Tuesday 24 December 2019

NBS Chorus - Project case studies

NBS Chorus continues to be used more and more now on construction projects around the world. It's been really good this year to hear how it is being used and learn from the experience of the architects and engineers who have been the early-adopters.

We now have a nice case studies page on our website:
- theNBS.com/Case-Studies

In this blog post, I just wanted to highlight two of these below.

1. BDP - Large Multi-disciplinary practice
The BDP case study tells the story of mutli-disciplinary specification across the project team on a new build primary school project in Scotland.
Primary school
The case study is taken from the AU London class from myself and BDP's Alistair Kell. It looks at how specification and model can be developed in parallel from the Developed Design stage of a project through to Technical Design.

If you are interested in learning more about producing a fully coordinated set of design and specification information all classified to Uniclass 2015 then check out the story below:

2. David Miller Architects - 10-20 SME architectural practice
The David Miller case story covers similar principles to the BDP story. However, it is nice to view the same approach from a small architectural practice that is delivering on complex projects by leveraging an innovative approach to technology.
Wall details from a housing project
Even in a smaller project team, the need for collaboration and coordination is most definitely there. The above screenshot shows complex wall details generated from a model that are coordinated with the specification information in the NBS Chorus cloud platform.

Watch out for more case studies in 2020. We're hoping to soon have some good stories from practices using Macs/ArchiCAD and clients and contractors who are now seeing the benefit of collaborative cloud specification.

UK BIM Alliance - BS EN ISO 19650 Guidance - Part 2

Earlier in the year I blogged about the UK BIM Alliance's guidance document for the concepts behind the BS EN ISO 19650 standards.

I thought it probably a good thing to do a little post about the part two of this guidance series that was published a month or two ago. Again, this is a free download, and is available below:

19650 guidance - part 2
Whereas the first guide looked at the concepts, this second guide gives some really practical support with respect to the actual process of information management. Some screenshots below, from section 2 of the guide, to give a bit of an overview.

The workflow process as information is developed and approved/authorized 

An agreed naming convention for all information containers that are issued to the team
An agreed approach to revision codes for the information
The first section of a worked example showing how the suitability should be indicated using status codes
Finally, a shout out to the team who worked on this and put in lots of 'volunteer hours' to share knowledge and best practice around this...

Friday 8 November 2019

CPA and NBS - Product Information Report

This week saw the publication of the CPA and NBS Product Information Report. The report was, in part, a look at the challenges set out in Chapter 7 of the Hackett Report, which relate to communicating construction product information in a clear and unambiguous way.
CPA and NBS report
In terms of what information 'users' of construction product information require, there were some clear requirements:

  • Technical product information to complete the specification
  • Third party certification
  • Suitability information - in particular if the product forms part of a system
  • Currency/availability information
  • Supporting guidance

It was also very clear that users want information digitally. The only significant requirement for 'physical' information was product samples and delivery of in-person CPD. This is a huge change in a decade where printed literature was once common place.

There was also a difference in understanding between what users wanted and what providers thought they wanted.

Focus more on:

  • Making product information more accessible from search engines
  • Making product information more accessible from online product directories

Focus less on:

  • Brochures
  • Sales reps
  • Trade shows
  • Promotion through social media

Clearly, the provision of well-structured, comprehensive and accurate product information is an area the industry must improve on.

However, the report also highlighted industry bad-practice around product substitution. This was found too often to be (a) badly documented and (b) not following approval mechanisms.

Certainly a few things to think about. Some screenshots from the key findings below...
The key information required from provider and user perspectives
Do product substitutions follow an agreed process and get documented

Are product substitutions always approved
How can accurate manufacturer product information be insisted on
Download the report for free below:

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Uniclass 2015 - Resources

At the weekend one or two people on Twitter asked if I could post some of the NBS videos demonstrating how to use Uniclass 2015 so they can use them when explaining classification to others.

So, here are some links to resources that some may find useful.

If you do download them and use them - then please credit NBS (theNBS.com/Uniclass) for use of the content and put a tweet out to help spread the word :)

Short video files showing the concepts:
These have been exported to WMV format so they should work fine when embedded in a Powerpoint. Download below:
- Google Drive Folder containing videos



Explainer article:
In addition to these videos, there is also a good 'What is Uniclass' explainer article from NBS Head of Classification Sarah Delany:
What is Uniclass 2015?

Download the tables:
...and of course there are the classification tables themselves. Download them for free or quickly query them using our online widget at:

Download the tables and play with the widget

Friday 13 September 2019

Construction Project Information - Old School

I got handed some old project documentation today that was used to help inform the development of the very first National Building Specification in 1973.

