Tuesday, 28 August 2012

NBS for Small Domestic Building Projects

Occasionally I get a chance to write a short article for the RIBA newsletter for Chartered Practices. For the Summer 2012 publication I have written a few words on using NBS for small domestic building projects...

When most people in the construction industry think of NBS they immediately think of large projects. However, more and more practices that work on small domestic building projects are now using the NBS Domestic online specification writing tool. Since its release at the end of 2010, almost 1,000 practices have used the service and hundreds of these have used it on a number of projects. The specification content is designed especially for work on small domestic buildings and it includes clear and concise work sections of the type typically needed on projects of this nature.

One of the key differences between NBS Domestic and the more traditional NBS specification products is that the tool runs through the web browser. This means that there is no need to purchase or install any software. It also means that it may be used on any platform, PC or Mac, using Google Chrome, Apple Safari or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Another fundamental difference is that NBS Domestic has a ‘pay-per-project’ payment model. The user simply registers for an account, pays a small amount and then completes the specification within a very intuitive user interface.

Writing your specificationThe first task that is required when starting to write a specification is to select the work sections and the contract particulars for the relevant construction contracts, which include JCT Home Owner, JCT Minor Works and SBCC Minor Works. The 22 work sections provided cover site preparation, building fabric, landscape and services for domestic building projects.

Figure 1 shows how the user may edit the template specification clauses that are within each work section. In the example given, the user simply goes through the clause items within the Wood Weatherboarding system outline clause. They remove items that are not relevant to the project and complete the items that are. Suggested drop down values and expert technical guidance are provided to help with the completion of each clause.

Each work section has a logical structure starting with system outline clauses, then the product clauses and then a number of workmanship clauses to provide a concise yet robust specification.
Figure 1 – The NBS Domestic specification writing user interface
The content within NBS Domestic is updated by the Technical Team at NBS throughout the year. This means that when a work section is added to a project, a user may be confident that it is up to date and will reference the latest construction standards and regulations.

Publishing your specification
Once the specification is complete then a professional looking PDF may be generated that can be downloaded to create part of a tender package. As shown in Figure 2, the finished document looks just like a traditional NBS specification, with cash columns to the right of the page that allow for easy pricing by the contractor.
Figure 2 – The published output
Free software downloads are also available so that the information from a specification can be used for different tasks. The free NBS Annotator tool works with the data output from an NBS Domestic specification so that CAD drawings and schedules can be quickly annotated with the NBS project clause references. The NBS Cost Tracking tool can also work with this data so that pre-tender cost estimates can be prepared, tender comparisons can be made and costs can be tracked as they progress throughout the construction stage.

In little over twenty months NBS Domestic appears to becoming the de-facto standard specification for small domestic construction jobs in the UK. It is really nice to see a simple, low cost tool, which works through modern internet technology, satisfying a real construction professional need.

What our users say
“The start-up process involves a very simple online purchase and form that incorporates the JCT Home Owners Contract and as such is good value in this respect. The process of completing the preambles and initial sections is very user friendly and it is simple then to move onto the specific sections, if you have your drawings to hand it’s very easy to use standard clauses or add in specific information from the drawings as well as some spec obtained directly from the suppliers / manufacturers. My one suggestion to NBS would be that a little more template content would be useful as more and more domestic projects involve new materials and finishes more akin to commercial projects. But on the whole a good experience and hopefully it will be of great benefit to the client in terms of product specification and call-off on site (self-build)."
 Adrian Williamson Director at WM Design & Architecture Ltd
Fig 3 - Illustration of self-build project specified using NBS Domestic
Fig 4 - Illustration of self-build project specified using NBS Domestic

Saturday, 25 August 2012

1,500 members of National BIM Library LinkedIn Group

Our National BIM Library LinkedIn Discussion Group now has over 1,500 members since its launch less than a year ago. Browsing the group I noticed an interesting "analytics" area of the group. Some screenshots below...
1,500 members in less than a year
A typical user is a Senior architectural professional from London
Steady interest throughout the year
Some weeks and some discussions get more comments then others
Quite a bit of spam - now we only allow relevant discussions

