Friday 28 February 2020

Follow best specification practice - or equivalent

At BIM Show Live 2020, as part of the 'State of the nation' address, Rob Charlton (Space Group CEO) made the point that quite often what is specified does not get built. This can lead to serious problems.

This point was made by illustrating how a trip to the supermarket can go wrong. Photos from these slides are below...
What was specified

What the client ended up with
This generated a bit of discussion on Twitter. The daily challenge of battling against 'value engineering', but also the valid point that as long as there is a robust change control mechanism, then the same (or even better) outcomes can be achieved with different products for a lower price.

To continue the analogy, maybe the client will prefer Tesco cornflakes over Kellogs cornflakes.

So... how can it be ensured that the client gets the quality that the specifier has specified?

A big part of the answer is for the industry to write better specifications.

Consider the examples below...

1. Or equivalent
In the example below, naming a brand and then saying 'or equivalent' - or, indeed using similar language that is ironically equivalent, can significantly increase the risk of not getting what had been hoped for.
'Or equivalent' specifications
If I sent one of my kids to the supermarket and said 'Get me Kellogs Cornflakes or equivalent with this fiver and keep the change' - I suspect I'd be somewhat disappointed with the outcome. In fact I from experience, I know I'd be disappointed with the outcome.

Equally, if a hotel chain specified 'Kellogs Cornflakes or equivalent' to their supplier who they were paying a fixed price to supply breakfast each morning - the risk of getting an inferior product would also be greatly increased.

This topic is looked at in depth in this excellent technical article on from my ex-colleague John Gelder...

2. Specifying by brand
This next example is simple, if you know what you want and the procurement rules allow, then specify what you want. Be clear and be concise.
Be concise
It is worth making the point that most procurement routes allow substitutions to be proposed. The rules around this should be specified in the prelims.
Example template NBS clause setting out rules to be followed around substitution
3. Giving the choice to the contractor (1 of 2)
At times, the brand used is not essential, it is the quality of the product that is important.

If this is the case, specify the minimum quality level and let the contractor choose. Where relevant, specifying a third party certification scheme to ensure that the declared quality has been tested is recommended.
Specify min quality level - let contractor decide.
4. Giving the choice to the contractor (2 of 2)
In the above example, the specifier may know of a product that meets this minimum quality level. The phrasing 'deemed to comply' may be used if considered appropriate.
Using 'Deemed to comply'
5. Asking for proposals that meet the specification
An alternative phrasing used within NBS is 'Submit proposals'. It should be noted that this should be accompanied by the requirements for the submittals process and any further information. This includes (a) which party the submission must go to, (b) the timescales and (c) the method of assesment. For subjective requirements such as aesthetics (or for Cornflakes, something like taste!) the method of assesment should be made clear.
Requesting proposals based on quality requirements
So a big part of the answer to the question 'How do we ensure the client gets the quality the specifier requires?' is write better specifications.

However, this is only part of the answer. A robust change control and verification process so that all product decisions are digitally recorded is another big part of the answer (Golden thread). Is it too much to ask that client's receive record specifications at handover in addition to construction specifications at the end of the technical design stage?

Hopefully the Kellogs Cornflake example (nicely illustrated in the slide by Rob) is food for thought.

If you think your specifications could be better on the projects you work on, check out the RIBA approved CPD from NBS on Better Specification Writing:

To find out more about NBS Chorus see:

* No payments were received from Kellogs Cornflakes for the writing of this article. This blog does not recommend any particular cornflake provider.

NBS Chorus - Best new product

At the BIM Show Live 2020 Awards we were delighted to win the 'best new product award' for NBS Chorus.
Best new product - NBS Chorus
Accepting the award on the evening
It was great to accept the award and get the chance to thank the whole team back at NBS for all of the hard work and skill that goes into producing a product such as Chorus. It was also nice to be able to thank all of those customers on our focus groups who have helped steer us as to how the features should work and which features we should prioritise.

To find out more about Chorus, please watch one of our webinars and also make sure to check out some of our customer case studies.

All of our upcoming webinars are listed on our events page - you can also watch past webinars here...
Find out more about Chorus
We have a range of customer case studies from small technology-led architects up to global multi-disciplinary practices on our website:
Customer success stories
Find out more about how using Chorus can benefit your practice:

Monday 24 February 2020

Following the ISO 19650 series of standards when publishing specifications

The ISO 19650 international series of standards looks at information management using building information modelling. When developing the publishing features within NBS Chorus, these standards have been used as a guiding framework.