This is from 1971 and I assume the original authors of the NBS took lots of 'best practice' examples to look through (such as that below) to standardize a national template structure.

Click on the photographs for a larger version...
Hand written specification from 1971
Think about the physical item, draw it, add the spec code, write the spec, work out the quantities - simple
CI/SfB codes - still used by many for work packages/drawing numbering to this day
Good old BS 1186
As everyone knows, BS 1186 was updated in 1971 and then again in 1990
It's 1971 and we need to invent a product that will bridge the communication gap between designer and contractor
Who needs Revit/ArchiCAD to generate schedules - it was so much more fun in 1971!
...and along came NBS in 1973.

Anyone else with nostaligic items from the past - feel free to send photographs through :)

Monday 2 September 2019

Twenty years

In the first week of September in 1999 I took my first job after leaving university to work on software products. These software products were for a company called NBS. We were taking paper based workflows and digitising them.

Twenty years later - I am still very much working on defining the next generation of software products for NBS.

Back in 1999 it was a small research centre (Construction Informatics Research Centre) that was connected to Newcastle University. In September 2002 this research centre moved into the NBS business to become the R+D department.
The old CIRC building on Claremont Road
Of the team that moved down, Andrew B, Emma H, John M, Mark W and myself are all still with NBS. AT NBS, we also still work with Richard Watson and Kay Rogage (Northumbria University) and Steve Lockley (co-founder of BIM Academy) on projects and they are very much part of the North East BIM Community.
The newly formed NBS R+D team
Richard Waterhouse who led the digital developments for NBS back in 1999 and who brought us down in 2002 is now CEO of NBS and my boss. Helen Whitfield was part of the finance team back in 1999 and is now an Exec Director at NBS. It's been fantastic to have some great continuity over the years,

Since 1999 I have worked on pretty much all of the NBS software products - from NBS Specification Manager to NBS Plus to NBS Create to NBS National BIM Library to NBS Chorus. But the first development I worked on was called NBS Office - it never got fully released, but a part of that project was NBS Scheduler which did - and I've dug out some screenshots from an early beta release I worked on the code on.

The branding changed slightly prior to the first release - so these screenshots from the 2000 beta have never been seen before :)
NBS Office - for all of the needs of an architectural office
A new innovative method of browsing specification content from standard drawings

Using new web technologies to offer users drop down suggested values when specifying
As a twenty something starting off as a software developer it was a great time with new technologies coming out each year and the internet really starting to take off. I'd say the first ten years were about changing our information delivery products to be web based, the second ten years have been about integrating work flows and then moving information production products to be web based and collaboration. Let's see what the next twenty years bring.

Some highlights of the twenty years have included:

...and a web cam picture from 1999 of three of the developers who worked on the code
(and had the occassional game of 5aside/ beer/ night out)
The team back in 2004 working on Building, Scheduler and NBS Plus
So - that is 1999-2019 in a blink of an eye. Let's hope there are many more interesting products to work on over the upcoming years!

Friday 16 August 2019

Connecting specifiers and construction manufacturers

At NBS we have been refreshing our messaging around our offerings lately.

I particularly like the new videos...

If you are a specifier
Find out about intelligent construction specification, in the cloud at:

If you are a construction product manufacturer
Find out how you can get the exposure no other marketing channel can match at:

Friday 2 August 2019

NBS use on a real life projects

A few weeks ago I did my fourth Autodesk University class. This one was in London and I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Alistair Kell from BDP.

It's always good to co-present with someone who can give real-life project example. It adds a bit extra over and above the theory of how it should work. The two examples in question where both BDP projects in Scotland - one a huge railway station project and another a smaller new build primary school project. It was interesting to see the commonality between the two projects with respect to digital structure and process.

To watch the full presentation on the AU website click the first link below.

To watch a few 60 second snippets and read a bit of an overview, click the second link to go to the NBS website.
Watch the full class at the AU website

If you are short on time - catch a summary on the NBS website

Monday 20 May 2019

Intelligent specification, in the cloud

Over recent years, using the cloud has allowed me to connect applications and data together inside and outside work.

Looking at examples from outside work, it's so easy to embed a youtube video within Facebook - or transfer the data from a fun run from Garmin to Strava - or buy a book on the Amazon App and then see it on my Kindle. The cloud has revolutionized the way we interact in our daily lives.

When working on NBS Chorus, as a cloud based tool we expected that this would transform the way the industry interacted with specifications. We were aware of some immediate transformational benefits such as (1) functioning on other devices other than PCs (Mac, Tablet, Chromebook etc...), (2) the ease at which contributors can be added to a project and (3) the end to problematic installation of software and content on local machines/networks.