It's BIM up North

I was asked to provide a few words for the Construction Excellence in the North East Journal this month on BIM. As there is so much going on around BIM in the north this was an easy task...
[START] How and when the UK emerges from recession is still far from clear but one thing for certain is that the construction industry will play a key part in stimulating future economic growth and employment.
The significant contribution the sector makes to the North East economy, accounting for 10% of regional GDP, is no news to regular readers of this column, nor is the on-going battle to maintain output and prevent further job losses. 
What they might not be aware of though is the emergence of an exciting new business cluster which has seen the North East spearhead the development of a digital process set to revolutionise the UK construction industry.
BIM (Building Information Modelling) is its name and it’s changing the way buildings are designed and constructed. At its essence lies greater collaboration; bringing clients, architects, contractors and other consultants together to share project information in digital, 3D models, replacing documents with data that can be properly checked and co-ordinated.
In doing so, BIM improves efficiency and cuts costs so it should come as no surprise that the Government is a fan and has mandated that BIM be used on all public projects by 2016.
NBS, which employs 200 people at its Newcastle HQ, is equally convinced of the importance of BIM to the recovery and long-term growth of the construction sector and has invested heavily in anticipation of its widespread adoption.
A provider of construction training, information and education for nearly 40 years, we have been busy creating a new specification tool, NBS Create, and converting our information into digital data, launching the National BIM Library in the process.
In creating the library, NBS was able to call on the BIM Academy, which was established in June 2011 by Northumbria University and Newcastle-based Ryder Architecture. This collaboration not only demonstrates the strength of local connections between industry and education but also the region’s training expertise, with courses at the BIM Academy open to people at all stages of their career development.
Newcastle and Northumbria are two of the country’s top 10 architecture universities and at NBS we are seeing a steady stream of graduates with an excellent understanding of BIM. Several are going on to start up companies, join leading North East architects such as Ryder Architecture, Space Group and FaulknerBrowns Architects as well as other existing companies leading the way in BIM developments.
These include Sunderland-based 4Projects and KyKloud in North Shields. Both have benefitted from their involvement in the collaborative North East BIM community and continue to add high profile businesses to their client lists.
As other businesses are converted and BIM moves from being a specialist activity to mainstream use, the scope for growth of this associated North East hub is genuinely exciting and presents a welcome opportunity for the entire region. [END]
Those in the North East interested in getting in touch with some of those involved in the activities above can:

  1. Apply to join the Government's North East Regional BIM Hub - (presentation in Newcastle 25th September)
  2. Join the NE-RUG - 6th September presentations coming up from Adam from BIM Technologies, Ed from KyKloud and Jonathan from Ryder. All organised by Ben from eBIM
  3. Check out the regular BIM events that are put on by BIM Academy.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

NBS for Autodesk Revit Plug-in Now Live

This article is about using NBS within Revit. There is a similar tool for Graphisoft ArchiCAD and we'd love to help develop one for other BIM products too. Please contact us if you think you can assist us with integrating NBS into more BIM tools.
- Graphisoft ArchiCAD tool
- Contact us

The NBS for Autodesk Revit plug-in is a completely free software tool that helps users of both Revit and NBS specification products to work more efficiently and accurately when generating their design documentation.

To download this free tool please see the website below:

To glance through the key features, please see the blog post below. If any other bloggers would like to re-publish this post on their blogs then please feel free but please link back to this one.

The walk through below looks at a very simple example. Fig 1 shows that there is a specification for a flooring system, panel cubicle, partition wall, doorsets and a type of wash basin assembly.
Fig 1 - A project specification
A very simple Revit model also has instances of these systems as shown in Fig 2. The question that has been asked of NBS since the 1970s is "How do I coordinate the information on the drawings with that in the specification?".

It can be seen that the user has selected to link the Revit model with the equivalent specification model.
Fig 2 - A Revit model
Now that the two "databases" are linked, it is then possible to link the type objects within them. Fig 3 below shows that the user is linking the single leaf door in the Revit model with the Doorset Type A system in the specification.
Fig 3 - Associating a Revit object with a specification object
What the plug-in does is adds values to the two parameters "NBSReference" and "NBSDescription". These are parameters from our nationalBIMlibrary.com shared parameter file. For reference they have the following GUIDs:
PARAM 4300e8b6-63e5-4d7a-98a6-c4efac911f40   NBSReference   TEXT   3   1
PARAM f3b4c178-53c0-41d2-aa02-5e75ba8d7ceb   NBSDescription   TEXT   3   1
Fig 4 - Project unique NBS IDs as parameters
Then it is simply case of tagging the objects in the relevant views. As long as the correct parameters are in the tag objects then they will appear as you add the tag. Fig 5 shows all of the instances in the simple example tagged. Clearly a practice would want to amend this to fit with their preferred way of working.

