Friday, March 23, 2012

Launch of


So it really has been a week for BIM content announcements! This is great to see & I am excited to see BIM moving forward in the UK. It seems to have taken a long time for this topic to become a priority. When I first started using Revit, that was 2002, many firms were really not talking about BIM back then. In many cases it was more about generating a model for documentation, scheduling & visualisation, nothing more, nothing less. Times have changed & people are now recognising BIM is about data not just pretty visuals. So after his ecobuild presentation, I managed to speak with Stephen Hamil from NBS about the launch of the

DL – Why have NBS decided to launch this initiative around BIM?

SH – At NBS/RIBA Enterprises our mission is to be the leading providers of information to the UK construction industry. Through our specification products we already provide structured and maintained data for generic specification, proprietary specification, technical guidance and the latest standards and regulations. This can be thought of a national information model. What has been missing from our information model to date is the geometry. Now that object-orientated CAD packages support true information and not just 3D geometry then this is a natural step for us.


DL – The inevitable question will be, how much content do you have in the

SH – Our launch set of content is around 200 pre-defined constructions covering external walls, partitions, cladding, ceilings, roofs, floors, windows and doors. These have all been created for UK construction industry custom and practice – for use on jobs in the UK or those abroad to British Standards. The launch set contains concept objects and also rich detailed objects – with full information for construction and FM. We are currently around half way through the next set of content which will be another 200-300 pre-defined objects covering sanitary ware, floor finishes, cubicles, hard landscaping and signage.


In terms of work flow, what we are missing are proprietary objects. But through our RIBA Insight sales force we are now securing contracts with the leading manufacturers. We are going to be pretty flat out over the next few months delivering this, but throughout 2012 we’ll see some of the leading manufacturers appear within the site. The user will then be able to take a concept object, work through its design, then toggle this to the manufacturer object to specify for a tender package or record in an as-built package.



DL – As you know, the discussion about standard is a real hot topic right now, what are your feelings on open standards?

SH – They are critical. But standards should ideally be set based on what the majority of the industry are doing. With BIM, the majority of the industry is not there yet. So there is a danger that standards are set and this limits innovation. A balance must be achieved here and the only answer to this is through collaboration.

At NBS, our chief exec Richard Waterhouse is part of the B/555 committee working on the BS 8541 standards. Our Head of Content Development John Gelder is one of the leaders on the changes to uniclass through CPIC. We are members of buildingSMART and also on the buildingSMART data dictionary team.

Now if we take IFC for example, our feeling with was to take a pragmatic look at this. IFC defines international ISO agreed property sets including COBie, so we’ve used all of these in our objects. In terms of authoring layered objects such as floors and walls we have worked with BIM Academy to create a process that uses an IFC source file and then generates native files in multiple native BIM formats such as Revit and Tekla and ArchiCAD. However, we don’t think it is strong enough yet to create functionally parametric objects such as windows and doors at source – so we don’t argue that it’s the answer to everyone’s problems just yet.

I am quite surprised at the amount of IFC bashing that goes on. Especially considering its basic use, this is as an open record format (like COBie). Back in the late 1990s people didn’t criticise HTML4 when it didn’t work in Netscape like it did in Internet Explorer and Opera. The “customers” strongly told the software vendors (Microsoft and co) that this wasn’t acceptable – they demanded change. When the customers say they are not happy then companies react to this – and now due to open standards, all websites can look great whether viewed in Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox or Chrome. The same needs to happen in the BIM community world-wide.

That said, I think things are changing and the software vendors are listening. We’ve done some fantastic work with the likes of BIM Academy, BSRIA, AEC3 and Autodesk on a recent TSB funded project around IFC. There are also some very interesting developments coming from Tekla, Graphisoft and Vectorworks around the openBIM movement. At NBS we are members of the BIM Technologies Alliance, the technology group supporting the UK government’s BIM strategy – I am confident that real progress can be made through open standards through collaboration.



DL – Is there room for more than one national library of BIM components?

SH – What I think the government strategy does very well is to concentrate on specifying requirements and then to let the UK construction industries innovate. As the major construction spender in the UK this is a fantastic way to get competition amongst the private sector – whether this with architecture, construction, software applications or information delivery. So I think competition is going to be great for UK construction and we’ll see many providers of BIM content such as who have also recently featured on this blog.

Before ecobuild started I was speaking with the guys from and we wished each other all the best. Later in the week I sat and watched Rob’s presentation on the and it was fantastic – true use of BIM in action giving cost certainty in creating low carbon buildings. Afterwards I think it was mentioned that there would be nobody left in Newcastle that week with BIM Academy, 4Projects and kykloud all down presenting at BIM at ecobuild.

When asked who will benefit most from BIM (designer/contractor/client)? I wonder whether it will actually be National Rail?

DL – And what are the plans for the development of

SH – We’ll be listening to user feedback and asking what they want. After the next set of generic content goes live and the manufacturer content is coming through then we can create more new architectural/landscape content – or look at more configurations of our launch set – or concentrate more on components for the structural, services or infrastructure side of BIM. We’d be happy to take any steers from readers of your blog or the linkedin group we have.

Finally, it’s not all about high quality technical content – but also about clever software. NBS customers can expect to see better linkage and coordination between the specification model and the geometric model coming soon. Also I think our TSB funded research project shows that there are more exciting things on the way with respect to linking the BIM objects through to financial and environmental cost databases. We have a team of people now dedicated to this project, we strongly believe that BIM is the future.

If you want to know more, be sure to check out the National BIM library website and be sure to join the linkedin group to feedback your thoughts.

The BIM library -

The linkedin group -


Global Associates said...

WIth the launch of this NBIM library will the standardisation of object become more prominent?


Lighthart said...

So, I went to look at "Generic Walls" at the NBL, and found them downloadable in Bentley, Revit, IFC, Tekla, and Vectorworks formats. None native ArchiCAD. This article indicated that BIM Academy had developed a process for using an IFC source file to produce objects "... in multiple native formats, such as Revit and Tekla and ArchiCAD". Are the ArchiCAD objects taking that much longer to produce? Is the BIM Academy process not being used? Why no native ArchiCAD objects?