings needs to be defined against a job in NBS Create. This shown below:

Once the drawings are defined then they can be linked from any clause insert. This shown below. As with the contractor decisions, these references can then be reported on and published.

We'd intend to continue to improve the functionality here when it comes to coordinating construction documentation. The natural next step with respect to the links between drawings and specification is clearly doing this at an object level in a structured Building Information Model (BIM). This would allow this link to be done once and then reported in the drawings automatically through the CAD BIM software, and referenced in the specification to the relevant plan/section in the specification software.

Friday 10 February 2012

Final thoughts on RICS BIM Conference

Some quick thoughts and quotes from the RICS BIM Conference today.

Paul Morrell:
  • In terms of the cost and carbon situation:
    "BIM may be the paddle that gets us out of shit creek"
  • When asked to deal with cost and carbon at the same time:
    "If you cannot ride two horses at once, what are you doing in the circus?"
  • Why we need collaboration and not an adversarial culture in the construction industry:
    "I could have retired at 27 if I could have the time back that was spent arguing"
  • Looking at how businesses need to adapt:
    "Not one manufacturer of radio valves now makes micro chips"
Mark Bew:
  • On Level-2 BIM:
    "We move from just 3D geometry to 3D geometry AND the information behind it"
    "In terms of contract currency, 2D information generated from the models is fine for Level-2."
    "Nobody is doing Level-3. Level-2.9 is best I've seen"
  • Looking at plans of work:
    "Plans of work need to define outputs. The data drops. What data does the client get and when?"
  • And in terms of bringing the majority of the industry up to Level-2 BIM:
    "The good news is that we set ourselves 5 years. The bad news is that we have already used 1 year up."
Simon Rawlinson:
Forget the Bew-Richards Maturity Model, check out what may just be named the Rawlinson-Coffee-Cup-Diagram. From Level-0 2D cup with no info all of the way to Level-3 cup complete with multi-colour post-its :)
A nice SWOT analysis too - I'll try and grab the slide.

National BIM Report 2012:
I presented the findings from the National BIM Report. Some nice tweets afterwards too - I hope people are finding it a decent document.
Also, great to have the likes of Simon Rawlinson, Brenden Patchell and Bryan Arscott all commenting very favourably about the National BIM Library project.

Chris Millard:
Some real fantastic things from Balfour Beatty here. The iPad augmented reality live demo. Also the photographs of the project team all gathered around a huge screen showing the BIM in the Balfour Beatty "BIM Cave".
Watching a model develop in parallel to the actual construction so that progress can be modelled and an as-built set of information be developed was great.

Brian Arscott:
Brian from John Lewis Partnership showed their ambition as an intelligent client with a "can do" attitude. "The big question is, when can we model our entire estate?"
Nice slide about how BIM is about reducing risk...

Thursday 9 February 2012

RICS BIM Conference

Today I am presenting the National BIM Report 2012 at the RICS BIM Conference. The presentation will look at the findings and some of the comment pieces and then I'll explore what RIBA Enterprises consider the "I" in BIM to be.

One thing that worked out quite nicely in terms of preparation was a set of questions I was emailed by an MSc student Candi Brown regarding a study into BIM and the Quantity Surveyor. Some of my thoughts below:
Update: Anybody that would like to help with this research please email:
Candi.Brown [at]

1. What still needs developing with BIM software in relation to QS tasks such as quantity take offs and automatic costing?
Quantity take off works well for the major materials such as concrete blocks or plasterboard. Automated costing is not as simple due to rules of measurement, for example a 4m-high x10m-wide brick walls cost less to construct than a 10m-high x4m-wide.
So there must be an intelligent interpretation of this data.
Also, costing is clearly much more than just the cost of construction in pounds and pence. It is also the environmental costs and these costs through the building's operation too.

2. What are the main benefits of using BIM for QS’s?
In terms of meeting with QSs involved with BIM that we have talked to, I’d say:
a. The ability to automatically take off quantities as opposed to measuring from plans and elevations.
b. The ability to link in-house cost databases to the elements in the BIM. This allows cost estimations to be more rapidly developed.
c. Basic collaboration and sharing of information. Through BIM, the design team are forced to make design decisions earlier – the cost consultant can then receive this information in a very understandable format and then advise on the implications of these decisions.

3. What are the main threats/opportunities to the QS?
The threats, to any construction professional, are mainly from “staying still” for too long and not adapting to change. Are there any practices still using drawing boards and typewriters?
Another threat is potentially from overseas competition. The UK cannot afford to stay still in an increasingly competitive global market. Clearly this is an opportunity too.

4. Is there any room for the future for Quantity Surveyor to get involved in adapting the BIM model themselves, for value engineering etc., and that this may be a skill that will be required of the future QS?

The BIM software packages used on a project, whether dealing with geometry, specification or cost must allow for the work flow you describe. What is clearly important though is for each consultant to agree the process and for change management QA processes to be put in place. Clever software and well-structured data are crucial, but skilled people and a defined process are also required.
A QS has traditionally contributed in many ways to the specification process, so there is no reason why this should decrease in any way with the adoption of BIM.

5. Could the QS play a lead role as BIM Co-ordinator/Manager?
I’m interested as to how long the word “BIM” will continue to be used. 5 years? 10 years? Eventually BIM will simply be the way people work on construction projects. Like a CMS is used to manage the production of a magazine or a website. Could a QS play the lead coordinator/manager role on a construction project? Of course. In 10 years’ time, will there be a contract role that is the “BIM Manager”? I don’t think so.

6. Which stage of the construction process is there scope for the QS to gain the most benefit out of using BIM?
The biggest chance to influence financial or environmental impact cost is as early on in the project as possible when the desired outcomes, performance specifications and the budget is being set. Post construction, there is an amazing opportunity now to take the actual information in digital form – estimated costs, actual costs, project duration and then feed this back into in-house systems so that lessons are learned and the next project is even better.

7. Are there implications for QS fees as a result of BIM? 
Consultants must be paid for the value they add to a project. If a construction project comes in for a lower price, if the yearly operation costs of a building are less, then the consultants must be rewarded accordingly. So fees should not reduce for those embracing BIM and bringing more to the table.
However, where standardisation is possible with repeat work of the same client, then fees may come down. But this will be “win for all” as everyone will benefit through increased profit margins.

8. What do you think are the key barrier(s) to the uptake of BIM for Quantity Surveyors? 
Same reasons people didn’t want to change from typewriters and drawing boards in the 1980s. Fear of change. Reluctance to invest in training and technology.
Businesses evolve through leadership from the top and through encouraging staff to push ideas from within.

9.  Are there any good QS case studies on BIM?
We have a number of industry-wide case studies on – a good cost consultant one is Dick Barker from Laing O’Rourke. We have another case study from John Lorimer (Manchester City Council – intelligent client) which will also be of interest.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Stay in touch, with NBS email updates

Some great coverage today in the construction press for our National BIM Report 2012. If you haven't downloaded a copy yet, then please check it out.

A quick blog post to remind everyone that they can stay in touch with all of the news from NBS by signing up to our email updates.

1. Access the page from the URL above or from our website
2. Select what you are interested in - we won't email you about topics that you don't care about:
3. Receive free, informative, email updates direct to your inbox

Thursday 2 February 2012

The National BIM Library – Behind the Scenes

There has been some discussion recently on our linkedin group regarding whether the National BIM Library (NBL) project is really BIM or simply one software vendor format with “lip service” being paid to IFC. In the discussion thread I rejected this opinion, but must accept that there hasn’t been much communication from us on how the content is being produced behind the scenes. This post tries to give a little indication on how the objects are being created.

We have commissioned the BIM Academy to undertake the first big chunk of work on the NBL. This was due to our confidence that the team work between BIM Academy and NBS would be able to do some pretty special things. BIM Academy is a joint venture that brings together Ryder Architecture with their experience of BIM in industry and Northumbria University with their BIM knowledge, software skills and bespoke IFC tool kits.

The process for authoring and production is as follows:

The documentation for the BIM objects is initially done in a set of spreadsheets. These link the object types to the structures and materials and define the type and instance properties. IFC is key to this process, from the object types to the standard property sets and COBie property sets. The screenshots below show a little of this… 

This data is the source that can be agreed with the NBS Technical Team. The BIM Academy IFC software toolkits then process this information into verified IFC2x3 format. This central source can then be imported into the object-orientated CAD software. At this stage, the core information is translated using IFC, with some additional matching of material and hatch patterns. But all in all it’s a really good process and something that is really pushing the interoperability agenda.

The files in the native software-vendor format then need a little tidy up and presented nicely to the user. The screenshot below shows this…

Then the objects are ready to use as resources in projects. The two screenshots below show a very simple example of concept walls being developed into detailed walls…

We’re starting to edge closer to launch now. We’re really hoping that everyone will like what they see (please come to our NBS/RIBA Enterprises stand at ecobuild and say hello). By following the process outlined in this blog post, embracing standard property sets and including commonly used UK constructions and workflow, we’re hoping it’s going to be the start of something really special.