Thursday 29 March 2012

Back to School

I had a holiday from proper work yesterday...

...spent doing BIM.

I had been asked to be an external supervisor on the Construction Engineering Masters Programme at the Cambridge University Laing O'Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology. So I spent a few hours discussing BIM and how it's transforming the construction industry. The rest of the time I spent taking it easy in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in the sunshine.

The last time I was at Cambridge was coincidently at the same engineering department as a 6th form student back in 1992 - a residential week trying to persuade students to enter the construction industry. So nice to return to twenty years later.
Botanic Garden #1

Botanic Garden #2

Botanic Garden #3

Class of 1907 - wonder what these guys went on to build?

Tuesday 27 March 2012

National BIM Library Promo Video

The video below played non-stop for three days at our RIBA Village at ecobuild. Pretty cool, but I'm not sure I'll be listening it with my headphones on again - I've just managed to get the tune out of my head 5 days later :)
Find out more at

Saturday 24 March 2012

UK Government BIM Task Group Website

The UK government's BIM Task Group website went live last week g. Visitors to the site will find a clear message sent to the whole supply chain about the government's BIM programme and requirements. There is also a list of all of the working parties such as the Training and Education group and the BIM Technologies Alliance.

The final version of COBIE 2.4.0 is documented and example files may be downloaded...

Key publications are also available to download... 

There is a video area where you will be able to hear from the leaders behind this project such as Chief Construction Advisor Paul Morrell...
And there are some insightful articles that demonstrate the value of BIM to decision makers in the supply chain...
All in all, a really good resource.

Friday 23 March 2012

Ecobuild day 3 - Pictures

Some "proper work" used to take place in this particular area of London

The secret formula behind doing 5 product launches in 3 days

NBS TV arrives to learn all about BIM and the need for it through the whole supply chain

X-Factor style link up to Newcastle live on the big screen

The star of the show - cannot quite remember what manufacturer product this dog was promoting though - although if the lady had given me a free toy dog for my little girl I would have dropped the name :)

Had a good browse around on the last day, some interesting stands

Thursday 22 March 2012

ecobuild 2012 - Day Three

Last day at ecobuild and the two big NBS presentations were the and NBS Create.

1. National BIM Library
I had the pleasure of presenting the National BIM Library (NBL) at the RIBA Village. Almost 40 years since the launch of NBS, the geometric information on a construction project and the specification information is now starting to come together. The NBL is based on the same bread and butter principles as the NBS - high quality, maintained, generic construction information and high quality, maintained, proprietary construction information.

We now have a live launch set of generic content...

...and are well way through the second phase of content...

...and have lots of manufacturers on board and have started on the proprietary content...

...and endorsements from all the main CAD vendors and buildingSMART.
The photo-shoot from Wednesday

RIBA Village find a use is found for me - holding a microphone off camera for UK Construction Strategy author Mark Bew interview

2. NBS Create
Last but, by no means least John Gelder and Ian Chapman presented NBS Create our newly released "next generation" specification product. Available with architecture, services, structural and landscape libraries, it is a specification product that can be used to drive the specification process through the project timeline. From outline, through to D+B or traditional procurement to finally an "as-built" spec.

The screenshot below gives a taste of the product - note how the specification is created in a user friendly interface - yet behind the scenes a detailed relational information model is built in the background. Also, as expected from NBS, detailed guidance and links to key construction documents are at hand from within the same interface.

Last year I blogged quite a bit about NBS Create, some pointers to these posts below...
Maybe the nicest bit of the ecobuild three days for me was the final video link up with our Newcastle office where there was a celebration when the NBS Create countdown clock hit 0.00.00. A bit cheesy, a bit X-Factor (without Dermott O'Leary) - but well worth it to say thank you to everyone who has worked so hard on the product who were not able to travel down. Fantastic stuff!

And now home to the North East. A busy few days.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Ecobuild Day Two Pictures

Better with BIM Seminar (AM) - Simon Rawlinson speaks

Mssrs Nisbet, Gelder, Lockley and Watson after a successful presentation of the TSB iCIM project

RIBA's Stuart Chalmers shows how you do a Pecha Kucha session

I still haven't sported my IFC pin badge - but did the fly the flag at the Interoperability session

 What a great speaker OpenBIM's Benedict Wallbank is
...and finished the day off with beers and a photo shoot with all of the BIM software vendors to launch the

ecobuild 2012 - Day Two

If yesterday was crazy busy, then today was doubly so! An overview of the some of the activity below...

1. NBS BRAD iPhone app
NBS Head of Sustainability and Content Development John Gelder launched the new NBS BRAD iPhone app. This is a free download from iTunes with trial content and if you like it you can buy the full version. It's designed for UK construction professionals who need quick access to the Approved Documents when out and about.
Fig 1 - an easy free download from iTunes.

Fig 2 - Search for a topic and then get the information across all Approved Documents about it

Fig 3 - Or quickly access the entire Approved Document

2. The Government's BIM Road Map 
I had my first of two appearances on the stage at the Better for BIM ecobuild main seminar series. I've listened to Paul Morrell, Mark Bew and David Philp present at least 2 or 3 times each in the last 24 months. I've also  had a little bit of time around the meeting room table with the BIM Technologies Alliance group working with the Government on the technology requirements. So hopefully I managed to do a half decent job.

In a nutshell... The government is the biggest spender in UK construction. So it has influence. And it wants to:
a. Get better value for the UK tax payer. 20% savings in financial cost. Make more sustainable buildings.
b. Set clear requirements without telling people how to get there. This will stimulate innovation and through competition drive up capabilities in the private sector. This will pull UK-Construction-PLC up and make it better in the UK and a leader around the world.