However, now that Chorus has been released - it's great to see some additional cloud benefits.

A special shout out here to Rob Jackson from Bond Bryan Digital (plug below - check out their services) for tweeting a few of the workflows he has managed to get Chorus linking to open data methodologies.
Credit to Bond Bryan for screengrabs below - check them out at https://bondbryan.co.uk/digital
One click access from collaboration tool BIM Track

Linked specifications from Graphisoft ArchiCAD

Specification connections coming through into the IFC export and viewed in Solibri

Going the full pro 'Information Manager' and ticking all of the boxes with NBS one-click links in Airtable data dashboard on Mac and smart phone!
It's great to see NBS now so accessible - the days of NBS on the PC only are a thing of the past.

- Follow Rob from Bond Bryan Digital on Twitter

Wednesday 24 April 2019

UK BIM Alliance - BS EN ISO 19650 Guidance - Part 1

Edit (24/12) - Blog post on Part 2 now added

A free guide to the BS EN ISO 19650 series is now available:

UK BIM Alliance - BS EN ISO 19650 Guidance
This guide has been produced by UK BIM Alliance in association with Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) and BSI.

The guide sets the scene of why digital information management is important and what the rationale for the 19650 series was. It then looks at the legal and security implications and in particular signposts the CIC BIM Protocol and the PAS 1192-5 standard.

The second half of the publication looks at the information delivery cycle and provides some practical examples.

It's good to see references to NBS resources. In particular:

  • Secton 6.5 looking level of information need. The guide references the work in progress here at a CEN level and also the free-to-use LOD and LOI guides on the NBS BIM Toolkit.
  • Section 6.6 gives a good overview on how to classify information and uses examples from Uniclass 2015.
  • Finally, Section 7 looks at the National Annex to BS EN ISO 19650-2 and provides guidance on the naming of information containers and associated metadata with respect to information delivery using common data environments. I blogged on a similar subject earlier in the year and NBS colleagues have been in discussions with the UK BIM Alliance team on this topic.

With respect to the National Annex, expect further alignment between the Form of Information and Roles Tables in Uniclass in the next month or two.

So - a good publication - great to see that support such as this is being produced for free for the industry and well done to those that have given up their time to contribute.

Download it from the link below:

Friday 1 March 2019

BIM - God is in the Specification

One of the most engaging speakers at BIM Show Live 2019 this year was James Woudhuysen. James is an author and speaker on technology trends and forecasting.
James Woudhuysen - BIM Show Live 2019
He challenged the tech-loving delegates about some of their statements in a fun and engaging way. Are we really experiencing 'exponential' disruption? developing 'seamless' systems? is AI really 'everywhere'? are the robots coming?
Myth busting
He then moved onto BIM. There was a clear message here - with respect to structured data and information collaboration through the timeline - it's about the specification.
When thinking BIM - think specification
These are key messages that we have been pushing for years at NBS as we integrate our developments into the wider BIM environment.

What quality of product is being specified. what quality of execution is required and what quality of documentation is required to prove the specification has been followed.
Specify the supplier and how it will be tested
The blue, green and red Powerpoint with sunlight on may not have been clear, but the message certainly was.

Friday 15 February 2019

BS EN ISO 19650 and Uniclass

BS EN ISO 19650 parts 1 and 2 have now been out for a few weeks and there has been a lot of discussion on social media on how to make best use of the Uniclass tables when managing information for building and civil engineering work.

This blog post covers my thoughts from recent discussions internally, on social media and also a few web meetings with some members of UK BIM Alliance. Comments are very much appreciated and will help shape more formal UK BIM Alliance guidance being published later in the year.

BS EN ISO 19650-1:2018
The concepts and principles outlined in part 1, when considering information quality, state that classification '...should be in accordance with the principles in ISO 12006-2'. The UK implementation of ISO 12006-2 is Uniclass (Uniclass 2015). This is a free-to-use classification made available to industry at:

BS EN ISO 19650-2:2018
Part 2 lists ISO 12006-2 as one of the normative references in the introduction.

Clause 5.1.7 then reinforces that all information containers shall have an attribute for classification (in accordance with the framework defined in ISO 12006-2) when placed in the project's common data environment.

Part 1 makes it clear that an information container could be both structured and unstructured. 'Structured information containers include geometrical models, schedules and databases. Unstructured information containers include documentation, video clips and sound recordings.'

So to be clear, when delivering 'BIM to ISO 19650' the scope is so much more than a 3D model of a building. The information that is to be managed stretches to an information container that is a sound recording of a meeting reviewing feedback from a previous highways project.

The UK National Annex provides further guidance and this is mainly grouped into field codification of the ID of the information container and additional metadata.

