Monday, 12 February 2018

Data, the cloud and the internet of things

In terms of data, the cloud and the internet of things there are many examples of how this revolutionising the world around us. Whether this is Fleet Management of TrucksSmart Retail or Smart Motorways - 'things' (trucks, products, cars) are given a data structure. Sensors then report on the real-time performance of these things by push information into this data structure in the cloud. Decisions can then be made based on past and existing performance to improve existing or future performance.

I enjoy running. And one thing that has made this hobby more enjoyable in recent years is 'seeing the data'.

Last year I bought a Garmin Watch and I am completely fascinated by the data analysis it offers.

For example, the runner, the route and the conditions are given a data structure. For example:

  • The runner
    • Age
    • Weight
    • Heart rate
    • Steps per minute
  • The route
    • Distance
    • Elevation
    • Location
  • The conditions
    • Temperature
    • Wind
    • Time of day
It's then the job of runner to go for a run, and a sensor to report the data up to the cloud.

Example 'run stats' below show a distance of 10.07km, a time of 55:14, an elevation gain of 207m (thanks Durham!) and a temperature of 2.8 degrees. The only manual effort from the runner here was giving the run a name 'Four hills challenge' and tagging it by the type of run 'training' (oh, and the small effort of running it!).
Key data
In terms of adding an x axis for duration it is possible to plot elevation, pace, heart rate, cadence against time. In the example below, there is a clear correlation between heart rate and when the extra effort was put in for the hill climbs.
(One criticism for the Garmin Team - The scaling of the elevation is poor for the y-axis. The chart in green below doesn't show how horrible this run really is - 42m to 88m climb out of Durham city centre is agony!)

More detailed data
The ability to break down a race into 'splits' - for example 1km splits - allows the runner to monitor real time progress. For example, if you want to run a 25:00 parkrun. If you do your first km in 5:30 then you know you have to speed things up a bit.
Breaking down the data
The heart rate monitor is also a nice touch to see how hard your body is actually working.
Time spent in each heart rate zone
It's good to see the data from one run, and as every run has the same data structure, there is a lot of power in the ability to look across a number of runs. In the example below the filter query is 'Show all runs classified as 'training', 'between the date range of 1/1/17 and 31/12/17' and sort by 'most hilly'.
Querying across the wider data set
With the data being on the cloud - it means that access is possible from any device. Your watch, your phone or your computer. The same data - just different user experiences based on context and available screen size.

One set of data - access anywhere
Going one step up the data tree - from run, to runs to everyone's runs - if you are prepared to share your Garmin data - then you get lots more data and insight back in return.

One very nice feature is the ability to create 'Segments'. On a route, someone records a start and finish point, and creates a 'Segment' on the cloud. All runners that then run through that segment at any time then have their best time recorded.

The example below shows a lap of the Consett Parkrun circuit. The data shows every Garmin runner who has gone through that segment. It then allows you to benchmark yourself against them. Any part of the world can be set up as a 'running race' where you are racing against virtual ghosts of previous runners - which is pretty cool. In the future, I am sure augmented reality running races will be taking place around the local parks where you can race against yourself!
(Note - A little more care needed for cyclists).
Benchmarking over a specific segment of land
Finally, over a given time period, you can benchmark your efforts against the running world. How did running for around about two hours last week match up to the rest of the world?

Benchmarking against the other runners in the Garmin community
...and how is this relevant to construction???...

Most of my blog posts are around digital construction. So it is a fair question to ask what this has to do with other items on this blog?

Well consider 'the run' equivalent to a building or a manufacturer product. Consider a shared data structure. Consider a sensor pushing performance data to the cloud.

Would it be useful to be able to see how this is performing over time? Would it be useful to compare this performance against the rest of a client's portfolio? Would it be useful to share this data securely with a community and benchmark the performance against similar buildings/products regionally, nationally or globally?

The answer of course is 'yes'.

Data, the cloud and the internet of things is going to change the construction industry. We'll have the most incredible feedback loop which will be used to improve how we operate assets in the existing built environment and how we design when working on the next generation of projects.

- and if anyone fancies a run - hopefully see you at AU5K later in the year!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


At the end of January I had two trips to Westminster to discuss digital construction.

The first was to take part in an 'expert roundtable' chaired by Chi Onwurah who is Shadow Minster for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation. NBS provided some of the participants as did the Federation of Master Builders and the British Property Federation.

After doing a number of projects over recent years to support the Government's construction initiatives, it was nice to be invited to participate in an event to help shape the oppositions strategy in this area.

Whenever you do a roundtable, you know that you will not get too much time to speak. So in preparation I wrote notes on the train down as to some of the key points against the discussion topics. These are below...

A roundtable session helping to influencing political strategy
1. How can we ensure we have the workforce required to meet the needs of the nation with future potential impacts on immigration?

We have to not take for granted that our young people will choose a career in the industry. At secondary school, those with a talent for designing and with a talent for building things must be made aware of the opportunities in the AEC sector. We need to show it’s an innovative, modern, rewarding career for those wanting to design or build. And something like engineering isn’t just for white males. The best talent it school is from a diverse background – this then isn’t represented in industry.

Going further, for those attracted to getting a professional qualification and university. There must be support on funding to help with fees. Equally the case to choose a career in the AEC sector must be made – and we’re up against stiff competition from automotive, aerospace and increasingly digital industries.

As we grow our countries infrastructure, we will of course still need immigration to meet demand. But in parallel to pulling in talent from around the world, we need to maximise the opportunities for our young people coming through our education system.

- Design Engineer Construct in secondary schools
- Go Construct resources

6.3% of GDP
£45bn of government spend
16% of UK employment = 2.9million jobs

2. To what extent can modern-methods-of-construction (MMC) and digital technologies transform the construction sector and how we can maximise their potential?

To appreciate the impact of digital technologies, you need to simply look at ten year steps to see how much has changed and how much will change. Ten years ago we had desktop products, physical libraries and the prime exchange format was paper. Twenty years ago we were taught design on a physical drawing board.

In ten years’ time we will be working collaboratively in the cloud and the knowledge we consume will be from a feedback loop coming from actual operation data with processing from artificial intelligence. Undoubtedly, MMC will grow and grow, we’ve standardised brick, block, door and window sizes and produce these in a factory. The same will happen with bedrooms, classrooms, bathrooms and surgeries.

- Bryden Wood publications for Government last year

3. How do we drive up productivity and standards within the small to medium enterprise (SME) construction sector?

SMEs do not have the research and development budget that larger organisations have. They cannot afford the luxury of dedicated staff to manage and champion standard, process or information in their office.

To allow SMEs to drive up their productivity standards there must be organisations and groups that pull together best practice and distribute this knowledge. At NBS we recognised that there was standardised way of producing specifications in the 1960s. We filled that need and now have affordable offerings for all sizes of projects. Five or six years ago we recognised there was no standardisation around objects and classification for BIM. Again, we filled that need and this gives great efficiencies and reduces waste across the industry.

Big Ben is poorly

Some impressive architecture/engineering within Portcullis House

The most expensive meeting space in London in £/m2?
The second event (the following week) was in support of an iniative to build a hub for global construction in the North East. A project called ic3. This event was at the Palace of Westminster.

NBS are one of a large number of companies in the 'BIM arena' within the North East that are supporting this initiative. In the words of Northumbria University vice chancellor Prof Andrew Wathey... “Building information modelling, smart cities, sustainability and the digital industry will have the ability to come together to play a significant role in the economic future of the North East.

“This centre, building on core research strengths at Northumbria University, in association with other partners, will make a key contribution to this process. The new centre will establish the North East’s role in the global leadership and application of this work.”

To read more about the ic3 project see:

Inside The Palace of Westminster on the banks of The Thames

Artwork looking like the Throne Room in GofT!

North East Business Leaders and politicians address the delegates

NBS article from a North East Digital Construction publication
Read the full interview with Richard Waterhouse NBS below:

For all things ic3 Newcastle - see the new website at:

Friday, 12 January 2018

Please spend 10 minutes to take part in our National BIM Survey

It's that time of the year again. When we ask the industry to give their thoughts on BIM adoption.

We've undertaken this survey every year since 2011. Our Market Research and Analysis team analyse the results and then we publish the report to the industry 'free to download' each Spring.

So please take the time to answer the questions.

Please circulate the link around your colleagues, collaborators and the industry groups that you take part in. It is very much appreciated. :)

Monitoring the adoption of BIM for some time now!
Free to download industry report

Using classifications in naming conventions

One subject that regularly comes up when discussing BIM and classification is how these should be including in naming conventions for labels/titles. This conversation could be around the naming of items such as layers, documents or objects.

I have been keeping an eye on this recent Twitter discussion - as I was tagged into it - so I thought I'd gather a few opinions and do a blog post.

At NBS, when developing Uniclass 2015 throughout the industry consultation it was clear that (a) more depth was required to classify a greater number of items – so double digit separators where required and (b) as a separator the ‘_’ was preferable to ‘-‘  or a space so that it didn’t clash with 1192 standard series naming convention.

On these two points, there was always a risk that this clashes with certain standards that require classification. For example some standards may put a maximum length on a classification and some may require certain separator symbols. However, a new unified classification was required for object-orientated BIM and the naming convention rules for 2D document names should not hold the industry back.

Naming convention rules for documents or layers or objects are primarily there to allow for sorting in an alpha-numerical traditional file system/list view/tree view. In a modern digital system, the data itself should be represented as attributes – parsing file names should not be the primary route. For example, if an object represents a 1700mm bath product – the core data should be in an attribute for length. Equally, If a file has been uploaded to a common data environment (CDE) by the company ABC Architects – this should be primarily recorded as an attribute within the CDE. The core data for BIM Level 2 is COBie and the schema for COBie is around objects and attributes.

In this above example, due to limitation on character length the company ‘ABC Architects’ might be shortened on the file naming – to ‘ABC’ for example. Equally, for long classifications, these can be shortened too. For example, a drawing or a layer showing radiators may just have ‘Pr_70_60’ or ‘Pr7060’ if space and limiters was restricted as the classification in the name. But in attributes associated with it – this would be stored as ‘Pr_70_60_36_73’ and ‘Radiators’. Some may simply put the highest level classification in the file name for example ‘EF_60_40’ to indicate the function of heating and cooling for the layer/document/object representing the radiator.

Two examples of this are shown in the illustrations below. It should be noted that in these examples Uniclass 2015 is used, but similar principles could be followed if it was another system such as Omniclass or Cuneco.

Fig 1 - Document naming (no restrictions) and associated attributes with full primary data
Fig 2 - Document naming (shortened) and associated attributes with full primary data
The most important thing for a project team is that the approach to putting classification into a naming convention is documented and understood in the EIR and corresponding BEP. By making this clear at the start of a project then the team will understand the rules. (Ideally the standards and associated guides should give very clear examples so it agreed industry wide.)

Equally, the important thing for a classification system is that it is not restricted by naming conventions for files/objects/layers. It must be allowed to serve its primary use case which is a being a classification system fit for a modern digital world.

Further reading:
An introduction to Uniclass 2015:
An introduction to BS 1192 naming convention:
Uniclass 2015 usage in layer naming (page 10):
Article from Bond Bryan:

Examples in practice:
In writing this post I picked the brains and gathered opinions from Sarah Delany@DRossiter87@bondbryanBIM and @StewartGH1970 (not sure we agree on everything - but thanks for that gents). Also, thanks to Rob for some screenshots of how they are doing this in practice on real projects (click for larger imagery)...

Fig 3 - Using layers to filter content in model checking software
Fig 4 - Using classifications to filter in model checking software

Fig 5 - Classifications attributesin a COBie spreadsheet

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

NBS Online Viewer showcased at Autodesk University Las Vegas 2017

The NBS Online Viewer got quite a bit of exposure at Autodesk University (AU) Las Vegas 2017.

One of the great things about AU is that it is all on video and the classes can be watched for free online. So here are the links below...

1. My class with Jim Quanci - 'Forging ahead...'
It was good to tell the story of the NBS Online Viewer alongside Jim Quanci who leads the Forge team...

Watch below:

2. Stephen Preston and Jim Quanci - Ten useful and cool Forge applications
Stephen and Jim from the Forge team at Autodesk present their favourite ten uses of their technology...

Watch below (NBS feature at 20'20):

3. Andrew Anagnost opening keynote
Chief Executive concludes his keynote with the NBS work as one of the examples of leading world-wide BIM applications.

Watch below (NBS feature at 56'15):

Thursday, 30 November 2017

BIM research for Manufacturers

We have just published a free-to-download research report for manufacturers interested in BIM.

As with all of our NBS market research reports, 100s of organisations have been surveyed and the results are presented alongside easy-to-read analysis...
Manufacturer attitudes to BIM
There are also a few case study articles looking at how manufacturers and BIM are working on real life projects today.

How an architectural practice is using manufacturer BIM content on housing projects in London

How a manufacturer is creating standardised content and distributing it to thousands of designers
Also, a quick plug for the excellent NBS research service - David and Adrian in my team have done some top work for leading manufacturers and organisations such as Microsoft, RIBA and DCLG over the years. If you are going on a digital transformation and want to understand what your customers needs are - then give us a call or drop us an email:

Download the manufacturer BIM repoort below:

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

AU2017 - NBS in the Exhibition Hall

If you are at AU2017, please come and see us in the Exhibition Hall.

We have two stands - please come over and say 'hello'.

1. As part of the Future of Making Things exhibition
Our stand in the Future of Making Things exhibition
Understand a little more about how we are encouraging the industry to move from paper to digital
Explore a 3D printed model of our NBS Old Post Office building
The fantastic BDP case study

Short video showing off the stand

2. In the Forge Partner area
You'll get a warm welcome from Head of Software Development Phil Scott at the Forge Partner area

Watch the BDP case study


Really good fun to take part in the AU fun run early this morning.

Good to see it in measured in metric too (5K) and not 3.2miles :)
Alarm goes off at 5.30am - glad I only had 3-4 beers the previous night

Up before sunrise

Some of the Autodesk UK gang

The Newcastle parkrun posse

Shaan Hurley - the man behind the run

Over 100 runners
The view at 6am on the strip

The time it takes to do 5k up and down escalators, across traffic crossings and avoiding the drinkers that were still out partying