06 May 2021

The Construction Leaders’ Summit: Building for the Future was another fascinating and informative conference from NBS, with hundreds of professionals from across the sector hearing from more than 20 speakers from design, construction, manufacturing, and government. Discussions were held on progress made since the previous summit in October 2020, regulations, technology, and collaboration, as well as building a sustainable future and the political and economic catalysts for growth and development as the UK looks to move beyond the pandemic. All recordings of the presentations from the Summit are now available by visiting theNBS.com/CLS2021.

1. Goals for climate and safety

The key focus of the summit was sustainable development in response to the climate emergency – that was central to the keynote presentations and speeches across the two days. The opening keynote presentation was from The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Construction Minister and the Champion for Adaptation and Resilience ahead of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow later this year. She explained some of the government’s initiative to ‘Build Back Better’ and that planning and infrastructure has a clear emphasis on sustainability and low-carbon initiatives, but also increasing quality and building safety. Trevelyan also used the session as an opportunity to speak about the ‘Construction Playbook’, the draft Building Safety Bill, and to promote forthcoming consultation on plans announced by the Construction Leadership Council to share regular data on how well the industry is moving towards net zero, known as CO2nstruct Zero.

2. The ‘Construction Playbook’

So how will those improvements be achieved in day-to-day construction? The summit’s second keynote speaker was Simon Rawlinson, Head of Strategic Insight and Research at Arcadis, board member of the Construction Leadership Council, and lead author of the ‘Construction Playbook’, who discussed how the Playbook published in December 2020 aims to encourage best-practice collaboration across the supply chain. It sets out a series of fourteen policies for the assessment, procurement, and delivery of public works projects and will encompass central government projects but also ‘arms-length’ bodies.

The Playbook is part of wider government and industry initiatives to secure world-class status for the UK construction industry and its vital contribution to the UK economy. It’s also a core aspect of driving recovery from the traumas of the last twelve months. In Simon’s presentation he used the analogy of an ‘alignment of the planets’ as a result of the Playbook and greater partnership between government, manufacturing and contracting, where new efficiencies and progress are made possible. He shared guidance aligned with each policy, including early supply chain involvement, standardizing and harmonizing a platform approach, incentivizing collaboration and quality, and further embedding digital technologies as second nature across the project lifecycle.

3. Outcome-based specification and procuring for value

It was encouraging to hear the demand for ‘machine-readable’ outcome-based project specifications in the future, as a need for data which can be published and interpreted in different ways, overtaking paper documents, highlighting the improvements in specifications and NBS usage. Ann Bentley, Global Board Director at Rider Levitt Bucknall and an integral member of the Construction Playbook Industry Forum, emphasized messaging about outcome-based specifications and using the specification as a way of clearly defining value and ‘not just focusing on what you want to build’. There was more discussion about the need for early-stage involvement from as much of the team as possible and improving outcomes by understanding how performance specifications can be verified.

The Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) Value Toolkit was mentioned in much of the surrounding discussion and is the culmination of feedback and input from the experience of over 200 construction industry professionals and clients. The suite of information provides a new approach for decision-making with social, environmental, and economic value for clients at its heart. The Value Toolkit moves away from low cost and aims to define and measure value in design, manufacturing and construction, and operation.

4. Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)

Innovations are coming from organizations at the cutting edge of modern methods of construction (MMC), including factory and off-site building, modularization and new material development. Matt Hallisey at TopHat and Andy Stolworthy from SFS Group discussed the practicalities of these methods, the acceleration of new examples and a greater range of project types. Both provided detail about how NBS teams have assisted both organizations in achieving greater standardization with NBS Source, associating graphical information with data in the specification properties and linking to master specifications in NBS Chorus to reuse on project after project.

Jaimie Johnston from Bryden Wood demonstrated their digital ’Platforms’ initiative, including the excellent reference publications ‘Delivery Platforms for Government assets’ and ‘Platforms: Bridging the gap between construction + manufacturing’ with real examples of Uniclass 2015 application in architecture and infrastructure, across the full hierarchy of tables and at increased levels of granularity. Jaimie showed the next evolution of these processes, with developments in data analysis and Design for Manufacture & Assembly (DfMA), repeating and standardizing components, again with the driver of generating greater value throughout projects and the wider industry. Through optimization of the components generated, the approach can also minimize embodied carbon and reduce waste and material use.

5. The UK BIM Framework

BIM was still a common term at this year’s summit but with a reassuring awareness that data is now the key deliverable and that industry focus can no longer just be on 3D graphical representations and modelling platforms, but on the properties, digital specification, and enhanced product information.

The UK BIM Framework was mentioned in a number of presentations, with Jaimie Johnston noting that from his experience of global practice, the UK is still looked to as a leader in BIM process and implementation and that this has been achieved through a collaborative approach rarely seen in construction. The UK BIM Framework provides access to a core set of knowledge resources and guidance about the UK approach to digital construction and the ongoing integration of BS EN ISO 19650 into the UK BIM suite. The website continues to evolve as part of a huge collaboration between volunteers and organizations like the UK BIM Alliance, the Centre for Digital Built Britain and BSI among others. As one delegate put it in the summit chat, ’Collaborate on the rules, compete on the game’.

6. Sustainable outcomes

Gary Clark, Principal at HOK, highlighted where key metrics are being achieved through clearer design specifications, the carbon targets and a much wider view of sustainable development, including the health and wellbeing of occupants and building users. Gary also demonstrated the RIBA Plan for Use guide, which he described as ’a sort of Soft Landings equivalent for architects’, comparing it to the digital-focused guide for clients, asset managers and owners. This highlighted an increasing awareness of the need for building evaluation and user feedback, which is the focus of NBS podcast guest Professor Fionn Stevenson’s book ‘Housing Fit for Purpose’ and Dr Judit Kimpian’s new book ‘Energy | People | Buildings’, co-authored with Hattie Hartman and Sofie Pelsmakers. Dr Judit, Chair of the Sustainability Group at Architects' Council of Europe (ACE-CAE), joined Gary Clark and Taleen Josefsson from Chetwoods, and Scott Blance from energy consultancy Ecuity for the Q&A panel.

The panel on sustainability was a highlight of the summit, with a panel of informed and articulate contributors discussing various aspects of environmental targets and green development, including whether carbon offsetting is not a true path to achieving climate goals and the need for material reuse and designing for deconstruction. Taleen’s webinar on Holistic Specification of Materials from earlier in the year is a very useful resource for diving deeper into that subject.

7. The Golden Thread of Information

On day two, attendees split into two streams for content directed at manufacturers and specifiers, with sessions focused on the practical implementation of the ’Golden Thread’, the fundamental deliverable from the responses to Dame Judith Hackitt’s report and the draft Building Safety Bill, and digital delivery of construction information and the design process.

There was an excellent practical demonstration of L&Qs ‘Golden Thread Initiative’ from Johnny Furlong and Kirsty Villiers, leading on BIM workstreams at L&Q, one the UK’s largest housing associations and provider of housing services across the south-east. The Golden Thread Initiative involves over fifty organizations, including NBS, reviewing the information requirements, processes and technology required to achieve the golden thread of building safety information in real project exchanges. The initiative is sponsored by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, so Kirsty and Johnny were joined by Rebecca Thompson – Senior Policy Lead at MHCLG, to describe the ongoing response to the recommendations of Dame Hackitt’s report and the next steps for the Building Safety Bill. The initiative has demonstrated that cross-industry, cross-disciplinary sharing of information is possible, and that the Golden Thread is a catalyst, not just for safer buildings and listening to building residents throughout a building’s lifecycle, but for wider cultural change in the industry, robustness of data and investing in new innovation.

8. Evolving the future of digital practice

Dr. Stephen Hamil, NBS Innovation Director, demonstrated how NBS Chorus and NBS Source are connecting information across the specification, and showing how project information and model properties in graphical platforms like Autodesk Revit can be linked to the specification, thanks to the evolution of the cloud platforms NBS are now using. Carlos Muriel, Associate Director – Architecture and Workplace at Atkins, provided a detailed walkthrough of Atkins’ ‘Lavalabs’ concept, responding to what office space may need to become in the future and to hybrid situations where teams may be located from home, in office hubs or working in various global locations. The session also looked at how NBS has been adopted in practice, as Carlos ademonstrated how NBS implementation at Atkins is being achieved through the allocation of specific responsibilities to champions and senior members of staff.

Alistair Kell, Principal and CIO at BDP, took us through the digital development of their design practice and project delivery, looking at their IT systems, increased efficiency, BIM process and internal education schemes, including that he considers ‘NBS Chorus is as important to us as Revit as a design and delivery tool’, and that they have almost 200 active NBS users and growing across the disciplines at BDP.

What next?

We hope you’ll join us at the next Construction Leaders’ Summit later this year. You can find all presentations from the Summit on theNBS.com/CLS2021. Catch up on some of the online conversations from the event by finding the hashtag #CLS2021 on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Check out the NBS YouTube channel, where you’ll find more videos of NBS customers discussing a range of topics from the challenges the industry faces to how they use NBS platforms.

And if you want to find out more about NBS and NBS Chorus please email info@theNBS.com.