Thursday 13 August 2015

AEC Hackathon - London

At NBS, we recently supported and took part in the first ever AEC Hackathon in the UK.

NBS Labs Manager Alan Smith (@AlanSmithNBS), who has led software development projects for over ten years at NBS writes this guest blog on the event below.

Alan writes...
NBS Alan

I was really excited to be invited to the first AEC Hackathon outside of the US, held at the Future Cities Catapult’s Urban Innovation Centre in London. I was invited to the event to present the BIM Toolkit along with my NBS colleagues Chris and Matthew. NBS also set a challenge for the event. Having never been to a hackathon before I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Day one: Friday 17th July – 6-10PM
After registering we were well fed and given time to look around the fantastic venue that would be our home for the next 48 hours. The hosts for the Hackathon were Paul Doherty (AEC Hackathon co-founder) and Simon Hart (InnovateUK). Paul went over the structure of the next few days and then Damon Hernandez (AEC Hackathon co-founder) appeared on a video wall from his home in San Francisco to explain the purpose of the AEC Hackathons.

At the end of his introduction, Damon donned a construction hard hat and so began the “Lighting rounds”. The lighting rounds were an opportunity for people to introduce themselves, their skill set and challenges they want to work on. There was a real mix of backgrounds – software development, architecture, mechanical engineering etc.

Paul Dougherty kicks of the first AEC Hackathon outside of the US
Day two: Saturday 18th July – 8AM-11PM
The NBS Team wanted to see what they could do with Autodesk’s Large Model Viewer API and data from the BIM Toolkit, so we set about planning our development work. Other teams started forming and hacking commenced.
NBS team hard at work
For those not taking part in the Hack challenges, there were some fantastic presentations throughout the day from Simon Hart, Rick Holland and Jonny Voon of InnovateUK, Damon Hernandez, George Stevenson and Tim Aikin of ActivePlan, Su Butcher of Just Practising Ltd, Grzegorz Klimaszewski of AssetMapping and more.
Rich Holland predicts the future of Smart Cities and IoT
And of course, I gave a presentation on the BIM Toolkit.
BIM Toolkit presentation
Meanwhile, the NBS team had made steps forward in exporting data from the BIM Toolkit in to our NBS Cost Tracking tool to show how toolkit data can be used to help with tendering and cost tracking. We’d also looked at using the  Large Model Viewer API from Autodesk to render National BIM Library objects in the web browser to help users inspect and review an object prior to downloading it.
Deliverables in the BIM Toolkit
Transferring the data into another software application
The BIM Toolkit data now being used in a cost tracking package
Experimenting with APIs that were available over the weekend from other software vendors

Interrogating IFC through the webbrowser
The day ended with everyone looking very bleary eyed but there was a huge buzz in the room and expectations were high for the presentations on Sunday.

Day three: Sunday 19th July – 8AM-1PM
Final hours of hacking were frantic running up to the presentations at lunchtime. I was blown away by the quality (and amount of work) of the work that had been achieved in such a short time. 

The first team to present were Optioneers, who focused on the challenge to help clients make better choices when they buy a house – so they can see the cost and carbon impact of having a flat vs a raised roof etc. Optioneers won the prize for the best use of open source.

Next up were Gapath0n, who created an open API to improve analysis of an Innovate UK and Energy Savings Trust dataset evaluating the performance of dozens of buildings. The team won three awards for their efforts: the Innovate UK Hack challenge, the Energy Saving Trust Challenge and the Future Cities Catapult Challenge.

Next to present were GhostBIMSquad. The team started with a demonstration of using Autodesk’s Large Model Viewer API to view a hospital. Then team then unleased feature after feature of additional things they had worked on from asset tagging to suggest suitable substitute products from a product selection database, Bluetooth navigation to locate assets within the building and finishing with a “hacked” together Perspex box that could display a hologram of the building. The team won Best Overall Project and the Autodesk VR and 3D Challenge.