On the second of these points. This is definitely true in the case of RIBA Enterprises, we have never worked as hard as we have in the last year in terms of our new product developments around structured data (NBS Create, linked product data,, improved CIS).

And the implementation plan is all around push and pull factors. Or more bluntly carrots and sticks. The carrot is investor reports, great features on construction companies who have been quantifiably successful through BIM and case study projects. The stick is you must be at level-2 BIM as a minimum by 2016, or you don't work on UK Gov projects.

3. Our TSB iCIM project
One of the highlights of the conference so far (what will have woken people up after my six in-depth COBie database slides in the previous sessions) has to have been the iCIM research project presentation by RIBAE Exec Director Richard Watson and Professor Steve Lockley.

As this is a joint research project with names like AEC3, Autodesk, BCIS, Faithful and Gould, Bath Uni, RIBA Enterprises and BIM Academy working together then it's no surprise that collaboration and strength of the information behind the BIM is what came through strongest. Hard to do justice to in a small part of a blog post, but here we go (in screenshots)...

1. A building has had its shell designed using National BIM Library concept components. The user exports to IFC  (note from the screenshot that this is done through an improved IFC exporter developed by BIM Academy)...

2. The IFC model can then be viewed in a platform neutral web viewer (in browsers such as Google Chrome) and cost and carbon information can be returned to the user. 

3. The BIM objects may be configured to meet the budget of the project - whether this is design requirements, financial cost or environmental cost. This rich information at design time is used to help make informed decisions.

4. Results of the configuration can be seen at object and whole project level. The BIM can be round-tripped back into the BIM CAD package. Equally an outline NBS Create specification may be created from the decisions that have been made.

4. BIM and Interoperability
And in the afternoon, I presented again on the main Better for BIM seminar stage. This time about BIM and Interoperability.

I think this one is pretty simple. Teams working on construction projects need to be able to coordinate their project information. They need to be able to pass this to the client at various stages in a format that will last the test of time. This needs a standard, agreed, data format. The UK government stopped one step short of going full IFC and went for COBie in their Construction Strategy.

A few dumbed-down non-construction industry parallels below, hopefully there is some parallels with construction...

1. A Gmail user could not send an email to an iPhone user if it wasn't for an agreed standard non-proprietary format...
2. You'd have to develop your website a number of times if there wasn't an agreed open standard format (and this was true ten years ago - remember Netscape and IE5!)
3. But if the whole project team is using the same software vendor's tools, it's OK isn't it? Because big companies will be around forever...

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Ecobuild - Day One Photos

Sun rises over the Millennium Dome

RIBA Product Selector - hard copy and digital side-by-side

RIBA Bookshops - the quiet before the storm - the Ecobuild crowd went crazy for the books!

NBS Create - official launch not far off - architectural, structural, services and landscape specification throughout the construction timeline

Standing room only for the RIBA Village Bite Sized presentations - is that Twitter's Su Butcher I see?

One of the highlights of the day for me - the PechaKucha sessions - RIBA Enterprises/NBS customers - 20 slides, 20 seconds each. teaser presentation at Vectorworks stand - Jonathan Reeves is on before me - his 30 minute "BIM for beginner" presentations need to be bottled.

ecobuild 2012 - Day One

In terms of RIBA Enterprises activities today...

1. NBS National BIM Report
This morning I presented the findings of our National BIM Research. This report is the findings from the most comprehensive and accurate research into UK BIM.

If you haven't already read the report, then I'd definitely recommend it. Some really insightful findings and trends and also some excellent articles and comment pieces from the likes of David Philp (UK Cabinet Office) and Angela Brady (RIBA President).
Fig 1 - By the end of 2011 almost a third of construction professionals are using BIM on at least some projects.

The report also includes an excellent case study from small practice David Miller Architects. In addition to the message that is often reported "you must use BIM by 2016". It's quite nice to also have an article that discusses "what's in it for me" - this case study shows the benefits of BIM in terms of hard-nosed return on investment for a company that has adopted this new process/technology.
Fig 2 - Chart above shows the rise in fee income against investment in BIM.

The final part of the presentation looked at "what is BIM?". The fundamentals of software + people + process cannot be argued with. But it's also fair to say that under-pinning all of this is information. And this is not just the 3D geometry that allows for visualisations and clash detection. The 3D geometry must be coordinated and linked to the specification, guidance, standards, regulations, potential manufacturers and cost (financial and environmental).

Fig 3 - What is BIM?

This afternoon, Head of Sales from RIBA Enterprises Ben Councell launched the fantastic new website To date the RIBA Providers Network CPD, the online CPD videos and the RIBA CPD activities have been dispersed across a number of quite disjointed websites. This new site provides essential CPD information for the construction industry all in one portal.
Fig 4 - Watch CPD videos at your desk, answer questions and receive the certificate

Fig 5 - Search for CPD on any topic and then filter the results to suit the way you prefer to learn

Fig 6 - Learn about the CPD events organised by RIBA around the country

3. Construction Information Service v4
And to round off a pretty full day, RIBA Enterprises Software Development Director Dr John Henderson launched version 4 of the Construction Information Service (CIS). CIS is joint venture product from NBS and IHS that gives instant full text access to the latest regulations, standards and technical advice.

Improvements to this release includes improved a completely rewritten search engine, intelligent drop down suggestions, more clearly presented search results and the ability to filter the search results to quickly find the document that is needed. 
Fig 7 - Screenshot showing the new CIS site with the optimised search features

So a busy, busy day. Come and see us tomorrow for some more great stuff on stands S1630 and S1640: