Sunday, 25 January 2015

New water turbine for Durham

My journey to walk each day takes me past the River Wear to Durham train station. It's great to see some of the exciting developments on the riverside, in particular the installation of a new hydro-turbine within the existing weir. There is a decent height difference between the upper and lower sections of the river so utilising the power of the water that comes through seems to make complete sense.

I took a couple of photographs last week (on a typical warm, sunny day in the North East)...
The water drops through the levels of the weir
The 13m, 20 tonne, Archimedean screw
Some of the facts I could find from the internet are as follows...
  • A 100kw generator that will supply 75% of the energy to the new Freeman's Reach development
  • Designed and manufactured by Spaans Babcock it is 13 meters long and 20 tonnes in weight
  • The design also features a fish pass that will allow fish to more easily travel upstream (and will count them) 
...and some further info from the web...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

In praise of - Scratch

Both of my children are in Primary School and they are now learning "coding" using the fantastic Scratch website. I remember reading about this in the news a few months ago, but now I am helping them with their homework I cannot speak highly enough about this initiative.

As a youngster myself I remember playing around with a BBC Microcomputer.

10 CLS
30 GOTO 20

At university I remember doing a bit of C, FORTRAN and VBA to help analyse results of lab work. This then took me into my day-job which is creating software and websites for the construction industry.

Anyway, back to Scratch, it allows you to build fun visual computer games using "building blocks" of code. It reduces the typing needed as you can get started by just sticking blocks of code together and seeing what happens.

Once you get used to it - fun games to try and write (especially if you are working with kids) are:
  1. Pub quiz games - Click on the correct answer - import some nice images - keep score - give the result at the end
  2. Platform game - Control the Sprite with the cursors and make fences and clouds and food fly past to produce a "Mario" style platform game
  3. Shooting game - Make targets appear and shoot them to make them disappear, add the points up as you go along.
Some screenshots from a recent piece of homework that came through the Hamil House are below. Really simple, but needed designed (sourcing images, resizing them, working out the flow of logic), developed (sticking the code blocks together) and then tested (does it work?). All great fun learning activities for kids. The homework was to do a fun quiz about a European country...
Images appear and disappear when clicked on
In the background the score is being remembered
Different end-screens are shown depending on your success
Events, sensing, appearance and commenting in the simple to use code
Finally, the whole web community is embraced as you can share projects with your friends and explore other people's code so you can keep getting better. Top stuff!

Further info:

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

National BIM Library - Getting bigger and bigger

Looking back through blog posts from the end of 2013 I noticed one looking at all of the manufacturers that had joined the NBS National BIM Library that year.

National BIM Library manufacturers - December 2013
One year on now in December 2014, it's fantastic to see that the number of manufacturers has exploded (now it's tricky to put all of the logos on a single screenshot).

National BIM Library manufacturers - December 2014
It's been a great year for National BIM Library, in particular around content developments. Three things worth mentioning:

1. The growth in number of manufacturers in the service
As above. See link below for a full list:
and if you know a manufacturer that isn't on the list - please send them the following web address:

2. The investment to provide 100s of generic objects for service engineers
Early in the design process, it is likely that generic objects will be used. This year we released a fantastic library of free-to-use objects for service engineers.
MEP objects
3. The publication of the NBS BIM Object Standard
The industry is crying out for consistently authored BIM objects.
This year we published our BIM Object Standard. This allows construction professionals to create their own objects to the same authoring rules as NBS use. It also means that manufacturers with their own authoring teams can produce their own objects for hosting on National BIM Library.
To download for free, please see:

...and this is all in addition to the new website we released and the enhancements to our BIM plug-in.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Another year almost up. Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this year - wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Quite like this Xmas construction image from a search on Google Images :)
Looking back through Google Analytics, the most popular blog posts from this year (in reverse order) have been:

5th - The NBS BIM Ecosystem
Our marketing campaign for the year focussed around the "NBS BIM ecosystem". In March I wrote this blog post explaining how we help link specification, with technical guidance, with standards, with manufacturer information and with free-to-use BIM objects.
NBS BIM Ecosystem

4th - The BIM Toolkit
We're currently hard at work developing the BIM Toolkit. This will provide the industry with free-to-use level of definition guidelines for building and infrastructure project and a digital plan of work tool.
This blog post is from September.
Into its third month of development - The BIM Toolkit
3rd - BIM Levels of Maturity
The industry talks about the levels of BIM maturity. The Bew-Richards wedge is famous.
Bouw Informatie Raad did their own illustrated sketch of these levels.
The Dutch illustration of the levels of BIM maturity

2nd - Two common misconceptions about classification
Do you know the difference between naming convention and classification? What about terminology and classification?
Also, does the Supergrass MP3 analogy really work? Read this blog post from January and make your own mind up.
You say potato I say pot-at-toe

1st - Top three enhancements to the NBS Plug-in for Revit
The most popular post was from June this year where I looked at some of the latest enhancements to the NBS Plug-in for Autodesk Revit. These enhancements included:

  1. Better integration between the model and the NBS specification
  2. The ability to tag materials and 2D objects with NBS codes
  3. The ability to add NBS codes from within the family editor
Select your object - view the specification (click for bigger)
Download the plug-in at:

Those interested in previous years see 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 Xmas blog posts. Here is to a fantastic 2015!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Please take part in the NBS National BIM Survey 2015

The NBS National BIM Survey is now live - if you are in the construction industry please take 5/10 minutes to give us your thoughts at the website below:

Please also share the link with your colleagues - we want a true reflection today's industry - so the more people that answer the questions and provide their thoughts the better.

Each year, over 1,000 construction professionals take part in the survey. This is the fifth annual survey into this topic - so we are not just going to see a snapshot of the industry - but we will also see the important trends.
Infographic from 2014 survey
Infographic from 2013 survey
Please take the survey and help us present a true reflection of where the UK industry is with BIM at the start of 2015...

All previous reports into the surveys can be downloaded for free from the NBS website:

Finally, one lucky survey participant will also win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet :)
For the lucky winner
2011-2014 - Four years of BIM reports

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

National BIM Library - IFC property sets

From the launch of NBS National BIM Library, IFC is a file format we have taken seriously. It is core to our authoring processes and in-house tools. Through our membership of buildingSMART we support and promote it.

It could be argued that the market demand is not there yet for this information. Equally it could be argued that the main-stream authoring software tools do not allow the adequate import of IFC property sets.

But this will come in time.

Interoperability is improving each year with BIM tools. The conversation is changing from one that was sceptical around interoperability two or three years ago to one which is optimistic about interoperability.

As part of our continuous enhancement programme of work this year to National BIM Library, the latest update to our website exposes the quality and consistency of our BIM objects on their corresponding web page. Some screenshots below.

PSet_DoorCommon properties and values from an Assa Abloy Doorset 
PSet_MaterialProperties property and values from a Kingspan Insulation plasterboard object
Empty Pset_FanTypeCommon property sets from a generic fan object
...and of course the basic generic COBie property sets (for a chiller object
Our NBS BIM Object Standard sets the rules for the industry with respect to the geometry, information and functionality of BIM objects. Screenshots from this are below:
The free-to-download object standard
Extract from the standard with respect to the information requirements
For more information on IFC property sets, please see:

For information for software developers interested in writing software using IFC data please see:

Explore NBS National BIM Library at:

RIBA Building Contracts – The NBS digital tool

Last month saw the launch of new building contracts from the RIBA. They are the RIBA Domestic and Concise building contracts that can be purchased in paper or digitally. The launch event was at 66 Portland Place and there was also plenty of interest in the contracts at the recent Guerilla Tactics event for small practices.

This blog post looks, in particular, at the NBS digital tool that can be used to prepare these contracts.
Generate your building contract online
Read the guidance, view a sample contract and then start preparing one for your project
NBS users will be familiar with drop down values and synchronised technical guidance
Main clauses from the contract conditions may be revised where required
A professional-looking building contract is generated in PDF form - this can be issued to the employer and the contractor
A simply, clearly laid out contract in plain language

Photographs from the launch events are below...

Cross, Sinclair, Henderson and Udom on the stage at the RIBA

Every seat is taken for Guerilla Tactics

BIM Toolkit - Update

Since we started on the BIM Toolkit project six weeks ago, there has been plenty of activity in terms of communicating the developments to the industry. An overview of this is below:

1. NBS Live – presentations
Members of the core team presented the outcomes of the feasibility study at the NBS Live conference. This included presentations from myself, Dave Philp (BIM Task Group), Alistair Kell (BDP), Adam Lamping (Laing O'Rourke), Stefan Mordue (NBS) and Claudio Benghi (BIM Academy).
The BIM Room at NBS Live
A write-up of this session is on the NBS website at:

All of the presentations from this session and all of the sessions at the NBS Live BIM room may be downloaded below:

2. NBS Live – round table discussions
At NBS Live we also ran a round table discussion session on what the delegates hoped that the BIM Toolkit would provide.
Discussions around the table
A write up of this is below:

3. Construction News – webinar
The Construction News webinar on level-2 BIM featuring myself, Dale Sinclair from Aecom and Steve Spark from 4projects can now be viewed online:
CN webinar on demand

Sinclair, myself and Spark in the studio
4. Building – webinar
The Building webinar on level-2 BIM session can also be viewed now on demand:
- Building webinar on demand

There were some good live polls during the Building webinar of the 600+ delegates watching on. Screenshots of these are below:
Poll 1
Poll 2
Poll 3
Over and above this, there have plenty of presentations and workshops behind the scenes to many different industry groups.

We have also slowly started our beta test activities with the first builds of the software and previews of the content taking place.

Our official web portal for the tool is at:

Also, for everything about level-2 BIM, please visit: