Friday, 5 June 2015

BIM Toolkit - Update

Even though the funding period for the BIM Toolkit project stopped when the beta was launched at BIM Show Live in April, we have been continuing to develop the free-to-use service at the same rate.
We updated the site one or two weeks ago with some great enhancements - many of which had been requested by those providing feedback through our beta bar. A few screenshots from these are included below. To see them in further detail click the image to make it larger.

1. Classification
The most requested item through the beta bar in April was to make the classifications more accessible. We did this... 
Browse and filter the classifications online 
Download the classification tables - including the NRM1 mappings in the systems table
More information on classification -

2. Custom roles
With the beta launch, only fixed roles in the NBS templates could be added to a digital plan of work. We have now added many more roles and users may add their own custom roles.
Add a custom role
Assign a participant from the project team to that role for that stage
3. Copying information 
As you move from one stage to the next - it is quite likely that many of the project details, the roles and the deliverables may stay the same. You told us that you'd like to be able to copy this information from one stage to the next more easily...
Hundreds of modelled deliverables at stage 4
Simply click a button to copy the information from the previous stage
More information on digital plans of work -

4. Manufacturer content
One of the hardest challenges for us was to respond to the original brief that stated that there would be initial funding, but then a self-sustaining commercial model was needed... and it must be completely free to end users.

Our proposals were for this commercial model to be based around advertising. However, that brought a real challenge regarding how to do this in a way that does not spoil the user experience.

Examples of how this is done badly (in my humble opinion) are below...
I don't want to do the lottery or buy a sports car * or become a tax inspector! Leave me alone!
 So, back to BIM Toolkit...

We introduced an advertising model that displays relevant information to the relevant project participant at the relevant stage of the project. We also introduced some nice functionality to help construction professionals manipulate this.
The architect with the responsibility for the door hardware at Stage 4 views what is on the market
They are interested in the operating devices - they then filter to see controlled door closers
They  then filter to show specific manufacturer content
Finally they  jump to the relevant website for technical data, specification or BIM objects as appropriate
We hope that we have got this balance right between providing free-to-use functionality and data with useful 'advertising' which is technically useful and also functional.

The success of the BIM Toolkit depends on this - so any manufacturers that would like to know more please see:

Finally, in the office we are still working on hard on some very exciting new features and more content. So watch this space for future blog posts.

* Well maybe that red car would be nice :)

Friday, 22 May 2015

The BIM Toolkit in ten minutes

In terms of support in introducing the BIM Toolkit, we launched with a 90 second video and also an in-depth support area with 10,000+ words and a one hour launch video.

What I heard a number of times from industry is that they wanted some support material 'somewhere in-between'. Enough to introduce the concepts, but in no more than ten minutes.

In response, I've put together a short Powerpoint that has a slide for each of the main ten concepts. It can be downloaded and used by anyone introducing the BIM Toolkit. For example, at NBS we have lunchtime 'knowledge sharing' sessions where someone will present a new idea to a room full of colleagues. This is what this presentation is meant for.
A slide for each of the ten main concepts
The ten main concepts covered are:
  1. The UK Government level-2 BIM strategy
  2. Classification in a BIM world
  3. LOI - Level of Information
  4. LOD - Level of Detail
  5. PAS 1192:2 - The BIM process
  6. Employer's Information Requirements
  7. Managing information development through the timeline
  8. How the tool will continue to be free to end-users
  9. BS 1192:4 - COBie
  10. Verification of information
Each slide has...

1. An illustration of key concepts...
Visual slides - lots of illustrations - not many words
2. Supporting notes...
The words are included in the notes area - 3 key points for most slides
3. Hyperlinks to in-depth technical articles for those wanting to know more on any of the concepts...
Each slide has a hyperlink that the user may follow to find out more

It should be noted that this is very much focused around the BIM Toolkit aspects of level-2 BIM - for learning material around the wider level-2 BIM concepts - please visit the UK Government's BIM Task Group website -

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I visited the new Wembley for the first time at the weekend. My home town club North Shields were in the FA Vase final and therefore it seemed a great excuse for me and little-Hamil to get the early train down to London for the game.

In recent years I've not had much to cheer from a football point of view [ref 1, 2]. You can sometimes question whether it really matters as much to those making the decisions and those playing as it does to the fans. But watching a small, local club, close to your heart win a cup at the national stadium makes for a pretty special day.

Some photographs below...
The huge arch
An impressive stadium
Memories of 1966
North East vs North West
The hallowed turf
Shields win the game 2-1 with a goal in extra time
Souvenir programme, scarf and tickets

Thursday, 30 April 2015

No prize for finishing second

In scenes reminiscent of Wembley 1974 when Newcastle United, against the odds, made it all of the way to the FA Cup final only to be cruelly knocked into beaten into second place by the all-conquering favourites Liverpool, today the announcement of the CIOB #BIMTwitter50 list of most influential twitter-BIM-people was announced.

The big hitting pre-tournament favourite David 'The Philpster' Philp from BIM Task Group took first place. But in second place was geordie-bim-rambler myself.

Joking aside, many thanks to anyone who put in a nomination for me and also thanks to 'the grandfather of all things social media' Paul Wilkinson (@EEPaul) who supported the CIOB in pulling the list together.

Full story below:
The top 10 - click article above for top 50
Tweeter superstar 
Memo to self - tweet Paul more about old cameras and poets
In all seriously though, I really enjoy interacting with those in the construction industry through twitter, linkedin and blogger and it's really helped with networking, meeting some great folk and learning from those with more construction/computing knowledge than myself.

I'd suggest anyone new to twitter interested in BIM heads over the article below and follows all 50 of the folk on the list...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

BIM Toolkit and Verification

One of the aspects of the BIM Toolkit we still have in private beta is the verification functionality. Without doubt, this has been the biggest challenge, but we are pleased to be moving this into a place where it is ready for testing and industry engagement.

Tomorrow I will be presenting this workflow using a basic test model at the IStructE BIM conference. A few screenshots from this are below. The main verification support article will be published in the next few days at the web page below:

With all of this development stream - the lion's share of credit, thanks for hard work and technical excellent lies with BIM Academy and the work they have done with their xBIM Software Development Kit.

The verification workflow starts with the definition of information requirements, then the development of information in response to these requirements, then the submission of this information, followed by validation and then ultimately (hopefully) acceptance.

The verification workflow
To demonstrate this workflow a very, very simple model is used below. If you'd like to support us in defining this process for different software vendor tools then please join our beta testing programme.

Please note that this project below will not win any architecture awards - it simply demonstrates the functionality.

1. Definition
The BIM Toolkit allows information requirements to be defined.
A project is created "The BTK Test Project"
Requirements for two types of space are defined.
Requirements are added for an asset that needs maintained
In the screenshots above, it can be seen that there is a requirement for certain types of space (bedrooms and dining rooms). There is also a requirement for handover information for all fan convectors.

2. Development
How does the user then create a submission file that is compliant with BS 1192-4:2014 (aka COBie)?

The answer is that they have three choices:

(a) Write it themselves in MS Excel
(b) Export using a plug-in for their BIM design tool
(c) Export IFC from their their BIM design tool and then create COBie from this

Assessing these three options, as part of this project, our strategy was to base everything around buildingSMART IFC and the read-write access to IFC that the xBIM SDK provides.

Generating IFC from a BIM design tool that has spaces and assets classified using the correct IFC field is a challenge and is a different process depending on what BIM design software you use. Providing support for every BIM platform out there is beyond the scope of this project - but we do want to work with users of different platforms and help put the knowledge out in the public domain.

The basic process is below...
Produce a model, classify it correctly, download enhanced IFC exporters, configure them and then click "export to IFC"
(documentation to follow to be shared with beta testers)
How good is your IFC?
Generate COBie from the IFC
Each instance of each space has the correct classification
Each component is of the correct type, with the correct classification against this type

3. Submission
The COBie may look like good COBie, but if in Microsoft Excel format, it's not an intergal relational database. So it is possible to check the COBie for relational errors.
Is it perfect COBie?
Those that have followed the IFC route to generating COBie can check the IFC visually in the viewer.
Spaces delivered checked against spaces types required
Assets delivered checked against assets required
4. Validation and acceptance
The final step is to automatically check the data and generate an acceptance report.

We didn't quite have this working on our servers at the time of writing the blog post. So the screenshot below is from the BIM Academy presentation. But hopefully it demonstrates the journey.
A simple report comparing requested information with what has been delivered
For those of you interested in IFC and BIM technologies, hopefully this is of real interest. We do now need your help in developing test models from simple through to more complex using various design tools. Those that think they can spare a little time here - please see details on our beta testing programme

It's fundamentally all about getting the data into a common documented standard format (IFC/COBie) so it can be checked. It is pushing the boundaries a little as traditionally IFC is used for clash detection and geometric visual checking. But this was a project about innovation and open standards - so writing some software routines that compared two MS Excel files was not an option.

More information:

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

NBS National BIM Report 2015

Last week we published our free-to-download UK BIM Report that looks into the adoption trends and attitudes in the UK.
There were some interesting findings, my take on two or three of them are below:
  1. The BIM adoption rate appears to have stalled
    My take on this is that in previous surveys respondents have maybe over-stated their organisation's capabilities. An understanding is growing that BIM is not just 3D CAD and clash detection but is following a collaborative process for managing digital information (documents, geometry and structured information). This new understanding is also becoming apparent in the question around what level of BIM (3?) organisations can perform at.
  2. The Government 2011 strategy is correct and supported by industry
    In an era where many Government initiatives are criticised - the strategy that was developed by the likes of Morrell and Bew back in 2009 and published in 2011 looks to be fully supported by industry still. Six or seven years following its inception - a remarkable achievement and still world-leading in thought.
  3. The Government Construction 2025 objectives may be enabled by BIM
    ...well some of them at least. The UK industry believes that BIM will be an enabler to lower costs and deliver faster. They are more sceptical on whether it can help produce lower emissions and help the UK improve exports.
Can BIM help enable any of these by 2025?
In addition to all of the stats and the insight - there are a number of super articles including:
  • LOD and LOI explained by Alistair Kell BDP and Stefan Mordue NBS
  • Level-2 BIM explained by Rob Manning UK Government BIM Task Group
  • Verification of models by Prof Steve Lockley BIM Academy
  • Standardisation of BIM objects by Ian Chapman NBS
  • The Construction Institutions and their thoughts on level-2 BIM - eight of the leading institution voices
So - it's our fifth annual report and one that we are again very pleased to put out there for industry to read and comment on. Download it now:

Sunday, 19 April 2015

NBS Create 1.5 - now available

Last week we released quite a big software release for NBS Create our award winning specification product.
NBS Create

Behind the scenes at NBS, we have been working very hard on NBS Create - many months of hard work have gone into version 1.5. This blog post looks at some of the latest enhancements.

1. Speed and reliability
Just like software programs like Microsoft Excel (.XSLX) or Autodesk Revit (.RVT), NBS Create saves information to a local database file (.SPEX). The user selects where to save the database file and then, if on a LAN or a WAN, the network speed plays a factor in terms of performance.

Our users have told us that this performance is a high priority - on a slower network, how can we make the software as fast as possible? We have spent a lot of time re-factoring the code base to really improve this. We have also changed the way that the information is saved. The user now works on a specification with the information in their machine's memory and then selects when to push this (or discard the changes) into the specification file.

There is, of course, flexibility over auto-save options to give the user more choice. In addition, whenever a process intensive operation takes place the progress bars and feedback have been improved throughout the software.

As always, we have also spent time carefully addressing a number of bugs - and so far on the whole user experience of the software has been very positive. Users of NBS Create 1.4.7 that upgrade to 1.5 over the coming weeks will hopefully be very pleased with these enhancements.
Enhanced performance and feedback when working on a specification
2. Multiple users working on a single specification
With NBS Building (and NBS Specification Manager before that) habit was quite often to leave the specification until late in the project and then for one person to write it in the last few days. With NBS Create, the specification may be started at concept stage and then developed through to a performance specification at the developed design stage prior to evolving into a full specification at the technical design stage.

Developing the specification in a more considered way also lends itself to more than one member of the team contributing to the writing of this document. Ensuring that performance and user feedback is excellent when multiple users are concurrently working on the same specification has been a big priority for our R+D team over recent months. In the example below - the user Stephen is logged on - it is clear from the specification navigator view which of his colleagues (Alan) currently has systems checked out to work on them.
Who is working on what
In NBS Create clauses can be shared. In the example below, the steel pipeline specification is shared by the gas supply system and the heating system. The user 'Stephen' can open the gas supply system for editing, but when this user gets to the steel pipeline specification he can see that his colleague 'Alan' has this open already in the heating system. What is also shown is user notes for this job that can be easily added to the Guidance window to the right of the software.
Ideal for multiple users working on the same specification
3. Easily administer the users on your licence
Not strictly new to the 1.5 release of the software, but one of last year's other enhancements was a major release of the web site to administer the NBS Create licences across a practice. In the first screenshot below, a user has remained logged into NBS Create and has then left office. The administrator can easily log on to the admin site and release the licence seat.

In the second screenshot, it can be seen that the administrator can manage permissions across multiple users in a user friendly interface.
Free licence seats that are taken but not actually in use
Control what each user in your practice has permissions to do
4. Say it once and in the right place
In section 2 of this blog post the steel pipeline specification being references by two parent systems (gas supply and heating system) was considered when two people were writing the specification.

The user then has flexibility on how to publish the specification. They can publish the specification system-by-system and this will repeat the steel pipeline clauses twice in both systems. Alternatively, they can publish the specification by section - this groups common items together by their classification - so all of the pipelines products would be grouped together. Where the user chooses the second of these options, the references to the parent systems are now (optionally) clearly displayed. So this has the benefits of grouping all similar items together - but also understanding the context of where these products are used.
Clear relationships displayed for clause relationships across different sections
5. Built for BIM
At NBS we provide library reference information to be used on projects. So when we consider information modelling - it is more about modelling the information that is then used by our users to design buildings rather than the buildings themselves.

When modelled successfully, it is easy to display relevant information from one service in another. In the screenshots below, the user can quickly find BIM objects when specifying similar items. This makes a much easier workflow for the user and saves time as the specifier can quickly drop these items into their model - or pass to a colleague who is working on the model.
In a few clicks go from NBS Create (Sanitary-ware) to related NBS Plus to linked National BIM Library (Dyson) 
From Ceiling specification to Armstrong Ceiling BIM objects ready to add to model
Additionally, NBS Create Specifications can now not only be generated from our Revit plug-in or the Twyford SpecMaster Online tool - but now also the NBS BIM Toolkit.

This sequence in BIM Toolkit is shown below.
  1. The required systems and corresponding design responsibilities and levels of information are agreed by the project team at the developed design stage of the project.
  2. NBS Create specifications can then be automatically generated for each of the organisations responsible for the work.
  3. The brief for each system entered in the BIM Toolkit comes through into the NBS Create specification to inform the work that needs to take place.

Responsibilities and LOI agreed by the project team in the free-to-use BIM Toolkit
A set of specifications created with the click of a mouse
The brief for each system written in the BIM Toolkit flows through into the systems in NBS Create
So... a whole load of work in total that is making the award-winning NBS Create better and better. Firstly, a big focus on the speed and stability - but then also really making the product work elegantly in a world of digitally connected information.

Finally, if you have a subscription to NBS Create, make sure you get the most out of the products by checking out the support on offer:
...and for those not using NBS Create - please visit our website for more information: