Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Free-to-watch online BIM presentations

A few weeks ago I posted my ecobuild presentations online:

On our website we now have the rest of them. All free-to-watch and short and snappy. Those related to BIM/digital information are highlighted below.

All videos at -

Non-NBS speakers

1. Robert King and Lucy Wood - David Miller Architects
2. Richard Wise, Ryder Architecture
3. Joe Cilla, AIS Interiors
4. John Tebbit, Construction Products Association

NBS speakers

5. Drew Wiggett, NBS
6. Richard Waterhouse, NBS
7. Richard Watson, NBS
8. Ian Chapman, NBS
9. Adrian Malleson, NBS
10. Stefan Mordue, NBS

Friday, 22 March 2013

London Revit User Group – Post 2/2

"Just one more question"
We’re hugely grateful for a chance to speak to some of the most influential and knowledgeable BIM professionals in “the capital” at the London Revit User Group. Last year on the same bill as Paul Morrell and then again this year at a special session with us as the lead speaker.

The unwritten rule however is that the LRUG top-brass have their annual chance to ask me the hardest questions they can think of at the end of the session. Strangely enough, this is pretty enjoyable, a really good challenge and it proves for an interesting debate. So here is the pick of the questions from Mssrs Wooldridge, Light, Collins and Oakley… and my answers...

1. Can you please speed up your content creation programme?
We’d always like to do more. But I think we’ve done pretty well in the first 12 months. We’ve had three major releases of generic content, each with about 150 objects in. We’ve also very quickly took the number of manufacturer objects up to around 150 objects. So now we have around 600 objects in total.

What makes this a more time-consuming process is that we take great care in defining the property sets, functional parameters and providing consistency across all objects (so for example, FireRating is the same for walls, partitions, doors, generic and manufacturer objects).

And the majority of objects are in many BIM vendor formats – something pretty unique to National BIM Library. So if we counted all of these objects separately there are more than 2,000 objects.

We could accelerate the programme by charging for the objects and using this money to pay for faster content development. But the business model we have gone for is to make this content free-to-the-industry. Our feedback to date is that this is definitely the correct approach.

In the next twelve months we are looking to match our building fabric content with a similar number of objects for service engineers. Manufacturers are also joining the service on a weekly basis and we have another nine manufacturers in the pipeline with content coming online soon.

2. On large projects, teams aren’t going to associate every object against an NBS specification. Would you agree this is too much effort?
The more savvy practices will associate their office master objects once and then they won’t have to associate every object on every project. They just need to do this once centrally for their “toolkit of objects”.
Consider a fictional practice called ABC Design that has a collection of system and family objects. All they need to do is to create a few template jobs with these items in, then use the NBS toolbar to stamp the correct references in. The screenshots below demonstrate this process.
A template job and a template spec are created
Each object is associated with its corresponding spec
The toolbar functionality stamps these parameters and values into the objects
This of course could be done in the traditional way in the Family Editor or Manage tab using the National BIM Library shared parameter file (included in all Revit downloads).

3. Doesn’t co-ordination all fall down if you aren’t coordinating the information inside the objects?
We can never solve all coordination issues. But what we can do is improve things step by step. Our tactics here have been to link databases first, and then objects second – the natural progressing here is to help coordinate the key property sets. We are looking into this now in our R+D team.

However, this is not a new issue. Twenty years ago someone could write “60 minutes fire door” on a drawing on the drawing board and type “90 minutes fire door” in the specification on the typewriter. So practices have always needed to have an office policy in terms of what information goes where.

In the examples below – where certain information goes is reasonably straight forward. Geometry would go in the geometric model for the main objects. A lot of other information (such as the evidence of compliance in the example below) would go in the specification model. The tricky one is the fire rating example. The master specification system has detailed guidance, links to standards and regulations and suggested values.  However, the geometric BIM software has fantastic visualisation performance analysis and instance scheduling functionality.

So this is the hundred million dollar question.

What is the answer?
Where do you put the information?
My personal view here is that, firstly, consistency between these key shared property sets is needed. This is where IFC comes in (or maybe more precisely perhaps IFD/Data Dictionary) – unique ids need to connect this information – whether between spec and drawings – or whether this is a language translation from English to German.

The user should be presented with three options:

  • Option 1 – the spec is the master and the geometric model is the slave
  • Option 2 – the geometric model is the master and the spec is the slave
  • Option 3 – neither is the master – the user is alerted to coordination issues and they then make an informed choice

This may sound like a pipe dream – but I don’t think we’re that far away. The screenshot below shows the IFC demo I went through at LRUG. The IFC model has merged information from Revit and NBS Create. The FireRating below has actually come from the specification. Through shared mappings it is possible to coordinate at a level below the object itself.

The value of "99" came from the spec - not the Revit model - inserted directly into the IFC
So, going back to the question (at the end of a long answer) – I think we have to look at how full a glass is and not how empty it is.

4. Why does your wall library not include existing Victorian walls for alteration jobs?
We’re straying into detailed content development questions here (which is not my area). But I *think* we made an initial decision here that:

  1. A. On most alteration jobs you would simply model the existing building as concept objects – for example, “a 300mm wall” and not go to the level where you model the materials within a Victorian wall.
  2. B. By providing detailed documentation on our naming conventions and materials – practices can use the National BIM Library principles to expand our library of 70-80 wall constructions and configure their own.
But, by all means, keep the content questions coming in to or our linkedin site and we’ll target our efforts at where the biggest demand is.

5. At an early stage of a project we don’t know details – so how can we spec the items?
National BIM Library can be used from a very early stage on a project. Most systems have concept objects (say 300mm walls or flexible doors and windows). At this concept stage – NBS Create and links to the spec doesn’t really come into play.

NBS Create begins when the early spec decisions are made – for example, the floor is likely to be timber boards or the roof is likely to be clay tiles.

At this stage, the National BIM Library concept objects can be swapped for the more detailed objects and the NBS Create outline specification can be created.

So, some pretty tough questions, especially for 8.30pm on a Thursday evening. But this is the sort of BIM debate we need. In my opinion, it beats a Powerpoint slide show of the BIM-triangle and BIM-circle-of-life any day of the week.

I look forward to 12 months’ time to do it all again.

London Revit User Group - Post 1/2

Last night I presented at the London Revit User Group (#LRUG). Just over a year ago, before the launch of and NBS Create I had presented our BIM intentions. I'll do a couple of blog posts on this as there is lots to cover. The first of these below is an overview of last night. The second will be a more in depth post looking at some of the questions raised in the discussions after the presentation.

What was fantastic about last night was the ability to try and judge progress in just over a year.

Technical content
The feedback last year was that after the initial launch set, users wanted sanitaryware, signage, curtain walling, floor coverings, MEP, structural and manufacturer specific content. The progress throughout the year was that in Q3 last year the sanitaryware and other generic objects went live and now we have many objects from six manufacturers with objects from a further nine manufacturers coming through. Most of the generic content is in multiple formats (not just Revit) and all of the manufacturer content is in five formats. We have started the process off in terms of delivering MEP content.

Software development
The feedback last year was as shown in the picture below...
You said - we did
The screenshot below shows the latest progress on the free Revit plug-in.
  1. Drag and drop the latest objects from the web and into the model
  2. View design guidance from NBS (NBS subscription required) from the context of your design software
  3. Automatically generate an outline specification from your model and then develop this specification through the timeline (performance spec, full spec, as-built spec) using NBS Create
  4. Verify objects in Revit match with objects in the spec - huge improvements in documentation coordination in terms of speed and accuracy
  5. Jump directly from the object in Revit to the associated specification clause
NBS toolbar and resource panel within Autodesk Revit
The last ten minutes of the presentation was looking at IFC. Interestingly I asked the 60 or so delegates to raise their hands if they "think Revit is great". About 60 people raised their hands. I then asked people to keep their hands up if they thought IFC was great. Interestingly there weren't still 60 hands left pointing in the air. :)

We're in the process of developing functionality that takes the content in Revit, exports it to IFC and then the key content from the specification is stamped into this rich IFC file. This can then be viewed in any free IFC viewer and the data format is open source and will stand the test of time.
COBie the easy way - IFC-tastic
I was especially encouraged by the feedback after the event into this IFC work. I think it needs more people to get out there and spread the word about how great IFC really is - in my opinion it is most definitely not a case of IFC vs proprietary innovative software/data - but how both are very much needed to make the BIM process work.

An example we discussed in the pub following the event (where the best discussions take place) was with the automotive industry. Too much standardisation stifles innovation and competition - see the cars produced by East Germany and the Soviet Union in the 70s and 80s. However if you don't have any standardisation you get monopolies and collaboration is hard. With standardisation for example, all cars have the same dimension petrol entry holes, air valves for the tyres, rules on safety etc... You could say the same thing about lights - with standard plugs, voltage, fuses, CE marks etc... - so standardisation, but enough scope to let innovation and competition to produce great products.

The other presentation was from Soluis. Scott Grant gave an introduction to their business model - how through BIM designs could be communicated to all stakeholders in a project. The slide below shows a chart of stakeholder influence against stakeholder interest. Do you really want to show clients and occupiers design intent with just words on a sheet of paper? Do yo you really want to demonstrate construction sequencing with just a gannt chart?
Scott Grant
Martin McDonnell the Soluis MD then showed off some of the software tools that team up in Glasgow had developed. Invest in software development. Turn manual jobs into automated jobs. Become a thriving profitable business. He did this presentation in the context of the developing our promotional video.
Martin McDonnell
And a video and some more pictures...
NBS Sarah shows off her XBOX skills

Best way to prepare for a big presentation - playing on the XBox with Jay Beckham
David Light loses a life much to Scott Grant's horror
No rest for the wicked - pages and pages of feedback in terms of what we do next end of post 1 - post 2 to follow which looks into some interesting discussion points.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

National BIM Library - Promotional Video

Our promotional video is now live:

Please click "play" below to watch it - remember to expand it to full screen.

It looks fantastic and emphasises the key benefits of using a standard library of BIM objects.
A simple yet beautifully designed building
How BIM can be used to sell a dream to a client/future occupier
But more importantly - how information (such as COBie) can be extracted if well-stuctured objects are used
Endorsed by the biggest software vendors in world construction
NBS provides the objects and the expert construction knowledge. But construction professionals produce fantastic buildings. Many thanks to the following for their help in showing the power of

David Light (Case Inc) and Cara Di Piero (HOK) for the building the NBS Lakeside Restaurant with our objects and all of the guys at Soluis for the fantastic movie. I couldn't speak any higher of these experts in their areas.
To find out more about BIM see -
To start using the free National BIM Library see -

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Building and Construction Awards - Three shortlists

You wait for award shortlists to come along, and then two three * come at once.
* Edit - I've just noticed, we're up for another Construction News Awards.

It's around a year since the launch of NBS Create and and we're delighted to be finalists at two of the major construction awards this year.


Building Awards 2013 Finalist is shortlisted for the "BIM Initiative of the Year" award (sponsored by Autodesk)
This category is open to any organisation that has pioneered new ways of working in a BIM enabled environment to make project design, delivery and operation more effective. Initiatives can include software development, collaborative tools and processes, data mining and management and new ways of working. The initiative must have commenced between September 2011 and November 2012.

NBS Create is shortlisted for the "Digital Build Britain" award.
Construction News Awards 2013 is delighted to announce the launch of a new category, the Digital Built Britain Award.  The Digital Built Britain category has been sponsored by CIC to support the Government's BIM Task Group and the Construction Industry Council, and is to reward the greatest digital contribution to growth in the built environment.  It will recognise UK initiatives where the innovative use of data adds efficiencies to the lifecycle of a building during its design, construction or use
So absolutely over the moon. For those wanting to find out more about what we are doing around structured data that feeds into the BIM process please see the blog post below: is also shortlisted in the "BIM Initiative of the Year" category.
We're up against 4Projects and our Westgate Road neighbours Ryder Architecture (Manchester Town Hall) for this one. So there will be a bit of #BIMGeordie friendly rivalry here.
Edit2 - And one other from the #BIMGeordie family - BIM Technologies for their work with Mace Group on 240 Blackfriars Road.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Durham Cathedral

Two weeks after taking a trip up to the top of The Shard - I thought it was time I had a stroll to the top of my home town "tall building" Durham Cathedral again.

Some facts first:
  • After winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066, it was William the Conqueror's first bishop William of Calais that founded Durham Cathedral in 1093. The Norman architecture is a bit Gothic and Romanesque apparently and influenced a lot of the cathedrals in northern France.
  • In terms of "saints" - the Cathedral has a decent pedigree. It contains the remains of St Cuthbert, the head of St Oswald and the remains of Venerable Bede.
  • In 1538 Henry VIII decided to destroy St Cuthbert's tomb and take all of the treasures. only the ancient paving around the tomb remains intact which is worn by the knees of pilgrims.
The Cloisters
No high speed lift to the top
They could do with some new modern signage mind
Old school structural timber
Don't look down
Bottom left Hatfield College, right Student Union and Kingsgate Bridge, top right Durham Prison
Looking down to the weir
Looking up from the same weir
Quasimodo would love it up here
The Norman castle across the lawn
The best way to visit is by bike - a tired little Hamil on the way home

Friday, 8 March 2013


Infographic (or for a BIMBingo point should I say) BIMfoGraphic from our National BIM Report below...
Download the high quality PDF of this:

Download the actual report (for free):

Check out our BIM portal on with over 200 expert articles and videos and free reports:

Visit the National BIM Library for free high-quality BIM objects:

(PS: Fabulous work again from the NBS design team on this - nice one Jon and Emma!)

The potential of BIM to reduce waste during design and construction (part 2/2)

A few days ago I blogged about my presentation at ecobuild on the Tuesday.

Also presenting at the same seminar were Ryder Architecture, Hilson Moran, Balfour Beatty and Kingspan Insulation. Some of the key slides below in this blog.

1. Richard Wise - Ryder Architecture

Richard was the first designer up to speak...
Fig 1 - Makes the point that we already do build with standardised components
Fig 2 - The Manchester Central Library is a great BIM case study

2. Nigel Clark - Hilson Moran

Following Richard's presentation from an architectural perspective, Nigel gave some thoughts from a service engineer's point of view...
Fig 3 - Making the point that you must get the fundamentals correct at the start of the project
Fig 4 - Great slide demonstrating both geometric and specification property set development
Fig 5 - Simple slide showing the benefits of BIM from the point of view of Hilson Moran

3. Kevin Lloyd - Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty then presented the contractor angle...
Fig 6 - Reducing waste through targets through 2013
Fig 7 - Learning lessons and standardising specification (NBS Create!)
Fig 8 - A big part of the waste debate is during demolishing - you must know what is in the building

4. Karen Jones - Kingspan Insulation

For the first year we are now seeing manufacturers now present on BIM too. Karen Jones from Kingspan Insulation explained that it is about product innovation and on the service that is given to construction professionals. Not just glossy brochures and a big stand at ecobuild - but delivering the BIM objects that the market needs. 
Fig 9 - Standard size insulation products with environmental impact properties on National BIM Library
Fig 10 - And more of a focus on BIM to come