Trying to top the last presentation were, team Massive. Massive created an impressive 3D app using ordinance survey data to identify potential redevelopment in London, with a view to creating more space in the city by identifying buildings that could be raised in height based on planning permission granted to surrounding buildings. Massive won the NBS prize for the best use of BIM.

The presentations were concluded by team Concur, who created an app using Autodesk’s Large Model Viewer API to provide project teams and clients with a method of commenting and feeding back on designs.

I entered the AEC Hackathon in London not knowing what to expect – the image I had in my head was like a scene from the movie Social Network. Fortunately this wasn’t quite how it panned out. Simon Hart and Paul Doherty did an excellent job organising the event in London and there were some really impressive hacks and some brilliant presentations and inspiring speakers that you’d pay a lot of more to see at a conference. It was also an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people within the AEC Sector. The event was such a success that it tended #3 in the UK on twitter and Damon Hernandez has confirmed there will be another AEC Hackathon in London summer 2016.

This review of the AEC Hackathon was written by Alan Smith, NBS Labs Manager

Other reviews of the event (as kindly collated by Simon from Innovate UK) are below:

Tuesday 4 August 2015

BIM Report for Manufacturers

 A week or two ago we published our NBS National BIM Report for Manufacturers 2015.

It has contributions from our Chief Executive Richard Waterhouse and Director of National BIM Library Ian Chapman. In addition, Head of Research Adrian Malleson looks at the 2015 BIM survey from the perspective of a manufacturer.

There is a short case study from architectural practice, David Miller Architects outlining how they have integrated BIM throughout their design processes. A particular focus is on how they use well-structured manufacturer information to create greater efficiencies and added value to their clients.

David Miller comments on the importance of quality when it comes to BIM objects, "Knowing that
information has been developed to the NBS BIM Object Standard will give us the confidence
we require".

There are also two case studies from manufacturers who have been early-adopters of BIM.

Assa Abloy Managing Director of UK Specification David Wigglesworth comments, "It is fair to assume that the 2016 mandate for government-funded projects to use BIM will have a significant impact on its uptake and use in the construction industry, with manufacturers supplying to public sector builds seeing BIM as a ‘must-have’".

Joris Smet Director at Smet Building Products Ltd comments, "Moving into our third BIM year, in alignment with our strategy, we will continue to prioritise monitoring designers’ needs, invest in, and
enhance, our BIM catalogue and continue to address the immediate need of designers for access to high quality, standardised, information-rich BIM objects. This is a distinct opportunity and we will continue to do more in collaboration with NBS – in whom designers trust – to ultimately strengthen our position at the forefront of BIM innovation and efficiency improvements in the construction industry."

Assa Abloy doorsets featured on
Assa Abloy doorsets receiving further coverage through contextual placement on the BIM Toolkit
Smet BIM objects featured on
Smet BIM objects receiving further exposure on
Download the report now for free:

Saturday 1 August 2015

Digitalisation and disruptive change

One thing I have always been fascinated by is the way technology is changing the world. I remember watching Tomorrow's World each week as a child. Looking at the specific part of the industry I am in - relatively recently we have gone from a process which was
(a) receive paper through the post, (b) copy this for a project, (c) write on it with pen, (d) post it to a typist, (e) receive it back, (f) post it back for final revisions, (h) receive it back, (i) post it out to recipients when published
- to -
(a) always have the latest information via the web, (b) modify this for a project, (c) send the final document by the web.

In other industries we have seen 10 people operating shopping tills to one person monitoring 10 self-serve tills. Artificial intelligence now means an IBM machine can diagnose health problems and do the a percentage of the job of a highly skilled professional.

This video below caught my eye earlier this week. I think it does over-sell the concepts a little - but regardless it's a pretty thought provoking watch. It makes you wonder what the horse trader of 1915 would make of today? It also makes you wonder where we will be in 2115?

This YouTube channel (CGP Grey) is definitely worth an explore if you like the style of delivery. In particular the is video The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained very entertaining.