These parameters can also be used in category and multi-category schedules.
Fig 5 - Quickly tag the objects based on the parameters
At any point the user may click the "View clause" button on the toolbar (as shown above in Fig 5) and they will jump to the correct specification at the context of the associated object. Fig 6 below shows that the user has clicked to view the specification of the wash basin assembly and is reading the installation requirements and looking at the referenced British Standards.
Fig 7 - With a single click view the detailed specification of any of the objects in Revit
Fig 7 shows that other parameters may be added to the tags to give differing amounts of information on different views. This is really useful for fire safety plans or acoustic or security design.
Fig 7 - Have tag variations to display the relevant parameters
The big added advantage of using the toolbar is when information changes in the specification or model. There is functionality that helps with coordinating this information and ensuring no errors creep in. Fig 8 below shows that the titles of the two types of doorset have been modified in the specification. In addition, the wooden flooring system has been removed as it is considered too expensive.
Fig 8 - Objects will become uncoordinated
Fig 9 below shows that by clicking the "Verify Annotations" button the user has quickly generated a report showing which systems have been removed from the specification. It also provides warnings where the titles have been modified. It is then easy to coordinate the information that has changed.
Fig 9 - Verify all annotations are correct prior to issuing any documentation
Fig 10 shows that there is single click access to ribaproductselector.com to access product literature, maintenance and installation guides, CPD material and contact information from over 10,000 manufacturers.
Fig 10 - Browse manufacturer information on ribaproductselector.com
There is also a link into the dedicated Building Information Modelling area of theNBS.com. From here over 100 expert articles, many videos, reports and books may be accessed.
Fig 11 - Browse expert articles, reports, books and watch videos at theNBS.com/BIM
Finally, the nationalBIMlibrary.com may be searched directly from the toolbar to find the BIM objects that you need on a project. Users can download these and quickly add them to their project or office library.
Fig 12 - Search nationalBIMlibrary.com directly from the Revit toolbar
So hopefully people will agree that this a pretty feature packed first release of the toolbar. At NBS we will continue to develop functionality to link the specification and associated technical guidance and manufacturer information closely into your other design packages. We will continue to work with all of the main BIM providers to ensure that what we develop can be embedded into their software.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Grammatically Proper Infograph that has the Desired Affect

As I have come firmly through the maths and science school of education, grammar has never been my strongest talent. In the last four or five years I have written more and more articles and of course this blog. This has put a bit of pressure on my writing ability - effect or affect? then or than? Check out the infograph below that has all of the answers. It will literally stop my head from exploding and it would of been nice to have a few year's ago.

Credit and first posted at - http://www.copyblogger.com/blog/

Grammar tips

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Newcastle-Gateshead Bridge Festival - Featuring ICE Bridges to Schools

Enjoyed a day out today at the Newcastle-Gateshead Bridge Festival. In particular the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) bridge making challenge. Some pictures below, also a big well done to the ICE staff for being so good...

Stop press (15/8) - Team-Little-Hamil won the runners-up prize:
- ice.org.uk/bridgesfestival

Sixteen bits of paper, masking tape, a hole punch and some bolts - let the bridge building begin
Start with your paper straws and one day you'll be doing the next Tyne Bridge
The "Little-Hamils", is this the winning entry?
Test it carefully to destruction
Snap - I knew I should have added the steel bracing inside the top horizontal strut

Some real bridges. Tyne (1928), Swing (1876) and High Level (1849)

RIBA Sterling Prize winner - the Millennium Bridge (2000)

And then the heaven's opened - #NewcastleEndOfDays Part 2

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

National BIM Library - User Day - Photographs

The write up from our first National BIM Library user day is now on our website:
 - http://www.thenbs.com/topics/BIM/articles/feedbackOnTheNBL.asp

My summary of the day was as follows...

Overall the day was fantastic. To get a range of BIM experts from all parts of the industry together in a room to discuss the big issues was a real pleasure. The message we took was that the National BIM Library is definitely on the right track, but that we shouldn't take our foot off the pedal.

If there was one theme of the day to conclude on it has to be the importance of collaboration. Some of the comments from the feedback sheets demonstrate this:
  • "Great day. A great mix of individuals representing all parts of the industry"
  • "Very well organised. Great venue. Lively discussion and a diverse areas of expertise"
  • "A really good mix of people who all had something to offer"
  • "Well structured. Fast paced (which is good) and a good mix of knowledgeable people."
  • "Lively discussion from people with diverse areas of expertise".

Some photographs from the day of some of the UK-BIM-Twitter-gang are below (around half of those participants seemed to be Twitter-ers)
@IanChapmanNBS takes down some points during the content session
@edwinbartlett makes some notes
@johnmyhill does likewise
@StewartGH1970 is deep in thought
@StefanMordueNBS discusses technical content
As part of the functionality session, @RahulShah258 presents his groups' thoughts
@studioklaschka has been helping out at many NBS events over the last decade
Not sure what this guy is saying though (@StephenHamilNBS)