Wednesday 30 September 2020

NBS and Autodesk

Throughout this summer at NBS we have been doing a number of joint webinars with our partners.

This week, as part of the Building Magazine webinar series, we joint presented with Autodesk.

This full webinar is available on demand on the Building webinar portal, but as part of this blog post, I've simply embedded the video captures showing how Revit, Chorus and BIM360 all work together.


1. Collaboration

2. Automation

3. Structuring information

4. Tracking change

5. Interoperability

Find out more about NBS Chorus at:


NBS Construction Leaders' Summit 2020

It's our NBS conference on the mornings of Tues 13th and Wednesday 14th October.

This year it is 100% online. Just over six months ago we would have booked a nice venue, limited places to 200 or so and put on the event in person.

In the current climate though - it has to be online. 

A slight negative is that networking and discussions may not be quite the same as 'in person'. However,
(a) without having to have the speaker physically there means that the quality of speakers we have is exceptionally high; and
(b) we don't have to cap the attendance. So with over two weeks to go we have over 1,000 delegates booked on already!

Our dedicated conference website is below - you can book on there:

So, in this blogpost, I wanted to list out some of the speakers. At NBS we brainstormed a shopping list of who we thought the best speakers would be for a digital construction conference in 2020 - and when we asked them, to our surprise, all of them said yes. Seven highlighted speakers below...

1. Nadhim Zahawi MP

Government is the biggest construction client in any country. So it's going to be great to hear from the very top, the Minister for Business and Industry and co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council, Nadhim Zahawi MP.

I'm used to seeing him on BBC Question Time and Sky News - so it will be incredible to have him open up the NBS conference for us.

2. Dame Judith Hackitt

Undoubtedly the biggest changes to construction in this generation will be those that come in to place as part of the Building Safety Bill. It was Dame Judith Hackitt that led the team authoring the 'Hackitt Review' that shaped the bill. Personally I think that this will be a bigger push to digital than many of the various BIM initiatives. To legally have to keep a digital record of building information through the major gateways from planning to occupation is going to really shake up the industry and greatly improve it.

3. Phil Bernstein

Phil was the exec at Autodesk back in 2002 that thought it would be a good idea to buy Revit. Rumour has it that he was also the person who came up with the label 'BIM' to explain what was happening as the industry was moving from 2D documents to object-orientated digital information. I've heard Phil speak two or three times and he's well worth listening to. He'll be joining us from the USA.

4. Paul Morrell

I've listened to 100s of speakers over the last twenty years, and I'd say that Paul is probably the best and the most inspirational in my opinion. As Chief Construction Advisor to UK Government, I still remember him in 2010 at the BSRIA conference launching the UK Government's BIM Strategy. I also remember being on the same platform as him at the ICE 2012 event where Level-2 BIM was really getting into gear. Paul will be joining us from France.

5. David Rockhill, Mckinsey

Every BIM conference I have been to for the last five years has featured research from Mckinsey showing the connection between 'going digital' and productivity. It'll be good to hear a full presentation on this from David Rockhill. David has most recently focussed on digital transformation and business-building for infrastructure owners and construction companies.

6. Anne Kemp, UK BIM Alliance

Following BIM Level 2, it was time to take the UK PAS 1992 suite of standards and turn them into international standards to really put the UK at the vanguard of global BIM. Anne was the person that probably did more than most to win hearts and minds internationally and get the ISO 19650 series pushed through as a BIM standard for the globe.

7. Mark Farmer - author of Modernise or Die

Mark was commissioned by UK Government to review construction. In 2016 is 'Modernize or Die' review shook things up a little. Mark made ten recommendations. The Government agreed to implement nine of these.

I've heard Mark speak a few times - definitely worth listening to him.

Don't miss out, sign up for tickets now:

Friday 25 September 2020

Manufacturer product data and standards

Su Butcher who runs the Just Practicing consultancy - - is currently working with the IET to look at how manufacturers can digital structure their product information.

The following report was published and the request for feedback made.

I dropped an email through to Su and also had a quick web meeting to discuss ideas. She mentioned that I should share my thoughts, so here we go...

A. The general principles

I think there is no doubt that the construction industry needs to do more in terms of adopting digital. So any discussions that are out there encouraging this are good discussions to have.

You only need to look at websites like RightMove or AutoTrader to see how much easier it is sourcing house or car information if you can digitalise and move into the cloud. Equally, where data structures can be openly agreed then even greater efficiencies are possible. Search for cinema times on Google or Microsoft Bing for example to see the data results being fed immediately back from different commercial outlets.

There is no doubt, we need to start harnessing the power of digital more across construction.

B. Declaring performance and third party certification

I thought the report itself could have been a little clearer with respect to third party certification. It sometimes talked about certifying physical product characteristics and at other times it was looking at certifying data structures. Looking at physical characteristics first, there are broadly three steps here when describing a product.

How secure is this door?

(Quick example picked - so apologies if this isn't technical perfect, it's just to illustrate principles)

  1. Marketing information
    Example: The ABC Security Doorset meets all of your security needs!

  2. Self declaration against national/international standards
    Example: The strength and durability of the ABC Security Doorset is Class 3-4 to BS EN 1192.
    (CE Marks are examples of this)

  3. Third party certification against national/international standards
    Example: The BRE Redbook LPS test certificate confirms that the strength and durability of the ABC Security Doorset is Class 3-4 to BS EN 1192.

Certifying digital data structures is a different thing. The BS EN ISO 23386 and 23387 standards do a great job of explaining the framework that should be followed to actually digitally model product information such as the information above.

It covers concepts such as the property 'strength and durability' should have a link to the standard that defines the testing method (say BS EN 1192). Then what the property value is as a measure and a unit or whether there is a defined enumerated list of values etc... 

An interesting side topic here is whether the same physical door has the same digital information in different countries. In the above example, in France or Germany the data may simply be a translation of languages (as the standard is a BS EN). This is great as a manufacturer can get a product tested once, declare the information and sell into many countries.

But in Australia, the standards defining doors are different, so the the information could be Security classification G0, G1, G2 to AS/NZ 2343. So the same concept of 'security' - but completely different terminology and measurement rules. So that same physical door would have different digital data. The doors coming out of the factory heading for Australia would be stamped with different information and any landing page on the web would show country specific info.

The report pulled together by Su looks at whether there will be third party certification for the digital structures to the 23386/23387 framework. It's certainly an interesting topic.

C. Agreeing on digital structures and file formats

Finally, the report looks at whether manufacturers require further support from industry bodies who could manage a governance process to develop templates to assist manufacturers to produce standardized information. Do the research once and then share with the industry.

There have been a number of initiatives over the years (the first I remember was hearing about the buildingSMART DataDictionary project back almost 20 years ago) - there have been others to - to try and do something similar. Looking in at these initiatives there always seems to be tension between developing a commercial model to run and maintain the services and keep it current or whether it is government funded and largely run by expert volunteers.

As one person said at today's review meeting, 'the market will decide where this all goes'. I think that is right - digital is not going away!

But certainly good to keep the conversation going.

For those interested to see a little more what we are doing in this field at NBS, please read the following article:

Thursday 24 September 2020

NBS usage by smaller practices

Up until now the majority of NBS Chorus case studies have been featuring larger practices. Practices such as Maber, Ryder, AHMM, BDP, Franklin Ellis... large practices working on big projects.

However, since the launch of NBS Chorus Small Works a few months ago, we're now seeing smaller practices use this tailored package to make it work for them.

The Small Works version of Chorus makes use of a selection of the CAWS work sections from the trusted minor works and intermediate SpecWriter/Building libraries. Perfect for works of a less complex nature, but utilising all of the power of the Chorus software platform. You might not be able to write a performance spec for a curtain walling or green roof package whilst on a design and build project - but most small projects don't need these.

Our small works case study features the practice J Foster. Find out more about J Foster's experience in the full case study at the URL below. Some selected screengrabs and quotes in this blog post.

A list of work sections with pre-written specification clauses and guidance
Specifying manufacturer products prior to tender

A published PDF record of the various revisions of the specification

Manipulating the content to produce a priceable spreadsheet with highlighted items

Integrating the specification with 3D model to ensure all information is coordinated
Issuing drawings and schedules knowing they are fully coordinated with specification

Please read the full case study and listen to the interview on youtube.

...and to finish with a couple of quotes:

Working on a Mac
"The way I work, is that there is a desktop PC in the studio and a Mac at home and I have been able to work pretty fluidly and seamlessly between the two. This is a major difference from how I used to work with NBS Building which was PC based and work could only be carried out in the studio space."

How a good specification can be more important for a small practice than large
"For small practices, although the jobs are smaller, there is a lot more risk as you are doing a lot more yourself. So what I learned from when I worked at a big practice is the true power and risk reduction through management of a project through a specification. For a small practice environment it’s even more crucial. It is your safety net, it allows you to deliver projects to a level of quality whilst protecting yourself. Making sure everything is included and priced."