Monday, 22 September 2014

The BIM Toolkit

In January this year there were a set of three workshops in London where the brief and functional specification were defined to create a free-to-use BIM Toolkit for the UK that would complete the "level-2" BIM package.

Throughout the year, I have posted everything in the public domain about this project at the post below:

Today it was announced that Team NBS had been successful in winning this project. As the NBS project lead on this, I write this blog to tell a little more about our journey so far.

Some photographs from these initial workshops...
Brain storming requirements, listening to the BIM Task Group and sketch designs put together in a pub in Kings Cross
Following this, in May this year we were fortunate enough to be one of three teams to receive funding for the feasibility study. As part of this initial work, we put our ideas past a number of focus groups to help refine our proposals.
Focus group, focus group, focus group, proposals and careful analysis of the feedback
...and finally this week, following our feasibility report and phase-2 application, it has been announced that we have been successful in winning the main contract. To find about more about our proposals, please jump across to our main web-portal for this project to watch the video we put together as part of our feasibility study.
Watch the video
Some quotes from this video...

"I think, with this information available, we'll have a clear target for building design and delivery and what this will do is enforce an inter-disciplinary rigour which doesn't exist at present."
Alistair Kell, BDP

"It means two main things; clarity and consistency. Clarity in the sense that we are improving the assurance of delivery and removing ambiguity and making it clear the levels of detail and the levels of information required at every stage... Consistency in the sense that it will mean the end for bespoke BIM protocols across different organisations."
Adam Lamping, Laing O'Rourke

"I think it's clear at the moment that most people are working in a PC based closed environment... we've got to move the technology platforms on to be more open and also more data centric. I think what we are doing here in this project is laying the foundations for people to start building the level-3 type processes that don't exist in the industry at the moment."
Professor Steve Lockley, BIM Academy

"How do we solve the problems that construction has got in moving from analogue systems into a digital world? We have demonstrated that we have a plan and we can support the Government in delivering their objectives."
Richard Waterhouse, NBS

When announcing the news today David Philp, Head of BIM with the UK BIM Task Group commented that "the completion of the Digital Plan of Works (DPow) and Classification System will not only complete the Level 2 BIM suite but help drive the take-up of BIM, support exploitation of the standards and ensure that the UK remains at the vanguard of a digital transformation in the built environment."

Keep an eye on the following places for news as this project develops:

And finally, a special final mention and thank you to our core team members:
The team

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday, 12 September 2014

Our new NBS National BIM Library website

In the last few days the new version of our NBS National BIM Library has gone live. Our vision was to create a beautiful website that focused around the clear user need of finding BIM objects.

Fig 1 and 2 below show that the new home page has a central call to action to find BIM objects and also has a search box placed front and centre on every page. Furthermore, as the user starts to type our intelligent search technology suggests the most likely categories for the search returns. For example, in Fig 2, the user is searching for "boi" and "boilers in heating systems" is the search that is suggested. In Fig 3, the user is presented with the BIM objects relevant to this search within this top level category ready to download. This presents the information to the end user in one click, whereas clicking "search" to bring up a search box, then searching, then selecting "heating systems" would have been three clicks.
Fig 1 - The new NBS National BIM Library website
Fig 2 - Search suggestions
Fig 3 - Quickly find the objects that you need
The ability find objects through filtering is demonstrated nicely in the screenshots below. Fig 4 shows that 159 objects have been returned from a search for "Doors". Within these search results, the top ten categories are displayed to the left. The number of objects in each relevant category is shown so that the user is aware of this prior to refining their selection further.
Fig 4 - Search filters to narrow the results
In Fig 5 and Fig 6 the user refines the search further by selecting a sub-category to reduce the results to 30 doors and then a particular manufacturer to end with 4 objects from that specific manufacturer in that specific sub-category.
Fig 5 - Continue to narrow the results down using the filters
Fig 6 - Choose from generic NBS objects or manufacturer objects
In terms of discovering relevant content, a number of "widgets" have been introduced to the site. In the example in Fig 7 below, the user is on a page showing a generic flat roof, below this object a number of relevant additional objects from across the library are shown. In Fig 8 a manufacturer's roof object is shown, in addition to the object is related content from such as an NBS specification or literature such as case studies, catalogues and manuals. This is particularly important. As much as BIM is a game changer, we will never reduce manufacturer products to just a digital object with geometry, properties, values and embedded functionality. There is always the need for additional information that specifiers need around the added-value services from the manufacturer and case studies of that product "in action".
Fig 7 - Relevant alternative objects presented on every object page
Fig 8 - Further information in terms of NBS specification and related literature is also linked to the object
New content is being published each week on the library. We have newly designed pages for browsing this content, either by category or by manufacturer name. Fig 9 shows that recently added and coming soon manufacturers are indicated with a small label.
Fig 9 - Almost a manufacturer for every letter of the alphabet now
In terms of site navigation, the menu bar at the top has three options:
(1) Find BIM objects - the primary purpose of the site - this allows users to browse for the content they need
(2) BIM tools and guides - this includes information about our plug-ins for the leading BIM design software (such as Revit and ArchiCAD - Fig 10) and information that is an introduction to BIM for those wanting to know more.
(3) For manufacturers - this has all of the information needed for manufacturers that want to start their BIM journey and join the library (Fig 11)
Fig 10 - Download NBS plug-ins for leading BIM design software
Fig 11 - Expert articles for designers and manufacturers that are new to BIM
Finally, Fig 12 shows that the NBS Research+Development team have carefully designed and developed each page so that the information is presented in an optimum way whether the user is on a PC, Mac, portable device such as an iPad or a mobile phone such as an iPhone.

Fig 12 - Every page individually crafted to render beautifully on a device of any size screen
So, we hope you like the site. We are still working hard on new enhancements that will build on this fantastic new platform. So watch this space for more great stuff on its way...


Update (12/09):
Our Digital Commerce Director Robin Cordy gives further insight into the site enhancements on an article on our website:

Monday, 1 September 2014

Autumn Conferences - Dates for the Diaries

Some dates for the diaries below. I'll be attending/playing a small role in all three:

1. BIM through the Plan of Work Conference
Wed 24th September
This conference will be split into four distinct sessions - each covering two stages of the RIBA Plan of Work and how BIM can be delivered well.
7-0 - Asset Management data and strategic direction
1-2 - Preparation, brief and concept design
3-4 - Developing the design through to a technical solution
5-6 - Construction, hand over and close out

Speakers will include The Cabinet Office's Dave Philp, the author of the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 Dale Sinclair and respected speakers from NBS, BAM, Tata Steel, Crossrail, ASDA, Arup Associates, Turner and Townsend, CIC, Transport for London and NBS.

2. NBS Live
Tues 4th November
For the second year running an absolutely fantastic line-up of speakers has been arranged - view them all at the link below:

As with last year's NBS Live - there will be four diverse streams - BIM, Design, Sustainability and Business & Practice - so there is something for everyone.

If the conference is even half as good as last year, then I can thoroughly recommend it. I chaired the BIM stream last year - a review of this can be found below:
NBS Live - The BIM Room

3. RIBA Guerrilla Tactics
Tues 11th and Wed 12th November
Finally, I'll also be at the RIBA Guerrilla Tactics two day conference.

I'm not speaking about BIM developments at this one but a different development we have been working on - I'll blog more details nearer the time on this one. But it should be a great couple of days as usual at this well-established event for the smaller architectural practice.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

BIM Levels of Maturity

A few tweets went around last week on the beautiful illustration on BIM levels of maturity from Bouw Informatie Raad in The Netherlands.

From documents to digital - the levels of maturity
This illustration above is from the BIR Leaflet Number 1 that can be downloaded free of charge at:

Those familiar with the levels of BIM maturity will of course recognise these as being based on the Bew-Richards model that the UK Government have adopted. So good to see UK BIM being credited and influencing approaches elsewhere in the world.

The Bew-Richards wedge from 2008
Mark Bew
Mervyn Richards
For those new to BIM - check out the NBS video introduction to the subject:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Amazing time-lapse video of Newcastle

Over 6,000 still-shots, over 1TB of data. The result - a beautiful video showing Newcastle.

Be sure to check out Jack Fisher's (a Newcastle University student) website: -

Nice to see our offices in a couple of the shots too...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Think BIM Leeds – Half Day Conference – BIM and FM

One of the regular BIM conferences I attend is the fantastic quarterly Think BIM event. It’s a pleasure to chair as the quality of speaker is so high and the variety in activities is always of interest.

Deborah Rowland – Ministry of Justice
The first speaker at this July event looking at BIM and FM was Deborah Rowland who is Head of Property Asset Management for the Ministry of Justice and Government Soft Landings (GSL) Lead. Deborah talked about how at an early stage in any project the operational costs should be considered and not just the capital costs. What is a client’s requirements in terms of annual cost to run the building? In terms of GSL, the key elements moving this forward are:
  • A stewardship group and individual champions of the initiative
  • Ensuring wider-industry adoption and supporting academic research
  • Reviewing projects to demonstrate the benefits
  • A continued focus on standards such as PAS 1192-3 and the incorporation of GSL in BS 8536
  • To have one eye on Level-3 BIM
When considering the state of FM for BIM in July 2014 the benefits and challenges are as follows:

  • Improved tender accuracy by using collected information from previous projects
  • Early engagement of FM professionals in a project provides a better outcome
  • Designing for the whole life cost of the building and not just the construction
  • The ability to visualise and plan operations via the model
  • Ensuring digital information is contractually delivered
  • The enormous task of “what to do with existing estates?”
  • Keeping a digital asset information model up to date
The strap line on Deborah’s last slide was “BIM + GSL = Better Outcomes”
Rowlands - FM will keep the BIM data alive
Jon Chown – Skanska Facilities Service
The second speaker was Jon Chown a director at Skanska. Similarly to Deborah, Jon looked at the challenges the industry faced. He listed these as:
  • FM not being involved in the design process
  • The quality and structure of information at handover
  • A lack of digital data capture during the operation of existing buildings
  • A lack of a structured post operations investigation (POI) survey data feeding back into the next design
The challenges are not a technology issue, but a quality of information issue. “Put rubbish in and get rubbish out”.

Jon’s suggestion was that the industry needs to firstly get the data right and then look at the technology. Where Skanska had seen successes over recent years were:
  • Through creating standard Skanska-wide templates for information collection for all projects
  • Through giving asset operational information back to the design teams
  • By encouraging collaboration across all of the organisation
  • By implementing standard processes
The presentation demonstrated that no Government mandate for BIM is necessarily needed for private sector work. The private sector will see the benefits and roll out a BIM process regardless. Reflecting on this personally, I think this is true, but having a common process defined centrally means that there is commonality across organisations and not one process and set of standards for organisation 1 and another for organisation 2.

Skanska is an organisation where BIM has been mandated by its board in Sweden on all projects world-wide. The biggest technology they currently see is a lack of interoperability between different software packages. However, “even with the best technology in the world, if you don’t have the information you have nothing”.

Jon’s final thoughts were:
  • When an organisation adopts BIM they must accept that they are going to change their processes and information structures
  • Sort out process and information first then get the technology to fit your requirements. BIM is 10% technology, 20% process and 70% people.
Chown - a familiar theme - "The most important word in BIM is Information"
Roundtable 1 – Peter Barker, BIM Academy

The roundtable discussions are a particularly engaging part of the Think BIM conferences. The first of these I attended was hosted by Peter Barker MD of BIM Academy.

Some of the notes from this roundtable included:
  • A big problem, even when FM people are included early on, is that current procurement is about contractors delivering projects with clear objectives about reducing construction costs. This means the focus is all about capital expense with operational expense and client outcome suffering.
  • The thoughts around the roundtable were that if some incentive was there in the procurement process to reward better design and a focus on client outcomes then this would help the “FM and BIM” issue. “The thinking behind GSL is great, but it needs some teeth”.
  • The importance of structured information in a standardised format was mentioned again and again during the day. The standards and guidelines are complete, but what is missing is standard product templates, a unified classification system and the ability to use this construction language to define who is doing what and when.
  • There was some interesting discussion as to how much information is needed for FM. Is it just the 20% of the federated BIM that is needed for weekly/monthly operation and maintenance? Or is it 100% of the information so that when the building is altered or refurbished then the work can happen efficiently and the existing spaces can retain their original performance?
  • There was also some good discussion about how much information should be geometry? How much should live in property-sets? And how much should be in linked PDFs? Equally, when considering property-sets, how much of this should be in the design models (ArchiCAD/Revit) and how much in external databases?
    (All great debate – leave your comments at the bottom of this blog post if you have an opinion…)
Peter Barker leads the discussions
Roundtable 2 – Paul Connell, Open Data Institute
For my second roundtable I changed topic a little and sat in on a session on “Open Data” with Paul Connell and Matt Edgar.

The open data initiatives are now being used every day. Weather and travel apps use open data. When someone searches for cinema listings using Yahoo, Bing or Google then results are returned using common open documented data structures.

The thinking is that many more people benefit if data is open, there is more innovation and those organisations contributing to the open data initiatives receive more back than they put in.

Two good examples were discussed:
  1. The Open Street Map initiative (see video below) and how it was used during the Haiti earthquake to mark up real-time information about access routes and the location of utilities. If this information was all controlled by an private organisation in a proprietary format then this would not have been possible.
  2. The Metro timetables – an organisation such as this can put their data online and then the market (big software companies or hobbyist programmers) can compete to produce the best apps for this market. The Metro organisation benefits as their services receive free promotion and free functionality.

The UK Government’s freedom of information initiatives were particularly well received. In particular the push to provide PDF, XML, information at the website. The more public information that is open and well-structured then the more information that will be at the public’s finger tips to ensure that the correct top-level decisions are made and justified.

With respect to construction, it comes back to what is the user requirement? What information do people need? This all ties into the level-2 BIM strategy, structure the information in a standard digital way, then start collecting it, then query it to answer the information requirements.
Duncan Reed and Deborah Rowland share a room for their respective round tables
Final thoughts
The day then finished with an international presentation on buildingSMART, COBie and Data Dictionaries followed by Pecha Kucha presentations. One of these in particular was particularly engaging with a live demo of taking physical information to digital through laser scanning.

If I was going to take three points out of the day, they’d be:
  1. A client must not select a process that focuses purely on the capital cost and project duration at the expense of outcomes and operational costs.
  2. The quality and value of structured information comes as priority number 1. Technology and software is there behind this to support.
  3. When designing a building, the standardised information from the operational phases of previous buildings must be utilised.
Nice to see the NBS National BIM Report getting presented back to the UK from the USA by the international speaker
From physical to digital - a live demonstration of laser scanning
The participating countries in the buildingSMART Data Dictionary Pilot
It's not all work, work, work - beer and BBQ time to finish

Friday, 4 July 2014

NBS Plug-in for Autodesk Revit in action

On Wednesday I blogged that our latest NBS Plug-in for Autodesk Revit was live.

Mike Lister from Kay Elliott Architects was kind enough to send a few screenshots through of it being used on a live project.

We'll hopefully work this up into a full case study on our website, but some screenshots below for now...
The full drawing sheet with 3D model view and floor plan (click for larger)
Same floor plan zoomed in to show annotations to NBS specification
The Annotation Report being used to help coordinate the information in the model and specification
If you are interested in showing some of your live projects that are benefiting from improved coordinated project information through using National BIM Library and the NBS Plug-in - please drop me an email or tweet.

To download the plug-in for free please see:

...and of course a thank you to Kay Elliott Architects - why not check out their BIM page at: