Saturday 28 April 2012

Google Plus and Blogger

One of the great things about Twitter is the ability to pick up tips from others.

One blog post I saw promoted on Twitter recently was from Pauley Creative's Pritish Patel:

When it comes to search engine optimisation, everyone knows the basic tips of (a) writing strong content, (b) having meaningful page titles, headings, (c) getting other respected sites to link to your sites etc... But what was particularly interesting about this post was that it was looking at the trust of the authorship.

It appears that Google may be returning pages higher in their search returns depending on the previous history of the person that authored it. And they do this through the Google Plus identification.

To link your Google Plus ID to a web page you have written or a blog you own is simple. A good help page on how to do this is below:

You then have to wait two or three days and it works. One additional nice benefit of this is also that the author name and image is associated with the search results too. A couple of examples below...

All of this is great, but some have asked the question "isn't this just Google being a bit cheeky and trying to pinch the Twitter/ Linkedin/ Facebook market through their dominance of the search engine world?"

My personal view is that linking authorship with articles with search results is a good thing. But with Google+, from what I have seen to date, Google have some way to go to beat Twitter/ Linkedin/ Facebook. Google are best when they are being innovative - with search, with online storage and documentation and analytics. Where they enter a market that already has fantastic, established players - they don't always do so well.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Alan Gordon Partridge and Star Wars

Another light-hearted fun post...

For all the 100s of articles written about the benefit of structured data being used in many ways for greater efficiency, this 140 character comedy tweet from Mr Alan Partridge seemed to sum the principles up quite succinctly. It also made me chuckle...

And our linkedin group has certainly seen its share of fierce RVT vs IFC debates over the last six months.

My personal view is that working with software APIs direct and interoperability through a standard open data format are both critical and have their place. I'd definitely say the glass is much more than half full - and not half empty.

But what has made me smile during this debate is how Star Wars has managed to randomly rear its head in a number of posts.
NBL-Star-Wars - By S J Hamil

Update (20/04): Great tweet in reply from @Costain_BIM...
... @StephenHamilNBS Star Wars #BIM ? That'll be headed up by COBie1 Kinobe

Wednesday 18 April 2012

NBS Create - Specifications from each discipline throughout the project timeline

I've been demonstrating NBS Create a little bit recently and it's fantastic to see the software now with all of the content libraries. This now means quantity surveyors, architects, service engineers, structural engineers and landscape architects can all work on specifications in the same way throughout the project timeline. Some screen-shots below to demonstrate this (click on the images for a bigger view).

Update - see my recent article on

1. Project Management
The first screenshot below shows (what could be) the quantity surveyor working on the project management content. The section open is Works Contract Procurement and a clause detailing tender requirements is being edited. It should be noted that certain sections can be written prior to the contract being chosen and other sections are relevant to the specific contract and procurement method (traditional, partnership, design and build...).

2. Architecture
The screenshot below shows what could be an architect specifying an Internal Partition System from the architecture library. What is worth pointing out here is that the clauses shown are to do with the overall performance requirements of the system in terms of structural, acoustic and fire performance. The user can now use NBS to write true performance specifications without specifying the materials. This is perfect for contractor-led design procurement where the client wants certainty on performance.

3. Service Engineering
NBS is not just about architecture, but since 2003 we have had a dedicated internal team of construction professionals that publishe mechanical and electrical engineering content. The screenshot below shows an Intruder Alarm System. The clauses on display are specifying the requirements upon system completion by the contractor. This details how the system performance will be tested and what spares/maintenance are required.

4. Structural Engineering
For the first time, NBS now has a dedicated structural content library. The screenshot below shows a Reinforced Concrete Foundation System and the clauses on display are specifying the workmanship that is required in terms of laying and testing the concrete. As always with NBS, the latest standards and references are cited and these are maintained by the NBS technical staff.

5. Landscape Architecture
The final screenshot shows landscape architecture content. On display is the manufacturer products that have been specified to complete the slab paving system. It goes without saying that on top of the performance, completion and workmanship content, at the end of the day it is construction products that are finally installed. The visual view of the specification editor shows the relationship between the clauses. Also on the display is the detail that a specifier can go to. Not only are the natural stone slabs and other main products specified, but also the smaller products such as herbicides and even skateboard deterrent studs( :) !).

So, it's a product we're all very proud of. Whether it is used on a project just by one design professional to produce a traditional tender specification, or by the whole project team write their specifications from "outline" to "as-built" - we believe it is a specification system that will truly revolutionise specification writing in the UK.

Further reading:

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Non-Digital Marketing

A month after ecobuild and our RIBA Village that embraced digital to-the-max (video link-ups, tweets, promotional videos, animations, BIM and interopability...), I'd like to reflect and make two light-hearted awards to the best use of non-digital marketing...

2nd place - The Graphisoft plants - nice little wooden pots - now sprouting up - the kids love 'em...

1st place - There can only be one first place, the Dulux dog...

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Francis Maude - UK to become the world leaders in BIM

The UK Government BIM Task Group website now includes a few comments from Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. They speak of the UK construction industry becoming world-leaders in Building Information Modelling.

"This Government's four year strategy for BIM implementation will change the dynamics and behaviours of the construction supply chain, unlocking new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working. This whole sector adoption of BIM will put us at the vanguard of a new digital construction era and position the UK to become the world leaders in BIM"

To hear Mr Maude speak to the construction industry this year see:

Wednesday 4 April 2012

thinkBIM - OpenBIM Conference

After the sunshine of ecobuild two weeks ago we had the snow at Leeds for the openBIM conference at Leeds Met’s ThinkBIM conference.

First up was Nick Nisbet from AEC3. Nick was one of the key people that contributed to the UK Government Construction Strategy.

Nick argued that BIM is all about sharing structured information. From one input you can achieve many outputs. If the data is structured, you can use it and analyse it through the supply chain. The case study discussed here was the possibility of automated code checking. Singapore is the example of this in action, Singapore is ranked number 1 out of 212 in terms of places to do business. In terms of construction you can get building regulation approval in not 3 months, or 6 months, but in 30 minutes.

But the main part of Nick’s presentation was about the UK Government initiative. The hypothesis was that the government wants “improvements in cost, value and carbon performance through open sharable asset information”. Nick suggested that the reason the aim was for level-2 BIM was to keep the lawyers at bay. Nick clearly would like level-3 in the not-so-distant future. “Most of the industry will go beyond COBie”, were his thoughts.

Nick talked about the importance of not just the geometry but also of the specification – if you own a building and need to replace a pump – what is its specification?

The importance of the colour code of COBie was discussed – maybe a good topic for a blog post? – the spreadsheet is not colourful without a reason, what do these background colours mean in terms of requirements at the different stages?

Parveen Sharma then presented live on a web stream from India. Parveen has worked on over 240 projects world-wide. Parveen works for Intec Infocom and he explained that the move to BIM was happening in India just like we are seeing here in the UK.

The ability for all the design disciplines to work collaboratively through BIM was demonstrated, then for this data to flow through the project timeline to the construction team.

In terms of the software platforms used in India, it sounded like it’s the same worldwide, Autodesk, Bentley, Graphisoft all mentioned. Made me wonder whether the Indian market would be a good one for NBS, what percentage of jobs are specified to British Standards?

I then had the tough decision of which of four excellent sounding roundtables to join. The first one I picked was hosted by Rob Jackson who was demonstrating “Open BIM” – working to open data standards. One of Rob’s jobs at Bond Bryan was to sort out the best practice way of working with respect to BIM.
Round table #1

Round table #2

Round table #3

If you share data with collaborators on a construction project – there is no choice. You need to work to agreed standards and process. Rob admits that his focus to date has been putting information into their BIM objects that gives them benefits – but admits that this needs to change so that information is put into these objects that gives benefits.

The roundtable had a low-level of BIM experience, but Rob was great answering all of the questions from experience of “having done it”. Rob honestly believes that the profitability of his practice has increased – he got some pretty tough questions, but some really good questions on return on investment and who benefits most.

Also, some good discussions on who owns the data that is (a) used to create the designs and (b) then passed on down the supply chain? The openBIM roundtable discussion had gone completely off script - but in a good way. Fascinating to observe a discussion on BIM following questions from someone looking at it from a completely hard-financial return on investment point of view.

One of the most honest benefits that Rob discussed was the ability to show a design early to a client so they can actually articulate why they don’t like it. It’s much cheaper to receive this news early on – especially if it’s easy to take feedback on-board and re-work.

The second session I watched was chaired by Adam Matthews who is leading the Education Work Stream for the UK Gov. What education and training is required to up-skill the industry to deliver the BIM aspects of the construction strategy. Like the previous session, this was broadcast live over the internet – excellent use of technology by the Leeds Met team.
Adam's sketch on the incorrect weighting currently in education

Round table #4

Where does education come from currently? From the vendors, private training providers (PTP), higher education, further education and the institutions themselves. Adam’s team has been leading consultation into this and has found that the balance is far too weighted currently to the software vendors. Equally the education is currently nearly all around technical training – this has to change, we need more education in the strategic and management elements. Adam argued that the balance of all of this has to change.

Looking at the different disciplines, there must be training angled at clients, designers, contractors and facility managers. What documentation is required and how will this flow from brief to design to as built to operation and maintenance? Also, there was a triangle with three notes (1) Demand, (2) Define and then (3) Deliver.

There was a tongue in cheek half way through the session after Adam brings up Leeds, Salford and Newcastle examples – “Is BIM just happening in the north?”. Adam (based in London) was quick to point out that this wasn’t actually the case.

Full credit to Adam for not mentioning “Autodesk” once in the full hour – not sure if I’ll manage the same in my 6min40 seconds Pecha Kucha later in the day (update: I didn’t :) – fail on slide 9).

Whoever invented Pecha Kucha was a genius – five really good ones in thirty minutes. No chance to waffle, no chance to get nervous – just race on through.

First was from Dave Jellings on the open BIM movement, he argued that interoperability was the backbone of BIM and through open data standards the software companies will be able to compete and produce a better experience for the end user. Next up was James Austin from BIM Technologies, James spoke about how BIM is still in its early phases and we have to let the processes naturally evolve – and what we must not do is let complexity get in the end users way – beautifully illustrated with Homer Simpson on his iPad. George from BIM Academy then was next, he demonstrated how IFC had been used as a central source format to produce BIM content in multiple CAD vendor formats. Martin Brown from Fairscape then did a whirlwind 20 slides from his iPad (interoperability!) – I wondered whether maybe 20 seconds is faster in Apple-land though as the slides really did disappear. Finally, I did 20 slides on interoperability focusing a little on our recent TSB research project looking at how IFC can be used as an exchange format to configure concept BIM objects based on technical guidance, financial and environmental cost data and then round trip back into the model.

Then a fast walk down to the train station so I could get off for an Easter break in the sunny Lake District. Unfortunately, the pasty shop was closed in Leeds station – I am sure I heard in the news the other week that you could get a good pasty there?
The now famous pasty shop #pastygate

Monday 2 April 2012

Ecobuild - Better with BIM main seminar series

Most of my blog posts from the recent Ecobuild week were around the activities at the RIBA Village. But I did also spend most of the second day playing some part in the "Better with BIM" main seminar series. Here are some delayed notes from that day...

This morning I chaired the first of the “Better with BIM” session which was part of the main ecobuild 2012 seminar series.
David Miller goes through slides in preparation - 10 minutes later it was standing room only

More information on my presentation on the UK Government Construction Strategy can be seen at the blog post Ecobuild Day Two. Following me was David Miller. David delivered a case study, a school building that David Miller Architects are currently working on. David showed value engineering at the beginning of the process using BIM and working with the cost consultants. Four unique schools have now been developed using the standardised components they have developed. “Blow apart the previous database and re-assemble it” was a nice piece of phrasing used.

Where a manufacturer has been specified from the outset in a strict brief – they can include it in the model early on for greater certainty.

The reality of the situation is that all deliverables are still 2D outputs. But all of these 2D outputs come from the central project BIM database. This ensures coordination and speed of work when modifications are required.

When changes are required across an entire door/window schedule – they can be done in 30 seconds. Previously these may have taken half a day equating to £300. And they may have been a mistake made – this may have equated to more than £300.

Through the construction of the building the design team and Bouygues (the contractors) sit and look at the BIM and regularly use it as a key tool – the model is navigated and any information that is required can be retrieved which avoids problems on site.

One of the more obvious pragmatic benefits discussed was also that competition information can be put together in the half the time – a more impressive package that wins more often.

Simon Rawlinson was next up. He asked the question “Why do you need the business case for BIM?” – Sometimes it just makes sense. The business case is often – “it just makes sense”. Simon demonstrated some of the empirical evidence of the return of investment seen by contractors that have gone public with their figures.

“If it doesn’t flow down the construction timeline then it’s not BIM” – a rich information model that gives benefits between the “silos”. Simon also floated the idea that through partnerships and joint rewards through savings on OpEx can lead to better collaboration on agreed CapEx.

There was also a call for improved standards. If BIM was a garden that is going to grow – we don’t want a messy garden – we want BIM to grow properly through collaboration within the industry.
Watch words – (1) Be pragmatic, (2) Be proactive, (3) Open standards, (4) Be streetwise, (5) Be positive.
Simon Rawlinson and Brendan Patchell

Brendan Patchell started by letting the audience know that the construction industry is a “destroyer of worlds”. So we need to change our ways to build buildings that will be kind to the environment in terms of construction and also use.

Simple durable open standard databases are what are needed to be exported out of the design databases. And it must contain good quality data – put rubbish in – you get rubbish out.
From a cost consultant point of view Brendan demonstrated how the model can be changed and all of the material take-off volumes and areas were automatically updated.

Brendan also discussed the process that may be used in the industry where the designers start with library components, put these into the project BIM and tweak to suit, then this information is used for construction and then facility management.

After a few hours of rushing around at the RIBA Village I was then back at the main seminar series in the afternoon. This session was chaired by Nick Nisbet from buildingSMART.

“Don’t not buy – the time to adopt BIM is now”, is how Nick started the session. “We need to start to invest in technology and QA systems and not be spending money paying lawyers”.

Nick commented that the construction industry is playing catch up with industries such as automobile and aviation – information must be shared through the whole construction process. We mustn’t be simply delivering a wheelbarrow full of documents once the building is complete. One example of data sharing that is not as often discussed with respect to BIM, is sharing information intelligently to get through the planning process or building regulations approval process. “Any industry that is relying on 2D documents is not doing their job properly”.

Nick believes the key phrase from the UK Gov Strategy “Clients can derive significant improvements in cost, value and carbon performance through the use of open sharable asset information”.

There should be no surprises as the design moves through to construction – at every stage you should be aware of the financial and carbon costs.
Benedict Wallbank

Benedict Wallbank was next up who as an architectural background, but has worked as a BIM consultant most recently. Selecting the BIM software is like being a kid in a sweetshop.

What are the things that you want to see in BIM software is the key item that will make you the most money? What are the key drivers are for you? What are your bottle necks in your businesses? Look at sorting this process with the software that best meets your need. If your boss says to you “go and get me BIM!” then challenge him and ask him what he wants to get out of it and what process he wants. Go to the software vendors and say, “this is what I need to do, what can your software do to help me meet my needs?”.

In the United Nations how does it work? Option A – every country learns each-others language. Option B – everybody (bar one) has to change their language. Option C – everybody has a translator. Option C is the openBIM approach – and IFC is the openBIM common language of choice.

What happened to video when VHS beat Betamax and achieved a monopoly? Nothing. It stagnated for 15 years. Competition is vital to innovation – we must have this in the UK construction industry.

Passionate about BIM

When writing summary information for conferences or introducing other speakers the words "passionate about BIM" often spring to mind.

But then my thoughts always turn to this David Mitchell comedy sketch that lingers at the back of mind and I rephrase.
(I *think* this is safe for work)

Stephen Hamil - Passionate about BIM :)