Information quality with respect to classification and codes to indicate the status and revision of each published specification is core to these standards:

  • Classification - NBS content is classified to the recognized national standard in each country. With respect to the UK and Australian NBS content, Uniclass 2015 is one such classification system which is an implementation of the ISO 12006-2 framework.
  • Revision code - The revision code for each published specification should be to an agreed standard
  • Status code - A status code system should be agreed to indicate the permitted use of the published specification.

Furthermore, each published specification should be given a human readable ID which is unique and based upon an agreed and documented convention comprised of fields separated by a delimiter. The Publication details window in NBS Chorus allows this information to be captured based on the agreed standard on a particular project as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 - The Publication details window in NBS Chorus
When working to BS EN ISO 19650-2
The BS EN ISO 19650-2 standard includes a National Annex that expands on the basic requirements for those working to UK standards and practices.

The screenshots below show an example of how publication history may develop within NBS Chorus when following the UK BIM Framework guidance.

Figure 2 below shows that by using the Uniclass 2015 classification system, the information within the published specification will be structured to classification system that follows the ISO 12006-2 framework. Consistency in the Suffix codes used (FCS for Floor covering systems for example) can also help with ‘packaging’ similar systems.
Figure 2 - Uniclass 2015 classifications within the specification

Figure 3 below shows how a record of specifications published from NBS Chorus can be viewed in the Publish history tab. In this example, it is worth highlighting some of the fields that have been populated:
  • Number - A unique ID for the published specification that follows the BS EN ISO 19650 standard has been recorded here. The delimiters of the ID LAKR-HAM-43-XX-SP-A-00006 show that this a specification (SP) from the architectural (A) practice Hamil Design (HAM) on the project Lakeside Restaurant (LAKR). When this PDF is then uploaded to the common data environment, this data can be quickly seen by using this naming convention.
  • Status - The status S4, as defined in BS EN ISO 19650, indicates that this particular specification was published for stage approval.
  • Revision - The revision code of P02 shows that this publication is still provisional and it also shows where it is in the sequence of publications.
Figure 3 - A Publish history showing unique ID, Status and Revision codes
Figure 4 shows that when using a consistent coding system, it is then easy to quickly filter a large list of publications to find the information that is needed. For example, this could be all publications of the floor covering systems or all publications that are suitable for stage approval.
Figure 4 - Using the search filter to quickly find published specifications

The UK BIM Framework website has extensive free-to-use guidance to support those working to this series of standards.


When working outside of the UK, there may not be the same guidance available at a national level. There may be great variance between organizations as to how they indicate revision or status codes. It is advised that the project team agree on what these will be and document this in a Project Information Standard so that each team member can consistently publish information which can then be uploaded to the project common data environment.

Doing a quick Google Search - this publication from BrisBIM provides some guidance for working to ISO in Australia from contributors from organizations such as Aecom, Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Woods Bagot.

In Canada, there is a buildingSMART Canada working group developing something similar.

To find out more about NBS Chorus see:

Friday 21 February 2020

NBS Source - Technical information platform for construction product manufacturers

At the Construction Product Leaders' Summit last week, we launched our new manufacturer product platform, NBS Source. This gave an exclusive sneak preview of our latest NBS development.

A single manufacturer product platform from NBS
Throughout the day there were a number of inspiring speakers. A combination of Government Advisors and leaders from the construction industry. A clear message was presented. The construction industry must become more productive, it must become greener and it must become safer and standardized digitized information and tools will play a big part enabling this.
The potential behind digitising the construction industry

What specifiers need from manufacturers
Since the 1970s, NBS has provided opportunities to construction manufacturers to position their technical data alongside generic specification content. This has grown into a number of websites delivering digital objects, specification clauses, certification, case studies and associated literature.

At the conference, we announced that we were well underway on a major project to enhance both the content quality and also in building a major new platform, NBS Source.
A number of current solutions developed by NBS - being brought into a combined platform
At this blog, I try and dive into the technical details a little more and look 'behind the scenes'. So I'd like to highlight the article below that looks at NBS Source and how it works to align the data to existing and emerging standards.

So please click and read the article below...

A couple of screenshots below show how we structure each construction product data structure against the research and maintained structure behind the NBS Chorus specification clauses. This will ensure that across different manufacturers, the information will be consistent and standardized.
Standardized terminology across manufacturer products

Terminology that has been defined in the construction standards
To keep an eye on what the wider community thought about the launch of NBS Source, view the hashtag #CPLS2020 on Twitter...

...and finally, the illustration below shows how Chorus, CIS and Source all sit together combining specification, standards and products in three connected platforms - all built by NBS.

Find out more about Source at...

PS: As always, it was real pleasure to show off the fantastic work that the team at NBS HQ do when developing our products...
Software demo
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