Classification metadata
This should define what information is in the information container. To give some examples at various stages of a project.

  • A business case at the Strategic Definition Stage - PM_50_30_10 - Business Case
  • A BEP at the Preparation and Brief Stage - PM_40_60_64 - Pre-contract BIM execution Plan
  • An early version of the Security Strategy at the Concept Design Stage - PM_80_50_80 -Security strategy
  • A work package containing drawings and specifications for all designed security systems - Ss_75_40 - Security systems
  • An asset data template for an infrared digital camera provided by a client in the supporting information - Pr_60_75_86_41 - Infra-red cameras

So codes from the appropriate Uniclass table can be used to define what is contained in the information container.

The big advantage of providing this level of granularity is being able to digitally query large information sets in modern common data environments and organisation's other data repositories.

Field codification
The field codification in the UK National Annex is a method of giving each information container on a project a Unique ID. The best analogy for me here is with a car registration plate. Make it unique and recognisable in the shortest way possible.
In the above example, this car was registered in Birmingham (BD) in the second part of 2001 (51).

Now, compare this now to the field codification rules in the UK Annex to BS EN 19650-2.
Just like a registration plate, the UK National Annex recommends that very short codes are used to create this unique ID. For example, the role requires a 1 or 2 digit code - so Architect is suggested to be shortened to 'A'. There is also a note to say that in the Project Information Standard additional codes can be specified for roles outside of the Annex. For example, 'CR' for Client Advisor. This is just like using 'BD' to indicate Birmingham.

So, what does this mean for Uniclass and these fields?

It would seem sensible for the Uniclass classifications to align and for each of these classifications to have a short code. I'd also suggest that the leading Common Data Environment's would build these unique IDs from metadata provided at upload (we shouldn't really be relying on renaming files in Windows Explorer). The Form of Information table seems to align nicely with the 'Type' (3D model, video, sound recording etc..), the Roles table aligns with the Role (Client, Contractor, Architect...).

To look at five earlier examples, this is how I'd expect them to appear in a Common Data Envrionment when working to BS EN 19650-2. The short codes in the Annex (and additional Project Information Standard codes) are linked to the Uniclass classification.

Unique ID nice and short - additional metadata giving further information
Quickly querying to filter by similar items (the power of classification)
As I said at the start of the post. This is my initial interpretation of how the 19650 series can be used with Uniclass. Please drop comments through and this will hopefully feed into more formal guidance that is reviewed by a number of people.

I'd be also very keen to see how other countries around the world develop their National Annexes to give guidance on this. Please drop me an email if you have any insight into this.

Edit 1:
The UK Foreword to BS EN ISO 13567-2:2017 Technical product documentation - organization and naming of layers for CAD. Concepts, format and codes used in construction documentation (ISO 13567-2:2017) covers guidance on layer naming and Uniclass. I had blogged on this one too - and the Dan Rossiter took ownership in terms of drafting the words for B/555.

Saturday 9 February 2019

The NBS Construction Technology Report 2019

We recently published our NBS Construction Technology Report. This was a survey of over 500 construction professionals, mainly based in the UK. This was a healthy sample size based on the number of construction professionals in the UK.

The report is a mixture of an analysis of the survey and also some opinion pieces from small, medium and large sized organisations that are pushing the boundaries with technology in the industry. We also received a thought-leadership piece from Microsoft (rather than single out one of the construction tech firms that more traditionally lead the design tech or construction tech spaces).

Some snippets below in this blog post. Link to download the full report for free at the bottom of the post.

One final point to address, we know that technology is not the only of topic of importance in the industry. We have previously published surveys into sustainability, contracts+law, specification and BIM - but we thought that technology is such a game changer, that it deserved a report of its own.

The report is opened with an introduction from NBS Chief Exec Richard Waterhouse

Opinion piece from Ben Highfield Microsoft looking at how leaders can adopt digital technologies to achieve their goals
An article from myself, looking at external drivers, technology opportunities and the power of structured data in the cloud

Adrian, delivers another NBS research report to the industry - view an archive these on theNBS.com
An example of some of the charts from the survey

Which digital tools are being used by the UK industry, in 2019, for the key tasks
- the report breaks down this in further detail
Alistair Kell from BDP has been a long time contributor to NBS (including our very first BIM roundtable in 2010) 
Glenn Tate who is one of the leaders at Ryder when it comes to digital strategy

Rob Jackson who set up and runs the Bond Bryan Digital business

Nick Ainscough from IBI Group who is working has led IBI's BIM approach since 2014 
Hopefully this blog post has been a bit of a taster for the report, download it for free now: