Thursday, 5 March 2015

Solar powered paper house

Occasionally when in London I'll buy presents to take back for the kids.

At ecobuild earlier this week I found these nice little fun-but-educational gifts...
Our RIBA Bookshops stand at ecobuild
Back home in the North East, lots of fun assembling the structure and complex service engineering

Put them in the bright, bright north-east sun light for a few hours and then...
...renewable energy
Fill your boots at RIBA Bookshops online or at 66 Portland Place, London

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

What is the NBS National BIM Library?

The NBS National BIM Library is now the biggest library of UK BIM objects and it is growing faster than any other. For the 2015 Spring conference season we have developed a new video explaining the key benefits of the library. This can be viewed below:

The video picks up on three key benefits:
  1. All objects in the library are authored to the NBS BIM Object Standard
  2. There is a wealth of generic and manufacturer objects for architects and engineers
  3. The BIM objects are designed to work in parallel to the NBS specification workflow
All three of these points are really important to any organisation developing an approach to BIM.

1. Standardised information:
I have spoken with a number of organisations in the construction industry over recent months about their BIM strategy. These conversations always come down to process and structured-information. In terms of structured-information, at NBS we have learned a lot in our BIM journey. Everything we have learned here we have documented in our BIM Object Standard. Whether you are a client, contractors, designer or manufacturer, authoring objects to a standard is absolutely critical. NBS National BIM Library can provide a large number of objects, but organisations will also want to create additional content for their office master BIM library, or if a manufacturer, they may have their own in-house team of BIM technicians to create their objects. The NBS BIM Object Standard can be used to ensure that all objects are to this standard of quality that is pragmatic and references the international and UK national standards.

2. Generic and manufacturer content:
As a model develops through the project timeline, typically this model will start with generic content. As the project approaches construction, the percentage of objects where a decision is known in terms of the product specification increases.

The NBS National BIM Library contains a wealth of both generic and manufacturer objects that ensures that this typical user work flow can be followed.

3. A coordinated model and specification:
The coordinated set of project information contains many more sources than just the model.

All NBS National BIM Library objects are aligned to the NBS Create specification system. Free plug-ins are also available for many of the leading BIM design tools. This allows project teams to consider a coordinated BIM strategy that goes much further than simply the model – but also ensures consistency of information between model and specification.

Finally, it must be said, that once again, friends of NBS, Soluis, have done  an absolutely top class job with the video.

,Some stills from the promotional video below:
The model used in the video is from our laser scan of our NBS premises in Newcastle
Great visual effects as the model grows from the basement up through the floors
Never mind one of Newcastle’s finest listed buildings, let’s have a look at the boiler room
The video emphasises the importance of standardised information at all times
Visit the NBS National BIM Library -

...and the original NBS National BIM Library introduction video below:

Ecobuild 2015 - The buzz around BIM

I spent all day yesterday at Ecobuild checking out the BIM Buzz.

Of all of the years I have been attending Ecobuild, this year must have been the busiest so far when it comes to delegates wanting to know about BIM a year before the Government mandate. For some of the sessions at the BIM Theatre there wasn't even enough standing room for people to see each session.

Dave Philp gave an update on the UK Government's level-2 strategy and the journey to level-3. In terms of the level-2 BIM package Dave spoke proudly about how UK will have a world-class set of standards and tools by June this year to put the UK industry at the vanguard of BIM world-wide.
UK Government's BIM Task Group Dave Philp runs the show at the ecobuild BIM Theatre
"The Government will launch their completed level-2 package of world class standards and tools in June 2015"
After showing some screenshots of the NBS BIM Toolkit, Dave passed the mike to myself and I gave a 30 minute overview of the the project. For those wanting to watch a video of this - please click below.
What is the BIM Toolkit?
Professor Steve Lockley then demonstrated the verification aspects of the BIM Toolkit. This work from BIM Academy is really pushing COBie/IFC open data to the next stage. 
Professor Steve Lockley from BIM Academy demonstrates verifying modelled information using open data (IFC/COBie)

For those wanting to be at the launch of the BIM Toolkit. Dave Philp, Steve Lockley and I will be launching this at BIM Show Live on April 8th. BIM Show Live is probably the main BIM event in the UK each year - so grab your tickets below...

Andrew Duncan from Arup then presented about the fantastic Project Ove before going on to describe how they are taking the time now to review all of their technical data sheets and concentrating on the I in BIM by creating consistency across their in-house library of objects. The image below shows Arup's BIM Room - a huge screen to review models when they are coordinated.
BIM in practice with Arup's Andrew Duncan
Ian Chapman from NBS hosted the session on BIM for manufacturers. Why did leading manufacturers such as Armstrong Ceilings, Ideal Standard and Iguzzini start providing BIM objects for their customers?

Leading on from the Arup presentation, again, and maybe unsurprisingly it primarily came down to standardising the digital information that the industry needs first and foremost. On this point, it's great to see so many organisations (designers, contractors and manufacturers) all looking to NBS in terms of the minimum standard we have set with our free-to-use NBS BIM Object Standard. It has always been our intention to try and create the national library for UK BIM objects in a similar way to how we standardised specification in the 1970s. And where practices want to create their own "office masters" then they extend this to meet their needs.
The BIM for manufacturers debate chaired by Ian Chapman
BIM for manufacturers is also about creating added value for customers and having a new innovative angle to speak to the market. Looking around the rest of ecobuild - it does seem to be the case that the manufacturer community is starting to really take up BIM.

Celotex with Augmented Reality technologies
Assa Abloy
BIM-ready Assa Abloy
Boon Edam's objects on display
Working with digital data to calculate U-values from Kingspan Insulation
Ideal Standard - Working towards the NBS BIM object standard
Joining the National BIM Library and authoring to the NBS BIM Object Standard - Ideal (BIM) Standard
Dulux Trade -
So - it's fair to say the BIM is the word at this year's ecobuild. I'm also attending today (Wednesday) and then Team NBS will also be there on Thursday.

Manufacturers wanting to learn more about BIM please see:

...and while we are in East London, meanwhile in China...
Do we have a new member of the UK BIM Crew?
BBC News - Prince Williams promotes British companies at the Great Festival of Creativity in Shanghai

Monday, 2 March 2015

BIM seminars and workshops at ecobuild 2015

This year at ecobuild the BIM Seminar series has been put together by NBS.

BIM Seminars
Scanning through the programme, there are some presentations I'd highly recommend:

  • Tuesday 3rd March - Dave Philp from the UK Government BIM Task Group speaks at 12noon on what the 2016 deadline means. At 2pm Professor Steve Lockley from BIM Academy will give a live demonstration showing verification of modelled information.

  • Wednesday 4th March - I'm on at 12noon giving a demonstrating of the BIM Toolkit project. At 1pm the BIM4M2 group will be discussing what BIM means for manufacturers.

  • Thursday 5th March - Paul Fletcher will be starting the day at 11am looking at BIM facts and fiction. Alison Watson will be presenting how the young students are learning about digital design from an early age now.
BIM Workshops
In parallel to the seminars, there are also a number of practical BIM workshops.

  • Tuesday 3rd March - At 10.30am Nick Tune from BRE and buildingSMART UK gives an introduction to COBie. At 3.30pm Andrew Duncan from Arup will present BIM and engineering.

  • Wednesday 4th March - Matt McCarter starts the day at 10.30am looking at BIM Cloud Surveys. At 11.30am Mike Packham looks at BIM from an FM perspective.

  • Thursday 5th March - At 10.30am Rob Charlton from BIM Technologies looks at federating models. At 12.30pm James Fiske from RICS looks through some BIM case studies from a cost consultant's point of view.
In addition to non-stop seminars and workshops, we'll also have a bar area where delegates can sit and chat with the speakers one-to-one.

I'll be there on the Tuesday and Wednesday - so please come over and have a chat if you are attending the conference.

The two topics I'll be discussing will be:

1. BIM Toolkit
1.30pm Tues, 12noon Wed and 1.30pm Wed
Determining who is doing what and when on a construction project
2. Coordinating Digital Information
12.30pm Tues
Coordinating geometry, specification, library and manufacturer digital information
Find out more and mark the sessions you want to attend at:

Monday, 23 February 2015

Harry Potter Studio Tour

My kids are currently into the Harry Potter books. I must say, I am guilty of falling asleep (in parts) watching the movies, but I strongly recommend the studio tour. Most people that browse my blog are into design and construction - and purely from this angle - the set design, the models and set constructions are extremely impressive.

Photographs below - click for bigger...
Borat's wife from Les Miserables with some of the Potter stars
After an introduction in a cinema, the screen retracts to reveal the Great Hall
Original costumes of Dumbledore, Snape and Samuel Johnson from Blackadder III
Winged boars protecting the gates to Hogwarts
Dumbledore's study
Actual-size house
Who needs to film on location when you can build your own street?
Fantastic pencil drawings and paper models (from 2000 so mainly hand-drawn - not level-2 BIM) 
Plan and elevation for Diagon Alley - I imagine that the NBS spec is in the cupboard somewhere and didn't make it onto the wall display
Not sure if these designs will  comply with Approved Documents A of the Building Regulations
Some fantastic paper models
Some of the conceptual artwork
Absolutely incredible 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts - the work of a design and construction team of 40 people
More on the Harry Potter studio tour

Harry Potter was also filmed on location including the North East - Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle

Sunday, 8 February 2015

NBS BIM Object Standard and shared parameters

There has been a bit of debate on linkedin and twitter over recent weeks about our NBS BIM Object Standard and our shared parameter file. As a general rule I try not get into social media discussions - but in this case, here are some views from me in this blog post.

In recent months, as part of our NBS National BIM Library website, we have published our BIM object standard and our shared parameter file. These are part of the tools that our team use to ensure that content to the BIM library is consistent and of a reliable level of technical quality.
National BIM Library tools and guides
So what is the advantage of having well-structured information? In the examples below, I have tried to demonstrate this. In addition, I've deliberately not taken any screenshots from Revit or ArchiCAD to try and make this software neutral. Imagine this information has been exported from the design software and is being manipulated externally.
Selected National BIM Library objects for example
Selected National BIM Library objects for example
The information parameters from a typical library object
Consider the situation where the user would like to analyse the information for a U-Value calculation or a BREEAM Assessment. Having this information in a standard format allows it to immediately appear as per the example below. No further post-processing or mapping is required and any software routines can read the data in a standard format.
Standardised information
If every data provider and software vendor and design/construction organisation used their own rules for naming properties then the data could still be present but the industry would be doing a lot of extra hours in manual post-processing.
The alternative
A further example is given before where a client want to answers a plain language question wanting to know how the design is maximising the use of recycled content? This is a simple question, but pulling all of this information together from various data sources is a a large task for any project team. A snippet from an information take-off from a model using National BIM Library objects is below:
Extract from recycled content report
Standardisation can create huge efficiencies here - structured data and the corresponding efficiencies can provide greater value and help with informed decision making.

The current social media debate
The social media debate appears to be centred around whether NBS is trying to force others to use our way of working. This is absolutely not the case. We are simply sharing our way of working in the hope that it is of use to others that are on the same journey as ourselves.

Over the last few years with National BIM Library we have been on a journey ourselves. It is a huge task to create consistent, high quality content for thousands of generic and manufacturer construction objects. We must firstly have our own strict internal processes - and then we are faced with a decision, do we keep this learning and knowledge private to our own organisation? Or do we share so others (should they choose) can benefit?

Other organisations I have personally been inspired by who have shared their way of doing things include:
Other points raised on social media include:

There are already standards out there for BIM - why is this even needed?
At NBS, our chief executive is chair of the BSI B/555 committee looking after the UK BIM standards. We are also executive team participants on buildingSMART UK. Our BIM object standard painstakingly references these BIM standards and brings this knowledge together in one place. We a promoting the use of BSI and buildingSMART standards and pushing this hard.

Manufacturers are being forced to get NBS to author their content
This isn't the case. In-house manufacturer teams can choose to use the NBS object standard should they wish. Where manufacturers out-source this, they can choose to ask for this authoring task to be to the standard should they wish.

In either of these situations, manufacturers that have objects to our standard can then discuss hosting options with us in terms of putting their content in front of the decision makers and specifiers on projects.

Manufacturer information such as shown in this blog post shouldn't be in a BIM object but in an externally hosted cloud library
If this is the way the industry turns, then we have this information in our NBS National BIM Library cloud library and can expose it through API. We can 'flick the switch'. But until the software vendor products work this way - our current approach is to deliver it in the objects. Scheduling and delivering information take off and analysis in the design model is how the industry currently works.

The NBS GUIDs are different from software vendor X
We are working closely with the different software vendors. Over time we'd like this to be a little smoother. Anything we are working on behind the scenes is under NDA.

Friday, 6 February 2015

BIM Toolkit - Update

It's full speed ahead now on the BIM Toolkit developments. We have just updated our website with an online video demonstration of progress and information on how to keep in touch with the development.

I also summarise things with a few screenshots below.
Watch our video showing the progress so far at our NBS web portal
The BIM Toolkit will be a free-to-use digital platform made up of:
  • A new unified classification system for the UK that is based on the ISO 12006-2 framework
  • A set of level-of-definition guidance pages for BIM objects
  • A digital plan of work tool defining who in a project team is doing what and when
1. Information exchanges
Fundamentally, the BIM Toolkit is being developed on behalf of the UK Government's BIM Task Group to support their level-2 BIM process.

As an introduction to the project life-cycle the PAS 1192-2:2013 standard is the best place to start:
(this is essential reading)

The BIM Toolkit will support this full process. It will help clients generate sections of an Employer's Information Requirement (EIR) document.  It will also help bidders and the supply chain develop their BIM Execution Plans and Master Information Delivery Plans in response to the EIR.
At the Strategy/Brief stage - the project participants may not be known
Tasks and deliverables may be defined that will answer an employer's 'plain language questions'
As a project team is appointed the roles are assigned to organisations
2. Level-of-definition guidance pages
In addition to BIM being about managing the process and the key tasks, it is also about modelling the project in terms of digital objects. The BIM Toolkit will include thousands of level-of-definition guidance pages that assist with this process. These will give bandings for level-of-detail (LOD) that covers geometric detail and level-of-information (LOI) that covers the associated information.

Each of these bandings is indicative of what is typically required for that stage of the plan of work. So the banding "2" is typical of what is expected at concept design, the banding "5" is typical of what is expected as part of the construction process.

Examples of LOD and LOIs are below. Thanks must be given to our expert partners BDP (buildings) and Mott MacDonald (infrastructure) who are doing amazing work supporting us in this area.
LOD-4 for a bridge expansion joint
LOI-3 for the same bridge expansion joint
LOD-2 for a floor covering system
LOD-2 for a boiler
LOI-6 for a boiler
3. Responsibilities
The default tasks and the object definition reference library may be used to set the responsibilities within a digital plan of work. This information may be exported to a digital format (COBie) for verification and comparison - or to a Microsoft Office format for more traditional exchange documents for briefing, tendering and appointments (ultimately PDF).
Objects may be added to a digital plan of work for a project
Responsibilities and notes can be defined against this object for a particular stage
In terms of verification, I'll blog more about this in a few weeks' time. But BIM Academy are doing some amazing work around their xBIM technology. This will include 3D viewing functionality around buildingSMART IFC and full use of the buildingSMART COBie data schema.
3D IFC viewing technology showing design information being verified against the requirements
Hopefully, this all looks interesting to those involved in the UK construction industry. If it is, please visit our official web portal:

...and if you want to meet the team face-to-face, come and see us at:
...and, as always, I'll sneak a few things up on this blog for those interested in some of the 'behind the scenes' stuff under the label BIMToolkit.