07 August 2018

The digital transition in the construction industry utilizes technology, enabling us to work smarter together. Within ten years, full-scale digitalization could help the industry save an estimated 12–20%, equal to $1–1.7 trillion annually (Source:  World Economic Forum, Boston Consulting Group).

The following graphic shows some of the most promising digital technologies for improving productivity in the industry, with cloud and real-time collaboration being key factors.


Figure 1 – Digital technologies for improving productivity in the industry with cloud (source: The Boston Consulting Group)


At NBS, we have always worked with our customers to innovate in order to meet their information management requirements, both now and in the future. Looking back over NBS’ journey, coordination between specification information and graphical data can be seen as early as 1973, when the first National Building Specification was published in a paper book format. We recognized early on that structured content is critical to the interoperability of data, and in 1988 NBS content was completely rewritten in line with the Common Arrangement of Work Sections structure. In 1991, the NBS digital transition started with its first database version.



Figure 2 – NBS early specification journey to aid collaboration (source: NBS)


In this article, Joanne Pringle, Director of Global Product Management at NBS, looks at the value of working collaboratively within a cloud environment when writing specifications.


1. Work together as one

Henry Ford once wrote that ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success’. 

The ability to work together around a single, accurate source on a construction project not only saves time but minimizes risk. 

The entire team can work on the same document set at once resolving queries together in real time to produce robust, accurate specifications. Having your whole project team specify and design together stops people working in silos, or leaving the specification to the last minute.

2. Always using the latest version

With SaaS, the latest versions of the platform are made available to all as soon as they are available, allowing customers to start realizing the value of new functionality straight away. 


3. Assemble the specification

Having access to the latest content to assemble specifications is essential; specifying in the cloud enables this. NBS has hosted content in the cloud for many years through NBS Create, and regularly releases updates to customers so that decisions on specifications are based on the latest information, to minimize risk.

With global specification, different content sets are required to assemble specifications. Through NBS Chorus, content aligned to different classification structures can now be hosted in the cloud; see table below.











Architectural, Landscape, Services, Structural

Architectural, Landscape, Services, Structural

Architectural, Landscape, Structural


Uniclass 2015


Uniclass 2015

*This content is preview only at the time of writing this article.

Figure 3 – NBS Chorus cloud based specification platform supporting multiple content sets. (source: NBS)


4. Reviewing the specification

When specifications are written, they often undergo many reviews at different stages of the project. The traditional method for doing this would be to circulate hard copies or email PDF outputs, both of which make version control or collaboration difficult. It is unfortunately a common experience that when contractors on construction sites  need to resolve queries there and then, emailing the latest documents back and forth with comments. Ensuring that you are both working to the same version of the document and in exactly the same place is difficult with these traditional methods, which cost time and potentially increase risk. There have been improvements to this with the introduction of Common Data Environment technology and cloud-based applications such as Google Documents.


Reviewing specification information in the cloud enables you to:

  • Set permissions controlling who has access to the information and at which level.
  • Invite team members to see the exact version of the specification which is under review.
  • Collaborate in real time so you can see where the other person is within the specification, and (depending on permissions and process) make immediate changes.
  • Have access to guidance and information which informed the specification choices prior to them changing. This allows peer-to-peer learning.


Figure 4 – NBS Chorus real time collaborative, cloud based specification platform. (source: NBS)



In summary, technology and cloud-based platforms can transform the way that you specify – bringing the people who matter together in the same online space, wherever they are. They allow teams to work together in real time on one true, trusted source, with access for all. It is easier to maintain permission levels – collaborating with clients, consultants and contractors has never been simpler.


Further reading