Thursday 19 October 2017

PlanBEE - NBS Tech Experience

At NBS we are part of the PlanBEE initiative in the North East. This is an intense higher apprenticeship programme, spending four month spells with the industry’s leading companies, getting on and off the job training and earning from day one. It is a fast track to graduation, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity.
Collaboration from some of the largest AEC companies in the North East
As part of the four month experience at NBS, each student has a month in our BIM content team, our specification content team, our web team and also our tech team. I had the pleasure of putting together our tech programme and also mentoring the first of our PlanBEE students Jodie.
Our first two PlanBEE students
The tech month has four parts - the first three build up the basic skills needed to work on a real life industry problem and try and solve it using technology.

Week 1 - Web skills
With the help of the excellent w3schools website and Microsoft Visual Studio Community Edition the student learns basic web programming. Topics such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, JSON and XML are studied.
Loading data stored in XML into a website using AJAX
Week 2 - Desktop skills
To keep things simple on the desktop programming side, VBA within Microsoft Excel is taught to introduce the basics such as variables, loops, conditions, functions, user forms etc... The excellent Home and Learn website gives great training exercises.

As a data set to play with, Uniclass 2015 tables are provided.

Week 3 - Quality assurance
In week three, the student is introduced more to the NBS product range and spends a week in the QA team exploring and testing desktop and web solutions that are being updated for our customers. A lot of this is basic 'user acceptance testing' but there is also a little bit of time spent learning how to write automated testing.
Automated testing
Week 4 - Project
The project week is a chance for the student to put the skills into practice. They are given a pre-written web application which has three panels. The central model contains a 3D model of a building. The left hand panel allows objects in the model to be selected by GUID. The right hand panel receives events from the objects that are selected. The Autodesk Forge Viewer is used for the 3D model viewing.
The starting application
Jodie has just completed her tech month - so some screenshots from what she did in project week below...

The Challenge - Prototype a website that allows the facility manager to view and record the water temperatures for all hot and cold water taps in the NBS Old Post Office Building

Interview and video Mick, our maintenance guy, on how he takes and records the monthly readings

Put a plan together for the week (four day week! College on Monday)

Sketch design on the back of an envelope what the solution will look like

Start styling and laying out the test on the basic application

Add properties (using the NBS BIM Object Standard!) to a cube that will represent the tap
The SerialNumber property from the COBie PSet was used for the GUID

Place the cubes in the building - a beautiful representation of our lovely taps

Upload the new model to the website that has been created

Click on a tap to see where it is in the building, what the maintenance data is and instructions on how to maintain each month
So in a month, without much previous coding experience, I was amazed at what Jodie managed to put together. We'll have a student into the tech experience every two months now, and each one will be mentored by one of my colleagues at NBS. Hopefully some of these students will be inspired by what we do and will start successful careers in our industry.

From a BIM point of view, it's a simple example, but it shows how well-structured data from a common standard can be used to locate and use model data in FM. Some of the information is in the model (unique ID, classification, manufacturer name, description etc...) - some of this information is external to the model (photo, youtube video, maintenance records etc...). The end user can then access all of this connected information in a web application and use the 3D model to provide context.

To find out more about PlanBEE please visit:

A special mention to Ryder Architecture who started off this initiative:

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