Thursday, 22 June 2017

Autodesk University London Review

I've just been at Autodesk University London for two days. Almost 1,400 delegates at the fantastic (but *slightly* warm) Tobacco Docks venue.

A collection of the best bits from the two days below (told mainly through photographs and video) ;)

Starting with the keynote session on Day One, I think Martha Tsigkari from Foster and Partners stole the show. A fantastic passionate presentation on how cutting edge technology and inspirational design come together to produce an amazing built environment. The story from the Gherkin to Mexico Airport was told and it was a really good one.
Martha F+P
If you have the time, it's worth spending ten minutes watching the story behind the airport design...

Machine learning, the cloud and big data was maybe the theme of day one. And every AI presentation needs the Terminator (it's the rules!)...
The machines are coming!
Less scary than the Terminator (I think) is this machine-learning-paintball-machine that can er... paint the Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds :)

Back to reality (and more relevant to AEC) is the functionality that nobody knows about on your iPhone that categorises you photographs by recognising the objects in them! Try searching for 'dog' or 'football' or 'beer' or 'skyscraper' or 'bridge' or 'sun' on your phone now...

Automatic image recognition
What are practical applications of this? There was a presentation showing how health and safety issues can be captured in real time through video recognition - 'no hard hat' - 'no high vis jacket'. How machines can design the strongest structure with the least material through cloud iterations. How machines could potentially help predict the most likely specification decisions based on the parameters that are entered... some mind blowing things.

Back to the here and now, we had the pleasure to launch the public beta of our new NBS Online Viewer. This has been a collaboration between ourselves and Autodesk that allows model and specifications to be viewed in the cloud. It was fantastic to be on Stage One presenting to a big crowd and also to have Brian Roepke from Autodesk and Don Kelman from BDP as part of the same joint presentation.
Always great to present to a big audience
Fantastic to have Don from BDP Glasgow on stage giving the customer story
Please check out our BDP case study video below...

For the NBS Online Viewer we used components from the Autodesk Forge toolset. Later in the day Adam Nagy from the Forge team presented showing some sample code and demonstrating live prototypes on the stage.

Live software demos

I wonder what these guys thought would happen over the next 35 years?
Throughout both days we had two stands within the Exhibition Hall. We demonstrated the viewer at the Forge Stand and also had a main NBS stand to showcase the full NBS BIM workflow.
Live software demonstrations

Discussions around the NBS stand
The day two keynote looked at the latest developments in the Autodesk product range from all of their sectors. The themes that go across the industry include the need to

  • Change from a paper world to a digital world
  • Connect data from different software solutions together
  • Utilise the power of the cloud and big data to be able to design, build and monitor use more effectively.

A simpler plan of work - design it, make it, use it

Sarah Hodges looking at an industry that relies on paper
I attended the ISG Smart Building presentation from Paul Cook that was interesting. The summary being, if you want to have a truly smart building in the operation stage - then you must consider the information structures that will get built up from the strategy stage.

There were also sessions on the creative software used to produce the special effects in movies.
I'm one with the Force and the Force is with me
Then moving back to the AEC sector I learnt a little more about Smart Motorways and how CH2M are managing and delivering information models on these projects.

I was on again on day two (last session of the conference) where I looked at some example BIM projects where information coordination was being seen. In our NBS National BIM Survey we ask the question about BIM adoption, but how do people judge whether they actually are? Is modelling in 3D to generate drawings, schedules and detect clashes enough?
A smaller project (when compared to a railway station!) case study below:

Fantastic to see so many people staying right to the very end to listen to my second talk
So an intense, inspiring, very worthwhile couple of days. Really fantastic to meet up with so many people. For more information on how NBS can help with your BIM adoptions please check out the website below:

A little cooler, quieter and with some very beautiful spaces down on the lower floor

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

20 Fenchurch Street - The Walkie Talkie

I've known for sometime that it is possible to book a free visit slot at the Sky Garden at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie Talkie) London.

So I used the opportunity before the the Autodesk University London set up afternoon to do a bit of lunchtime work there.

Photographs below...

The Walkie Talkie

The initial view

The writing on the glass indicates the view points

The contrast of old vs new

The fantastic space at the top

Natural ventillation combined with artificial watering provides the environment for the garden

Quiet at the back for those wanting a view of the Shard and the Gherkin

Zoom in to spot Wembley in the distance

Plants + Glass + View

Not a bad location to work from

Pretty high
Other tall building blog posts...
- Tower Hill
- Durham Cathedral
- Marina Bay Sands
- The Gherkin

...and a BIM presentation from Hilson Moran on this project from five years ago...

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

NBS BIM Case Studies

A couple of new case studies have been published on our website that feature aspects of how NBS can be used on BIM projects.

Videos are embedded below, please click the links to go to the full case study.

1. Primary School
This is one of a number of school projects from Manchester City Council following their move as a client to standardise their BIM process. This looks at the design stages of the project following the production of a standardised digital plan of work.

All members of the project team used NBS to produce a standardised set of design information.
Find out more about this project at...

2. Historic building refurbishment
This is the story of our very own building project in city centre Newcastle. This looks at the information flow through the project timeline from the original laser scan of the existing historic building.
Find out more about this project at...

Thursday, 25 May 2017

AU Las Vegas - Class submission

All of the submissions are now in for Autodesk University Las Vegas.

Each of the submitted classes can be vieweed in advance. It is also possible to add your votes to the classes the look of interest.

I submitted a class this year - if successful I'll be talking about the UK Level 2 BIM methodology and also (with it being a tech conference) looking at how we're using the Forge technology to view Revit/IFC files in the cloud alongside the specification.

If you think it looks interesting, then please following the link below and filter by the word 'Forging' and add your vote.

To find out more about our use of the Forge technology - watch the two minute video below:

I'm happy to list other classes submitted from the #UKBIMCrew - drop me a DM on twitter if you want yours added below... (snip)

Update 23rd June 2017
Really pleased that my class has been accepted.
Also, great to have such a fantastic co-presenter joining me. Jim Quanci from the Autodesk Forge team :)

Monday, 15 May 2017

NBS National BIM Report 2017

Our seventh annual BIM Report is now available and may be downloaded for free at the location below:

As always, it is a mix of analysis of the results of the survey and also a number of articles looking at BIM today.

The articles include the latest updates from key UK led initiatives into BIM that the rest of the world are looking to. These include features on the UK Government's Digital Built Britain programme from Mark Bew, the standards supporting UK BIM from BSI and how the UK are working with others across Europe as part of the EU BIM Task Group.

Fig 1 - How the UK is now pushing on with the ISO 19650 standards
Fig 2 - The concept diagram for public sector BIM strategy
As always, Adrian Malleson from NBS gives insight into the results of the survey. I have taken a few screen captures from it below to highlight one or two areas of interest.

The first chart below is interesting as it shows the opinions on where BIM will deliver against the main Government objectives. It can be seen that there is confidence on reducing cost and programme time. However, there is more sceptism around whether it will enable the industry to cut its environmental impact or have a positive impact on the industry's trade gap.
As this is the seventh survey, we can do view national trends over a number of years. The key question each year is around awareness of BIM. It can be seen below that this has been a reasonably steady upward trend since 2011.

Another question asked each year is around BIM maturity. This is asked once in terms of 'what level of BIM are you working to?' and then 'which standards do you use?'. Personally, I prefer the question around the standards as this gives better insight.

As expected, the 1192 standards are the most highly adopted. However, market adoption is still well short of 50% here. This suggests that although 62% of the industry may have 'adopted BIM' in terms of utilising 3D modelling tools and performing clash detection etc... we are still a long way from saying that the UK industry is working at 'level 2 BIM'.
The chart below is particularly interesting in that more than two thirds of the industry believe that 'clients don't understand the benefits of BIM'. I think this is a real opportunities for construction professionals to educate and support their clients.
The last chart to take a look at in this blog post is how construction professionals believe that emerging technologies will influence the industry. It's no surprise to see that big data and the cloud are leading the way in terms of having the biggest likely influence. Robotics on the construction site (or offsite) and machine learning have a little more sceptism attached.
Within the report we also take an opportunity to reflect on a case study of a project where all members of the project team are using NBS BIM solutions. Check this out in the video below or at our website:

Download your copy (and sign up for our newsletter) today:

Thursday, 11 May 2017

NBS National Specification Report 2017

Our Market Research, Analysis and Forecasting regularly survey the industry to help inform our product developments. In recent years we have shared this knowledge and wrapped it up with insightful articles and opinions in the form of our reports.

In May 2017, two of these reports are being published pretty much at the same time (you wait ages for a bus and two come at once!).

The first of these is our Specification Report - the BIM Report will follow shortly.

This is completely free - but don't forget to leave your email address when you download it so you can receive our weekly e-newsletter:

Some snippets from the report below...

Interesting to see that the specification may be modified, at least on some projects, at each stage of the plan of work. In the majority of cases, it is a document that develops at least through the developed design stage and the technical design stage. In a third of all projects it continues to be updated throughout the construction stage inline with any variations. So this suggests that industry attitudes to writing specifications at the last minute before to complete a tender package are perhaps changing.
The importance of writing tight performance specifications to set out the requirements for contractor-led projects or projects with elements of contractor design is clear. Also good to see (I think) that 42% disagree that specification writing is a chore :)

The main causes of difficulty are interesting. Looking at the main cause of difficulty - substitution of product decisions by the contractor is the biggest cause for concern. The article by Mark Taylor from Allies and Morrison reflects on this. Badly coordinated information in the drawings and specifications is the second biggest difficulty. I wasn't wanting to do much of a plug for NBS solutions in this blog post - but we do have plug-ins for a number of design tools that help here and are free for NBS users.

Amogst the articles and comment pieces we hear from specifiers and also manufacturers. It is worth remembering that when specifiying manufacturer products, most leading manufacturers have technical support departments who really understand their subject matter and are there to be a member of your project team.
Finally, there is a number of pages at the end of the report introducing some of the NBS Technical Team. These are the construction professionals who have spent years working as specifiers on real life project and have since joined NBS to research, author and maintain the template clauses and guidance that is in our products...

So please download the report. Share your opinions on social media. Maybe pass the report around your colleagues and discuss the topics in your office:

(and watch this space for the upcoming eagerly awaited BIM report)

Friday, 7 April 2017

Publishing your specification - Post 3 of 3 (Online model viewer)

This is the third 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, the second post looked at exporting to the open data format COBie.

This post looks a little more to the future where the specification can be published to a secure website where the wider project team can view the information from the context of the 3D model.

The traditional method of publishing a specification is to print it out or export to PDF format and send to the project team. A hard copy/PDF record is clearly required (and still will be required) contractually - but problems can arise if multiple copies of this are distributed around the project team and as the specification is intended to be viewed from the context of the design - it means that there is a lot of navigation required to find what is needed. Figure 1 illustrates this.
Figure 1 - Recreating the paper workflow - but with PDF
Figure 2 below displays the concept of (in addition to the PDF record) the specification being uploaded to the cloud in its native format so that the rich data can be viewed from the context of the model.
Figure 2 - Access the model and specification using the cloud
I put together a video explaining this new development...

To try out the functionality, simply create a project in the BIM Toolkit and then hit the 'model' button upload your specification and/or model. This will then be hosted in the cloud and you can invite project team members to view this information read-only without installing any software. These steps are shown below:
A. Select 'Model'

B. Browse to specification and/or model

C. Invite the project team
The specification information may be viewed by clicking on the specification to the left. This also selects any linked instances of this in the model. Alternatively, items in the model may be clicked and the associated specification will be shown.

Models may be in IFC or Revit format. With IFC format the author must link objects using the viewer. With Revit format, the objects may be pre-linked using the NBS Plug-in for Autodesk Revit. Figure 3 below shows the viewer working with the 'famous' IFC Duplex Apartment model. Figure 4 below shows the viewer working with our model of our own NBS office building in Newcastle.
Figure 5 - IFC linked to the NBS spec

Figure 6 - The spec for our cafe roof up in NBS Newcastle
There are lots of nice things to discover such as classification mappings, first person walkthroughs, clause linkage, automated quantities, links to standards, links to manufacturers, standardised object properties - but maybe they are a subject for a follow up post.

Please try out this functionality and let us know what you like and your suggestions for improvement at our ideas board:
- Try it out now -
Give us your ideas

The technology used for the 3D model viewing is Autodesk Forge. NBS are Autodesk Solutions Associate partners.

With all developments, I love to look back at the initial sketches for the idea. Below is a couple of photos from the Forge Conference in 2016 and some sketches on the back of an envelope over a beer with Jim Quanci.

Forge DevCon 2016

Scribbles that start the development process