Tuesday 28 August 2012

NBS for Small Domestic Building Projects

Occasionally I get a chance to write a short article for the RIBA newsletter for Chartered Practices. For the Summer 2012 publication I have written a few words on using NBS for small domestic building projects...

When most people in the construction industry think of NBS they immediately think of large projects. However, more and more practices that work on small domestic building projects are now using the NBS Domestic online specification writing tool. Since its release at the end of 2010, almost 1,000 practices have used the service and hundreds of these have used it on a number of projects. The specification content is designed especially for work on small domestic buildings and it includes clear and concise work sections of the type typically needed on projects of this nature.

One of the key differences between NBS Domestic and the more traditional NBS specification products is that the tool runs through the web browser. This means that there is no need to purchase or install any software. It also means that it may be used on any platform, PC or Mac, using Google Chrome, Apple Safari or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Another fundamental difference is that NBS Domestic has a ‘pay-per-project’ payment model. The user simply registers for an account, pays a small amount and then completes the specification within a very intuitive user interface.

Writing your specificationThe first task that is required when starting to write a specification is to select the work sections and the contract particulars for the relevant construction contracts, which include JCT Home Owner, JCT Minor Works and SBCC Minor Works. The 22 work sections provided cover site preparation, building fabric, landscape and services for domestic building projects.

Figure 1 shows how the user may edit the template specification clauses that are within each work section. In the example given, the user simply goes through the clause items within the Wood Weatherboarding system outline clause. They remove items that are not relevant to the project and complete the items that are. Suggested drop down values and expert technical guidance are provided to help with the completion of each clause.

Each work section has a logical structure starting with system outline clauses, then the product clauses and then a number of workmanship clauses to provide a concise yet robust specification.
Figure 1 – The NBS Domestic specification writing user interface
The content within NBS Domestic is updated by the Technical Team at NBS throughout the year. This means that when a work section is added to a project, a user may be confident that it is up to date and will reference the latest construction standards and regulations.

Publishing your specification
Once the specification is complete then a professional looking PDF may be generated that can be downloaded to create part of a tender package. As shown in Figure 2, the finished document looks just like a traditional NBS specification, with cash columns to the right of the page that allow for easy pricing by the contractor.
Figure 2 – The published output
Free software downloads are also available so that the information from a specification can be used for different tasks. The free NBS Annotator tool works with the data output from an NBS Domestic specification so that CAD drawings and schedules can be quickly annotated with the NBS project clause references. The NBS Cost Tracking tool can also work with this data so that pre-tender cost estimates can be prepared, tender comparisons can be made and costs can be tracked as they progress throughout the construction stage.

In little over twenty months NBS Domestic appears to becoming the de-facto standard specification for small domestic construction jobs in the UK. It is really nice to see a simple, low cost tool, which works through modern internet technology, satisfying a real construction professional need.

What our users say
“The start-up process involves a very simple online purchase and form that incorporates the JCT Home Owners Contract and as such is good value in this respect. The process of completing the preambles and initial sections is very user friendly and it is simple then to move onto the specific sections, if you have your drawings to hand it’s very easy to use standard clauses or add in specific information from the drawings as well as some spec obtained directly from the suppliers / manufacturers. My one suggestion to NBS would be that a little more template content would be useful as more and more domestic projects involve new materials and finishes more akin to commercial projects. But on the whole a good experience and hopefully it will be of great benefit to the client in terms of product specification and call-off on site (self-build)."
 Adrian Williamson Director at WM Design & Architecture Ltd
Fig 3 - Illustration of self-build project specified using NBS Domestic
Fig 4 - Illustration of self-build project specified using NBS Domestic

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