Within the NBS Chorus software platform we have developed content packages that are tailored to specific user requirements. For example, users can subscribe to separate libraries for ‘architectural’, ‘structural’, ‘engineering services’ and ‘landscape’ content to support specification for those disciplines. We also support specifiers on less complex projects with our NBS 'Small Works' library.
Our latest package, launched in February 2022, is designed to support those who only prepare contract Preliminaries and want all the benefits of NBS Chorus in a cost-effective subscription. By using the NBS template content and guidance a more robust set of Preliminaries can be produced. The NBS Chorus functionality allows for efficiencies in producing the documentation, and also a robust audit trail for revision tracking.
This article summarises the launch webinar presented by NBS Technical Author Roland Finch FRICS, and Dr Stephen Hamil, Innovation Director at NBS.
The dictionary definition of ‘preliminary’ is ‘preceding and leading up to the main part, matter, or business; introductory; preparatory’. In the context of the construction industry, the specification associated with any project usually is said to consist of Preliminaries and work sections. The work sections describe those things which are specific to particular parts of the work, while the Preliminaries describe those things which apply to the whole job. Together they describe what is required to complete the works in accordance with the contract.
By way of example, the rules on when the construction team can access the site would be defined in the Preliminaries, whereas the requirement for the acoustic performance of a doorset would be defined in the work sections.
Both the Preliminaries and the work sections which comprise the specification are part of the wider information set. This will include models, drawings and schedules. A number of roles will be responsible for developing and coordinating this information. With this in mind, and to assist with coordination, it is advisable for the project team to agree on a common classification system. At NBS, the Preliminaries are available in both the CAWS and the Uniclass 2015 structure. This is illustrated in Figures 1.1 and 1.2 below.
Whichever role is preparing the Preliminaries, care must be taken to coordinate with the architectural and engineering work sections. For example, contractor design portions or provisional sum items may be defined in the Preliminaries. This must reflect the level of specification in the work sections. Equally, any terms defined in the Preliminaries must reflect their intended use when invoked in the work sections. For example, the term ‘Submit proposals’ may be defined in the Preliminaries, so when using this same term in the work sections, this must be clear to both the design team and the construction team that are contracted to do the work. This example is illustrated in Figure 1.3.
The scope, language and definitions of the Preliminaries also influenced by the choice of building contract. In NBS, the template set of Preliminaries and associated technical guidance provided is quite different, for example, comparing a simple refurbishment job working under the RIBA Concise Building Contract to a large complex infrastructure project working under an NEC4 Engineering and Construction contract. The A20 for CAWS or PM_55 for Uniclass 2015 section within the Preliminaries will be tailored to a specific contract. It allows for the project specific requirements from the contract to be documented in the tender pack prior to the main contract being awarded and signed. The NBS Preliminaries library contains templates and guidance suitable for over 50 building contracts from the main publishers in UK and Ireland. Around the world, additional NBS Preliminaries libraries are available for work in both Australia and Canada. A selection of the relevant building contracts for UK and Ireland is displayed in Figure 1.4 below.
The NBS library content is regularly maintained and includes extensive guidance. The scope of content between the CAWS library and the Uniclass 2015 library is broadly similar, just arranged differently according to the classification used. The CAWS structure is based around who provides the information – for example, the employer’s requirements, then contractors’ general cost items then work by others. The Uniclass 2015 structure is based around the project timeline and when that information is typically required at each stage. It also contains an additional section PM_35 that gathers whole project performance requirements together in the same place. This allows early-stage performance to be defined more concisely.
2. NBS Chorus features and benefits
NBS Chorus is an online platform for collaborative specification writing. It is built using the latest technologies so that it is responsive and works on any device. This means you can access your Preliminaries at any time, whether you are on your PC or Mac at the office or on site using a mobile device.
The collaboration features allow access to the Preliminaries to be controlled. For example, on a project the quantity surveyor could be the main contributor to the Preliminaries but the client and lead designer could be given read-only access so they can view the live document and add notes.
NBS Chorus also comes with a ‘Pro’ edition. NBS Chorus Pro includes advanced functionality such as:
- Revision control – keep an audit trail of all published versions of your Preliminaries to track the development history. In addition, highlight clauses that have been amended, deleted or added in as new in subsequent revisions of the document.
- Customised stylesheets – style the published output to follow your organization’s brand guidelines. Font style, colour, heads and footers and the position of project and publication details can all be customized so that the published output looks exactly as required.
- Office masters and notes – amend the NBS library content to create office masters to fit with your standard requirements on projects. Notes can also be added to assist colleagues where they have to project specific decisions.
In the video sequence below, Stephen demonstrates how office masters can be used to capture lessons learned from previous projects and improve the quality of documentation across an organization.