Thursday, 29 November 2012

Overall winners of Build Qatar Live

Unbelievable news coming through off the web - "Team BIM Academy" (BIM Academy, Cundall, Mott MacDonald, NBS, Ryder Architecture, Turner + Townsend and Colour Urban Design) won the main award for the Build Qatar Live 48 hour competition.
The final design
41 countries took part. In the year of "BIM UK" - it was fitting that a team from the UK took the prize.
NBS played a small part
Read all about it and watch the video blogs at our special Build Qatar website:

How Group Chief Executive of ASite Tony Ryan announced the winners...
"The overall winner goes to BIM Academy, congratulations guys. Fantastic, an absolutely fantastic effort – it was just incredible watching you guys work. And the amount of social connectivity and communications that you guys were putting out also – as an aside was incredible. We enjoyed following you."
Final word on the subject - a big up to BIM Academy's George Mokhtar who project managed the bid - nice work George. Now get some sleep.

What role did specification play in Build Qatar Live?

As part of the final BIM Qatar Live submission I wrote a few lines of text explaining what part specification had played in our team's challenge. The text from this is below:

1. Specification 
One aspect of Team BIM Academy’s submission that is believed to be unique is the inclusion of well-structured specification data that is linked to the federated central model. This was possible through using the UK’s NBS Create specification system. The specification journey through the 48 hour challenge is outlined below relating it to the RIBA Plan of Work stages.

1.1 RIBA Stage B
At RIBA Stage B the model was at a concept stage with the buildings shape starting to be defined. The specification at this point in time covered three main areas – (1) the project brief, (2) a list of design team members and (3) a whole building performance specification.

The whole building performance specification was perhaps the most interesting at this early stage. Fig 1 and Fig 2 below show typical property sets for the whole building performance specification. The first looks at the environmental performance of the building. The second clause specifies the design parameters with respect to some of the service engineering.

Fig 1 - LEED requirements
Fig 2 - Designing to Qatari standards
As the technical specification team were from the UK, and were more experienced with BREEAM, a number of hours were put in prior to the task looking in LEED and the Qatar Sustainability Assessment procedure.

Two uploads were made to ASITE:

  • Stage B specification report (PDF)
  • LEED and Qatar Sustainability Assessment report (PDF)

1.2 RIBA Stage C
The model was at a more developed stage now and it was possible to start working on the objects within the building. The “Generate outline specification” functionality within the NBS for Autodesk Revit toolbar was used here. This loops through all of the objects in the model and generates an NBS Create specification with synchronised system objects. This functionality has not been released to market yet and Build Qatar Live 2012 was a good project to fully test this process. Fig 3 below shows the model in the design software. Fig 4 shows the NBS Create outline specification that was generated with a single click of a mouse.

This process is demonstrated in the video:
Fig 3 - Model with geometric objects
Fig 4 - The generated outline specification
The NBS Create specification system allows the level of specification development to grow from a single-line outline description through to a set of properties describing the performance of the object and also to a fully designed object that includes property sets for all component parts.

Fig 5 below shows a screenshot showing the performance specification developing for the concrete structural systems:
Fig 5 - The property sets detailing structural performance
A Stage D specification report was uploaded to ASITE. This covered both the outline specification and also gave examples of performance and fully designed systems.

The verify annotations functionality was utilised in the NBS for Autodesk Revit toolbar to ensure that model and specification stayed coordinated.

1.3 RIBA Stage D
At stage D the generic objects in the model were being replaced by detailed objects from the UK National BIM Library ( This free resource was also used for component objects such as windows, signage, doors and sanitaryware.

Fig 6 below shows how the objects in the central model and the specification were coordinated throughout the challenge. Also shown is the detailed technical guidance and links to construction standards that was available to the team.
Fig 6 - the objects linked to the specification and technical guidance
 As time was ticking down we wanted to finish with something special. Two options were discussed – (1) generating COBie UK 2012 data from specification or (2) generating IFC 2x3 from specification. We decided to be bold and go for the IFC option. Using the open source xBIM toolkit developed by BIM Academy the NBS software developers spent a number of hours proving that information from the specification could be exported to IFC. Fig 7 below shows performance specification information for a fire door. Through a software export process this information is merged with the IFC from the central model. This data can then be viewed in free tools such as Solibri Model Viewer that work off open-standard format data. A screenshot of the specification data in Solibri is shown in Fig 8.

This process is shown in more detail in the video:

Fig 7 - Performance specification for a fire door in NBS Create
Fig 8 - The information flowing through to a single IFC file
It is believed that the inclusion of well-structured specification information adds a new dimension to BIM. This gives a real focus on the information, the “I” in BIM, and also shows that the specification process is one that can take place in parallel to the design and can form a major contribution to the final integrated data set.
Team - BIM Academy

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

NBS Create exports to IFC data format

Watch how Software Development Manager Alan Smith shows how IFC 2x3 data can be exported from the NBS Create specification system.

The work flow is that the property sets are defined in NBS Create for a door. This door is linked to a type object in the design model. The xBIM toolkit is used to combine property sets and the output is a single IFC file that can be then seen in Solibri Model Viewer.

This is obviously still in development - but it's got real potential in terms of putting structured data in durable, open standard IFC format.

BIM Bingo - Explained

Nothing more frustrating than waiting an hour at 6pm to get on the high-spec lap-top as your friends from software development hog it.

I took a break from Build Qatar Live to explain the BIM Bingo slides to Clare from our Marketing team:

Build Qatar Live 2012 - Day 2 - Evening

Some pictures from the day so far below.

The time is now 17:20...

Dave from Turner and Townsend and Ryder Architecture in the background
The NBS contingency start working on the specification and do some coding
Ready for a snooze - Colour Urban Design have worked through the night
Stage B Report issued - Project brief, contacts and whole building performance
Lots of video content uploaded to the NBS website
Engineer and Architect working shoulder to shoulder
Stage C report is uploaded to the site - outline specification
Squint your eyes and it could almost be Las Vegas
The generic objects are swapped for National BIM Library objects - doors, windows and sanitary ware goes in 

Creating a specification from an Autodesk Revit model

As part of the Build Qatar Live 48 hour challenge the BIM Academy Team are ensuring that specification is a key part of their bid.

Using the NBS Create specification system, specification can now be a crucial part of the fuller information model.

In a sneak preview of functionality "in development" Chris Vickers and Alan Smith do a ad-hoc live software demonstration to show this process. Chris is from the NBS Technical Team having joined from North East architects FaulknerBrowns. Alan has been at NBS for around ten years now and leads the software development on the NBS branded products:

We have a lot more video clips from today at our official NBS website:

(Those that want a laugh may want to) stay tuned to the blog for the rest of the day as I am under firm instruction from Clare from our Marketing Team that I need to do a video presentation at some stage.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Build Qatar Live 2012 - Update

Expect a full day of tweets and blogging tomorrow from me as part of Build Qatar Live.

In terms of how today has gone - check out the Build Qatar Live website for live blog posts from all of the teams from around the world:
Build Qatar Live official website
If you are interested in Team BIM Academy (BIM Academy, Colour, Cundall, Mott MacDonald, NBS, Ryder Architecture) - then pop over to the live feed on the NBS website:
NBS and friends

Build Qatar Live 2012

Build Qatar Live 2012 starts this morning.

Build Qatar Live
NBS are putting two members of our technical team and two of our R+D team into Team-BIM-Academy.

BIM Academy

Colour Urban Design Limited

Mott MacDonald
Turner + Townsend
We've had our pre-meetings.
George from BIM Academy calls the shots
We have our BIM Execution plan
The Plan
We've got our BIM objects all synced up and linked and ready for a multi-discipline specification
A dump of library BIM objects
Let's see what pops out the other end in 48 hours time...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

BIM for Free - The Inside BIM event

Earlier in the year when some of the bigger BIM conferences were being announced Graham Stewart (Ramboll) and Nigel Davies (Evolve) set about putting on a BIM conference of their own – for free. Nothing too flashy - just a bunch of folk in a room sharing thoughts and learning from each other.

Two months latest and Ramboll UK’s London office was hosting nearly 100 people at the first “BIM for Free” event.
Ramboll UK
1. Ramboll - Kiruna Sweden
First up were the Ramboll guys from Sweden. They demonstrated an $8bn hospital development that a team of 500 consultants were working on being run by Skanska. It is split into many models, Revit and Tekla are the consultants tool of choice and IFC is the common language that is used to support the native platforms. The other main tool used is Solibri and all data is referencing the Swedish national classification and national specification items.

The message on IFC from Sweden is that it works well – but they do have to write bespoke code in places to sort out some data mapping (level information between Tekla and Revit). “Why don’t the big vendors not just get together and sort this out – just like Apple, Microsoft and Google have had to do with HTML5 have done with the Internet”. I think many people would echo those sentiments.
BIM - Ramboll-Sweden style
The second part of this presentation was about a proposed development in the north of Sweden. How visualisations were being used to show a town occupiers how the landscape would change if a huge building was to be built there. Four options could be visualised interactively on a larger touch screen.

2. NBS-openBIM Network COBie Research
Phillippe Sauvageot from Mace Group then presented his take on the recent NBS-OpenBIM Network COBie trial. It was fun sitting in the audience with my fingers crossed hoping he’d say lots of positive things, and he did.

It was explained how an HOK design model was rebuilt using National BIM Library components (thanks again David and Cara :)). This then went from (deep breath) Revit to IFC to ArchiCAD and Vectorworks – then IFC static objects swapped for native objects – and then back to IFC again – so there were three native models and three IFC files. From these data sources – the contractors were set some tasks around data checking and COBie generation.

Most interestingly was the fact that he felt that of the fact that none of the tier-one contractors who took part in the trial thought they could robustly produce a COBie data-drop without the use of the preview-version of the COBie plug-in for Solibri Model Viewer. This allows a number of models to be brought together in IFC format to produce a combined model – and then for this to populate a COBie dataset (note – not MS Excel) that is linked to the 3D geometry view.
When the fundamentals of your software are integrated IFC and info take off - COBie is a small next step
Right, what info is important to me - and where is it in the model?
“If you have the COBie data interacting with the 3D geometry it is hugely beneficial” is what Philippe concluded.

And some questions from the floor…

Q - “If you didn’t have Solibri, then what?”
A – “We’d have been banging our heads off the wall”

Q – “Is it true that IFC was fine for export, but is still not good enough for import?”
A – “We only used it for export as part of the trial”

Q - “Would you agree that if you cannot trust something 100% then you cannot trust it at all? [joke] the bridge is 90% long enough!”
A – “Model checking tools can verify in a few minutes the quality of a model – ‘all rooms must have ceilings’ etc…”

So a complete surprise that presentations one and two would be so IFC-centric – I wonder if people are warming to middle ground opinion that both native formats and open standard formats can work together to give a more rounded BIM process? Not “one over another”? I blogged about this a few weeks ago. Leave your answers below in the comment section to this post.

3. David Light - Case
Dave Light from Case Inc then took to the stage. In Dave’s view Buildings = Data. Full stop. End of story. Look at a wall in a model – can you get all of the information you need from that wall? Also do you put all of this data in the model? Do you have linked data? If so how do you access this and how do you extract it for analysis.
How are you learning from the data being... complete the sentence? "Structured?"
Dave then showed some of Case’s tools for analysing the data from buildings outside of the model environment. What was nice about this is when the data is extended to analyse many buildings.
The two absolutely key things I took from this are:
  • Level of detail (forget geometry – let’s talk property sets)
  • Classification (and for me, Uniclass 2 will be perfect for this once rolled out – an object based classification system for the UK market – UK amongst the world leaders again)
One thing I’d like to analyse is how different items bloat the model. Extra polygons that are needed are clearly bad – Dave’s example here was a bike shed with eight highly detailed bikes inside that killed one of the models at his previous practice. But the topic of number of properties is the more interesting one for me. With the National BIM Library we have tried to make a judgement as to the properties that a user may schedule, may need for performance analysis or key visuals. This object is then linked at a “type level” to the NBS Create specification clause and associated products, execution, linked standards and manuals can all be managed.

Moving more specifically into the Autodesk Revit platform (Case’s speciality) Dave was adamant about reviewing “warnings” as they happen. “They will not go away or sort themselves out by magic. Good modelling skills are essential.

So – my kind of a presentation – no pictures of sky scrapers, no fancy renders, not much prettiness, a #bimbingo score of 0 – because it is “all about the data”.

4. BIM KSS Style
Casey (Arup) and Rebecca (KSS Group) then did a very polished double-act presentation.

Casey’s audience interaction at the start worked really well. Instead of asking a question and people to raise their hands. He asked everyone to raise their hands, and drop them as he asked the question. The conclusions were clearly that not many construction professionals in the room were being asked for BIM by their clients. And even fewer were passing BIM data that is useful for FM through to their clients at the end.
There was a slightly different message in this presentation which was understandable from an Architect point of view. Great data can be used to deliver great designs. I think this is something many people still doubt but one that Casey and Rebecca firmly believed in. BIM gets rid of the boring/repetitive/risky tasks allowing the designer to focus on great designs.

The coordination of models between design disciplines is a challenge. This challenge is multiplied further when a client does not know what they want and appoint a design team that find it hard to match modelling skills. The importance of being honest at the start, agreeing the rules and agreeing the BIM execution plan were drilled home.

Rebecca finished by talking about the BIM2050 group which will champion BIM and great design and look to the future. And the final slide “Just do it”.
Lawyers for Nike - drop me an email and I'll kindly remove this picture from the blog
5. AEC (UK) BIM Protocols
Organiser Nigel Davies was next. He did a whirlwind tour of the AEC (UK) BIM protocols and explained their journey. Starting by asking the delegates how many in the room used these – it could be seen that around half of the room did. It was explained that the protocols have been developed for reasons of (1) efficiency, (2) information structure and (3) collaboration.

The journey had started in 2005 when the industry really needed some rules whilst waiting for the publication of BS 1192. Over the years the protocols developed until a Revit specific version came out in 2010. It can be thought of a guide, “What does BS 1192 mean for Revit users?”.

Now there is a core document that is platform neutral – and associated documents based on whether your main design package is Revit or Bentley. Work is ongoing for ArchiCAD and Vectorworks.
AEC protocols around the world
The most important part of collaboration is when you take your information and pass it on. This is the stage where protocols must be followed.

In a similar message to Dave Light, Nigel discussed the American Institute of Architects “LODs” – LOD100, LOD200 etc… Nigel quite rightly pointed out that this is misleading as it is split into two “Level of detail” and “level of information”. You can have very advanced detail (the 3d bike in the bike shed) and no information. Or no detail at all (a 2D place holder) and a huge amount of information.  (In an NBS Create specification maybe I may add :)).

BS 8541(1, 2, 3 and 4] and PAS 1192 and Uniclass 2 were all briefly discussed. The position is clear, as they are published – they are/will be reviewed and then incorporated into the protocols once the AEC (UK) team are happy.

The AEC (UK) group are all volunteers with huge experience, they don’t do the work for profit and they have put a lot of effort in. Nigel went through a list of things to do if people wanted to modify or add anything – “talk to us” was the clear message.

6. Ramboll and Pascall Watson - Gatwick Airport
The afternoon was coming to a close by now for me, I had a Computer Construction Awards ceremony to attend. But I did catch a little of the Pascall Watson- Ramboll Gatwick Airport presentation. Graham Stewart was speaking as was Lewis Wenman.

On a project as big as Gatwick collaboration and an agreement of working methods was essential. Graham talked about how they had taken advantage of the AEC (UK) BIM protocols. Sharing information every two weeks into combined models was the aim.

One of the main challenges is communicating revisions and changes to the design as it progressed. Also knowing what bits of each other’s models are relied on.
Lewis and Graham
The challenge – a “fully coordinated model”. This tends to normally mean that geometrically all of the designs come together perfectly giving certainty over integrated components. I wonder if the term “fully coordinated model” will stretch in time to cover all of the information sets on a particular project – zero clashes of geometry – but also zero coordination issues between model and specification?

And then I was off. Well done Nigel and Graham for organising. I must say that there is a real buzz around the UK BIM community at the moment – something special is happening that people will look back on in years to come. And as always good community, banter and a hunger to share knowledge and learn from people.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Autodesk BIM Conference 2012 - Review

Big Ben at sunrise
Yesterday I attended the Autodesk BIM Conference in London. We were promoting NBS Create and National BIM Library as exhibitors but I did also manage to find the time to get into the conference hall to listen to some of the speakers.

First up was Autodesk Vice President Phil Bernstein who spoke about what he was seeing around the world with respect to BIM adoption. Phil started by repeating the message that BIM is not simply clever technology, but that technology was enabling a business process change.

With respect to the UK there were some very kind words on how three years ago nobody had an idea on how rapidly the UK could make progress. This was “remarkable” and was down to “inspired leadership”. “In three years the UK had achieved what had taken 10 years in the US and 12 years in Scandinavia”.
Autodesk VP
The Tweet Wall
Technology is allowing us to do what we had wanted to do in 1965. A recent McGraw Hill survey had the two main drivers for BIM as being “better multi-party communication” and “improved project process outcomes”.

Then Phil was then back to praising the UK, scribbled down quotes from him below:

  • The UK can now lead the world in BIM transition
  • This can be the leading BIM market in the world
  • The UK is on the cusp of assuming a leadership position [with respect to BIM]

I’d had the pleasure of listening to Phil at the Qatar conference a couple of months back. Interestingly the message was slightly different – today it was about strategy and leadership and goals. In Qatar it had been about technology and looking at how technology is creating change and how technology will continue to develop.

A very charismatic speaker and well worth listening to if ever you get the chance.

And from one great speaker to the next – Paul Morrell – two weeks off retirement. I've listened to Paul and blogged about his talks three or four times. So only the briefest of notes below:

Paul started by talking about his retirement and how he’d love to be a graduate again – this was at odds with what most people thought as they went through their career. He then showed his “don’t give a shit vs age” graph:
How people tend to develop through their careers
One slide that always works well is when comparing how operation/maintenance of a car compares with a building – petrol light, automatic windscreen wipers, ABS brakes, service lights, reverse obstruction alarms.

Another fantastic way of illustrating companies not dealing with change is the fact that no manufacturer of radio valves ever made the successful journey through to manufacturing transistors.
Phil and Paul around a coffee table. In front of 350 people
The question and answer session with Phil and Paul was interesting.

  • Phil – “In the USA BIM adoption has been a little bit ‘cowboys and indians’ – in the UK you have very clear objectives.”
  • Paul – “We spoke to seven or eight very big client bodies in the USA. They all had very clear in what they demanded. But all of these objectives were very, very different.”
  • Paul – “Central Government can only do so much. We want to push power down to local government. So the industry must drive this. The people working here are your councillors and your MPs.”
  • Paul – “We need to align the plans of work
  • Phil – “If you burn more design calories earlier then you’ll see the benefits later on"
When asked about “Autodesk world domination" Phil’s final humble reply was “we’re just a tool maker”. Hmmm – I wonder if somewhere in-between is the truth?

Finally, I believe this is Paul's last major speaking engagement before retirement - let's hope the momentum for digital change continues and a massive well done Paul.
Matthews, Bhandal and Cambell
Alastair Campbell then took to the stage. No powerpoints from Alastair Campbell because “Power corrupts, but Powerpoint corrupts absolutely”. So he stood. And talked.

Alastair stressed again and again his key message. This was around objectives, strategy and team work. 1. Work out what your objective is. 2. Then sort out your strategy and then 3. If you don’t have good teamwork it won’t work.

In this case, BIM is the strategy. The objective is to get better value for money and be more sustainable. Economy and the environment are two of the most pressing issues in the world today.

When dealing with change management – you must not spend your time preaching to the converted. You must deliver your message. Again and again and again. And when you are sick of this. You must deliver it more.

Alastair kept politics at arm’s length but when talking about voter apathy and people saying “there is no point in voting as nothing changes” he said that those people should look around them as change is always happening. To demonstrate this point he pointed to the Twitter wall. This was just in time to spot a couple of tweets spelling his name wrong in a row.

The importance of teamwork was stressed – the greatest difficulties New Labour had in Government were when they weren't working as a team. Once you have agreed your strategy you must stick to it and work as a team to deliver it. “You must set your own agenda – don’t let your enemies do it for you”. Even when things go wrong, this is an opportunity to get in front of people and deliver your message again. “Developing strategy is about having arguments – not avoiding them”.

All very interesting stuff – however I wonder whether talk of “enemies” was a bit strong – I’m not sure how many delegates in the room had enemies. And my other thought was on what Alastair’s thoughts were on what to do if you realised your strategy was wrong? Did he ever think mistakes were made?

Alastair finished with ten points – I only managed to scribble down 9 of these though:

  1. Agree your objectives, develop your strategy and only then look at the tactics
  2. It has to be a team game and you must be bold
  3. Be adaptable
  4. Stay calm in a crisis
  5. Every set back is another opportunity to explain your objectives and strategy
  6. You have to listen – but then you have to lead
  7. You set the agenda – not your enemies
  8. You have to get out in front of people and explain
  9. You have to encourage risk and enterprise in your organisation
London buses and Big Ben - the view from the hotel
The Q+As to Alastair were surprisingly quiet.  He gave the BBC a little bit of stick for their recent handling of the Newsnight affair – “they were reacting and changing strategy on a daily basis”. When asked about Twitter he said that he was a big fan but you must stay on message and tweet around “your agenda”.

What would Alastair do with those in an organisation who were the biggest change deniers. This was the closest he came to his Malcolm Tucker alter-ego as he said that he couldn't fire people when New Labour took over but after “one or two years most had moved on”. The civil servants who had trained John Major to do his best against his opposite number Tony Blair for prime minister’s questions then tried to tell Tony how to do the job when he was PM – that wasn't going to happen.

But most of my day was spent promoting our developments on the NBS stand. How NBS is now working with BIM tools for specification creation and coordination, COBie generation and standardised objects.

It was good to see many familiar faces - some good banter with the fellow BIMGeordies and also a good meeting at the end of the day with the Chinese delegation from Tsinghua University.
BIM in China

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Autodesk BIM Conference 2012

NBS are exhibiting at the Autodesk BIM Conference tomorrow. If you are attending, please come over and say "hello". Adrian Giles - Key Account Manager, Drew Wiggett - Product Information Manager and myself will be at the NBS stand.
We can show you what NBS offerings that work as part of the BIM process are in the market now and we can also present some of our developments that will be being released in 2013.

1. In the market now
  • NBS Create - the first specification system world-wide that is truly object-orientated. For those that are not attending the conference - check out the getting started videos.
  • National BIM Library - A free-to-use resource of BIM objects for UK construction practice. Generic concept objects, generic detailed objects and now also with manufacturer objects. - these objects are also easily downloadable from within NBS Create giving greater integration between specification and the BIM process.
  • NBS for Autodesk Revit - Presuming that most of those at the conference tomorrow will be Autodesk customers - the completely free plug-in for Revit should be of interest - this links specification clauses with BIM objects in addition to a number of other features helping with coordinated project information:
2. Previews
Many of those at the conference will know about the above. But please still come over for a chat - we can show you some of the stuff that is in development.
  • NBS Create - The latest release has just gone live. See my five blog posts [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] covering the new functionality. I'd love the chance to demo some of this tomorrow to delegates that come to our stand.
  • National BIM Library - Lots more manufacturer content is on its way. Also we have plans to enhance the generic content and add more scope. If you are interested in classification, the new set of curtain walling objects or are plans for objects for service engineering - please come over to speak to us.
  • NBS for Autodesk Revit - We have some big plans to integrate more closely with many of the software tools around BIM. But with respect to Revit - some teaser screenshots below...
    Those attending the Edinburgh Revit User Group saw an advance preview of this last week.
2.1 Reporting on linked objects...
List all linked objects - a single click allows any object to be quickly viewed in the model
2.2 Fixing problems...
If there is a problem - click the link and easily correct it
2.3 Specification generation...
Hard to find a nice screenshot for this one, but auto-generation of a sync-ed outline spec from the model
2.4 Easy addition of content...
Get the objects you want directly from within Revit - no need to go to a new website and download
So some exciting stuff. I'll also be looking forward to listening to Paul Morrell, Phil Bernstein and Malcolm Tucker. Finally, don't forget to print out your BIM Bingo cards before you set off!