Thursday, 6 April 2017

Publishing your specification - Post 2 of 3 (COBie)

This is the second of three posts looking at publishing information from NBS so that it can be used by the wider project team. The first of these posts looked at exporting to Microsoft Word to improve the aesthetics of the published output. This post looks at the other end of the spectrum - publishing just the data regarding the systems and products that make up the built asset so that this data can then be transferred to other software applications such as FM systems. 

When publishing data with interoperability in mind, it is essential that the data format is to an agreed public standard. Figure 1 below illustrates this in a simple non-construction-industry example. To take contact information from Google into Apple products there is a basic agreed data schema called vCard. 99.9% of the world needn't know anything about this. But the software developers at Google and Apple do. They can then make great products and transfer information reasonably smoothly with the complexity hidden from the 99.9%.
Figure 1 - Interoperability and vCard
Of course, in the construction industry it is much, much, more tricky to digitally model an entire built asset than it is to model someone's contact details. The open data schema that is defined by the UK's Level 2 BIM to do this job is the Construction Operation Building Information Exchange format (or COBie for short).

For more on COBie - please see one of the websites below:
- The 'What is?' page on theNBS website:

Figure 2 - Concept diagram from UK BIM Task Group
Not one tool models the entire built asset. Costs may be contained in cost databases, spaces and instances in 3D models, maintenance manuals on an extranet etc... So no software tool can claim to have a 'big COBie button' that produces a complete data file. Figure 3 below simplifies the data schema of a built asset and indicates in red the information that is contained within a specification. Figure 4 shows how by exporting to an open data format then this information can then be imported into another software application. In this example it shows the information from an 'as built' specification at stages 4/5 of a project then being imported into an FM system for stages 6/7 of a project.

Figure 3 - Where the specification fits

Figure 4 - Taking information from one software package into another
Recently introduced functionality in NBS Create has greatly improved the 'Publish to COBie' feature within the product. Previously it has been possible to generate a collection of CSV files that could then be manipulated into COBie format.

Now it is possible to generate a COBie data file in the properly formatted Microsoft Excel template. Figure 5 shows this option in NBS Create.
Figure 5 - Export to COBie format
At the point of export it is possible to select what codes are required for the Category field within COBie. Figure 6 shows that either the NBS reference codes or Uniclass 2015 classification codes may be selected. The organisation generating this information may also specify their contact details which will be stamped against each row of data.
Figure 6 - Select your classification
Figure 7 shows that a user-friendly report is generated highlighting exactly what information has been exported. All types of activities (such as surveys), systems (such as heating systems) and products (such as air curtains) are exported. If exporting to Uniclass 2015, any items without a Uniclass 2015 code are highlighted. This would typically include product clauses detailing prototyping or samples.
Figure 7 - Export report
Figure 8 below shows the COBie overview worksheet - the contact, system, type and attribute worksheets can be seen to be well populated. Worksheets on Spares, Spaces, Resources, Jobs are empty as this information is not typically modelled in a specification.
Figure 8 - The COBie overview worksheet
The concluding figures below show 'the data' in a format that can be then used for any workflow that supports COBie. The sorting and filtering functionality in Microsoft Excel is also useful for querying this data in the native file.
Figure 9 - The manufacturer contact details

Figure 10 - All of the 'types' of systems and products

Figure 11 - Filtering the attributes to display the information about a specific type
For more information on NBS Create and COBie please see our page on

For more information about NBS for BIM projects please see the page below:

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Publishing your specification - Post 1 of 3 (Microsoft Word)

Our users regularly stress with us the importance of publishing the information within their specifications. Clearly, the content within NBS and the functionality to author the project specification is one of the major workflows in the process. But once the specification is ready, it is then shared with the rest of the design team and then this information flows through to the contractor, sub-contractors and the supply chain.

We have been working on quite a lot of new functionality in this area and this is the first of three blog posts looking at how we now provide users with a greater amount of flexibility in terms of how this information is distributed.

Traditionally specifications have been sent to the printer and distributed as a paper document. However, over recent years, digital PDFs have arguably become the publishing format of choice. Figure 1 shows that in NBS Create there are a wide range of formatting options (content, styles, margins etc...) that can be utilised prior to publishing.
Figure 1 - Send to the printer or publish as PDF directly from the software
In our customer satisfaction surveys, one of the biggest suggestions for improvement was to provide the functionality to export to Microsoft Word. This wasn't so that the document could be issued as a Word file. But it was so that some final 'tweaks' could be applied prior to issuing the final contractual PDF.

We recently introduced this functionality and Figure 2 below shows, once exported to Microsoft Word, that the navigation structure and style options are marked up correctly. The navigation tree is shown to the left - the styles such as Heading 1, Heading 2, Title are displayed to the right.
Figure 2 - Functionality to export to Microsoft Word format
Figure 3 below shows how the styles can be changed to a suite an organisations brand identity. The fonts, the sizes, the colours and the spacing have all been quickly modified.
Figure 3 - A well-structured document that respects the navigation and styles within Microsoft Word
Figures 4 and 5 below show that those used to the more advanced functionality in Microsoft Word can take advantage of this to make the presentation of the specification exactly as required. Examples of this could be reducing the page count by adding columns to the document, reducing the margin and changing the page layout. Other examples could be inserting images or tables or cover sheets to add further clarity to the publication.
Figure 4 - Further post processing can make the specification more compact

Figure 5 - In Word - any of the functionality such as customer header/footers/images/tables may be used to complete the document
This functionality is now available in both NBS Create and NBS Building. To find out more please see the links below:
The second blog post in this series looks at exporting the specification to the open data format COBie:

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Shortlisted for RIBA North East 2017 Awards

Our Old Post Office refurbishment has been short listed for the RIBA North East 2017 Awards.

Check out the nine shortlisted buildings on the RIBA website and their Facebook site:
The Old Post Office in Newcastle
The RIBA Instagram feed is also publishing photographs of all of the regional award nominees.
Our new offices middle-right
To see a little more about our new building and about NBS as a company - check out our 'We are NBS' video below:

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Autodesk University London

In June Autodesk University comes to the UK for the first time. Autodesk University has been the biggest BIM event world-wide for a number of years now in Las Vegas - to it's great to see it come to London in 2017.
AU London - 21/22nd June 2017
I am pleased to have been selected as a speaker for the event as part of the Industry Talks stream. I'll be looking at how construction professionals in the UK are using standardised objects and how they are linking their models with the specifications. I'll also being demonstrating some new cloud based tools where models and specifications may be combined and viewed through the web browser.

The description of the class is as follows:

Practical Examples of How to Develop and Coordinate Information on a BIM Project
Stephen Hamil - Director of Research and Innovation
This class will present how project teams can collaborate to develop information on a BIM project. 

We will initially look at setting up a plan of work to give clarity on which team members are delivering what information and when. Following this we will look at how designers can develop their designs using standardised BIM objects in Revit. Practical examples will then be given on how to link these objects digitally to the associated specification to better coordinate this information and reduce risk. We will finish by exploring the role of the cloud and big data in future workflows and show practical examples of how the Forge platform can accelerate this.

Stephen was part of the team that developed the UK government’s BIM Level 2 standards and tools. As director of research and innovation at NBS, he has been fundamental in developing the products that led to NBS being the first UK Autodesk Solution Associate in 2016.

I'll also be co-presenting with Brian Roepke from Autodesk at a second session:

Introducing Autodesk Forge and its role in BIM workflows: A Success Story with NBS
Brian Roepke and Stephen Hamil

Learn about what the Autodesk Forge platform is capable of and how you can benefit from it. In this session Brian from Autodesk will introduce some of the features within Forge and explain how this powerful, cloud-based software platform can be the build block for your next tool or product. Dr Stephen Hamil will then demonstrate how NBS have utilized the power of Forge to allow coordinated models and specifications to be viewed through the web browser. Live demonstrations of practical customer examples will also be shown from UK architecture and engineering BIM projects.

Keep an eye on this blog to find out more nearer the event.

For a full list of speakers and details on registration please see below:

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

BIM Show Live 2017

Last week it was fantastic to see over 400 construction professionals in Newcastle for BIM Show Live.  A collection of photographs and videos below from the event...
Space Group Rob welcomes the speakers to Newcastle

The recently refurbished 1820 railway building - 'The Boiler Shop'

Rob explains that this was where Stephen's Rocket was built - the steam engine design chosen in 1829 as best to power the railways
Read more about Stephenson's Rocket:'s_Rocket
Keynote speaker Mark Shayler looks at the changing world
Watch Mark talk about innovation and change as part of a Ted talk:
Keynote speaker James Pellatt provides his experience of doing BIM as a client over recent years

Over 400 delegates came to the North East

One of my favourite cartoons

Elliott from BDP gives his thoughts on BIM
Other items of interest included:

Each room had a North East feel and was named after a famous geordie
From NBS, both myself and my colleague Drew Wiggett presented - to find out more about NBS products and services for BIM - please see below:

Monday, 30 January 2017

Mark Bew - BIM Level 2 and BIM Level 3

It was fantastic last week to have Mark Bew delivering our first lecture in our new NBS building.

I've known Mark since the days when he was chair of UK buildingSMART and hosting buildingSMART meetings in the Scott Wilson offices in London. Since then Mark went on to persuade the UK Government that it would be a good idea to 'do BIM' - and then was the driving force behind the BIM level-2 initiative.

Only 50 people could fit in the room. So - a few slides from the presentation below and also the embedded video of the presentation from our NBS youtube channel.

I'd definitely recommend finding 30-40 minutes one lunchtime and watching the video at the end of this blog post...
The first lecture in our new building

Paul Morrell's reflection on the UK achievements

A reflection on where technology was when Mark started out on his career

The exponential growth of computing power

Using the cloud, and apps, and feedback to create a better society based on evidence of performance
Watch the presentation now...

Check out the write up on our website and some exclusive video footage:

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Opening of our new NBS building in Newcastle

Last night we officially opened our new NBS office with presentations and a drinks reception to business leaders from around the North East.

A selection of photographs from Twitter below from the hashtag #DiscoverNBS.

To find out more about our new office please visit our website:

The roof top garden, lecture theater and boardroom

The Hub

The decking looking out onto Newcastle Cathederal
The specification for the flat roof above The Hub (specified using NBS of course)
Another roof top garden shot

The ground floor office space

The exhibition space
The facade (as it has been for over 100 years)
Update 26/01 (a couple of pics from the official photographer) - it was a real privilege to the get the chance to show off our digital solutions to the guests :)
Our super new lecture theatre (sits 50-60)

How our digital solutions connect together
You can also see how we used the design model for the building in one of our NBS videos below...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pitch at Palace

This week I was fortune enough to attend the Pitch at Palace event at Sunderland Software Centre.

In addition to celebrating all things 'Tech' in the North East, it also was a chance for a number of up-and-coming tech businesses to pitch to His Royal Highness The Duke of York at part of the Pitch at Palace initiative.

North East excellence in technology

It was a super day and a bit of who's who in the North East technology industry. Prince Andrew came across really genuinely as really supporting up-and-coming innovations. He was engaging with speakers and even occasionally heckling them :) It was also fantastic to hear the keynote speech from Leighton's Gerard Callaghan. As part of this story was an early extranet/ftp project they did for Taylor Woodrow which eventually turned into 4 Projects.
Prince Andrew supporting technology in the North East

The founder of 4projects Gerard Callaghan
The winners
Well done to Billy Webber for chairing the day - and well done to the winners that have now gone through to present at the actual Palace in London in the final. Also, great to see that one of the winners was Ami Davies who used to work in the NBS team!