This article is relevant to stages 2 to 4 of the RIBA Plan of Work This article is relevant to stages 2 to 4 of the RIBA Plan of Work

We've previously explored how Manchester City Council's supply chain are using NBS services as part of their BIM workflow (including using the NBS BIM Toolkit to create a template digital plan of work for the council’s secondary school programme). This article looks at the refurbishment of St Margaret’s School, through the design and specification phases.

NBS on a live Project

The project team on this school included ISG (main contractor), Lovelock Mitchell (architect), BCM (engineering services) and Scott Hughes (structural engineering).

Designing with objects

Following the agreement of responsibilities and deliverables from the plan of work, the team began work on the design and specification process. With respect to the design, all members of the team modelled the project in 3D. Both generic and manufacturer objects from the NBS National BIM Library were used on the project. Examples of where generic objects were used included engineering services components where the overall system was being specified by performance. For example, for the ventilation system, the overall system performance was tightly specified – but just the type of product that should serve these systems. As the product selection was left to the contractor, for the ventilation system generic objects such as the wall mounted axial fan were used.

Use of BIM objects within the design

Where manufacturers were selected by the design team, manufacturer objects were used. Examples of this include ceilings, door sets, cubicles and floor coverings as shown in the video.

Having standardised BIM objects in terms of naming convention, classification and the property sets within the objects was considered essential to the project team and the client. These rules were agreed in the BIM Execution plan when the project team first was assembled.

Well-structured specifications

All of the main disciplines used NBS Create for their project specifications. Having a consistent specification structure and format across all of the disciplines created consistency for the team and also for the contractor who then uses these specifications.

The specifications were a mixture of performance and full specifications. For the architecture, an example of a performance specification was for the cycle shelter where the contractor had the responsibility to submit suitable proposals based on a durability requirement of 20 years and appropriate inclusive design considerations. An example of a full specification was for the modular ceiling systems where each product specified was from a specific manufacturer’s product range. These products were added to the specification using the NBS Plus functionality where the latest manufacturer information can be inserted into the specification from the cloud.

A final method of specification used on the project is illustrated below. In this example, the concrete foundation system is fully specified, but the manufacturer selection for the individual products was left to the contractor providing that these selections met the criteria specified.

A full specification for a concrete foundation system

Coordinating model with specification

As expected on BIM projects, the design models were coordinated at regular intervals for clashes between the architecture and the engineering. In addition to this, the models and the specifications were also coordinated.

The image below shows the free NBS Plug-in being used to link the model and specification. In this example the floor covering to the school gym is selected in the design and the specification for this item is being viewed from the context of the model.

Linked design and specification in the architectural model

Published output

Within the BIM Level 2 process, PDF is still the contractual output format. Each of the specifications was published to PDF format and presented with the brand of the organisation for the responsibility for each specification.

The image below shows the three specifications for architecture, engineering services and structural engineer in PDF format.

Published output

Future developments

Going forward, it will not just be the design team that benefit from the coordination between model and specification. Emerging technologies such as the cloud and modern web browsers allow complex information to visualised without installing any software.

Within the NBS BIM Toolkit this capability is now being tested. Within each project users may upload their models and specifications to allow other members of the project team such as the client, the cost consultant or the contractor to query and understand this information in ways not possible through traditional paper methods of working.

Future developments

Key benefits of the NBS BIM ecosystem

Having project teams utilise the NBS BIM ecosystem has benefits for the designers, but it also has benefits for the client and wider project team.

Alistair Burns, Design Manager with the Capital Programmes and Property Team for the Council commented, “As a client running a number of construction projects it is essential that our various supply chain partners have a consistent process for developing information through each project. With this current secondary school programme we’ve been able to look at the BIM Level-2 process and implement an approach that we are very happy with.”

Jane Shaw, Design Manager for ISG commented, “As a contractor we need consistent information from each member of the team. By utilising NBS we can have a standardised approach on our BIM projects. Objects within the model are consistently structured. The specifications from each discipline have the same structure and it is clear where design responsibility lies and where as a contractor choices and proposals are required.”
Key benefits included:

  • A standardised approach to objects within the design models
  • Better coordination between the drawings generated from the models and the specification
  • A consistent set of specification documentation from each discipline for the contractor to take advantage of

Find out more about NBS for BIM Projects

Project team


Lovelock Mitchell Architects


Scott Hughes Design

Manufacturers featured

Kingspan Insulation BIM objects and Saint Gobain Ecophon NBS Plus specifications.