Towards the end of 2013, NBS held a research day with many of the construction industry's leading BIM advocates to review the NBS National BIM Library and determine its next steps. The day was organised around two sessions considering both technical content and software functionality matters. The notes below record the discussions and the outcomes.

Technical Content Sessions

The technical content sessions were facilitated by Stefan Mordue, Technical Author and Hayley Charlton, Product Manager.


The NBS National BIM Library comprises generic and manufacturers’ content to support the project timeline. The group discussed at what stage objects were being utilised and to what extent. To reflect information growth throughout the lifecycle, feedback suggested that grouping property sets by batches to reflect and align with COBie data drops or Digital Plans of Work stages would be beneficial.

Is the object the right place to include “specification” information or is there a better way of connecting geometry objects with information objects rather than including the “information” in both? The important thing is that data is only in one place to reduce error. With regards to the level of information within the objects, some people felt that at an early stage they did not want to see all of the information while others felt that a blank value against a parameter was a good prompt.


“Anything that isn’t needed by the model for it to function can live elsewhere” was suggested.

While some felt there was too much information particular when using objects in the early stages of a project it is important to capture both design requirements as well as actual as installed values and compare these across data drops.

IFC usage

None of the user group used IFC object files with all opting to utilize the BIM platform native file formats. IFC files are regularly downloaded from the NBS National BIM Library so those that are using them do get in touch and give us your feedback.

Enhanced objects

Since the launch of the NBS National BIM Library feedback has been collated through various methods. As a direct response to user comments from last year’s user day we have authored a library of M&E objects. These new generic M&E objects include clearance and maintenance zones, and can be manipulated by the user to establish appropriate plant rooms and spaces. The objects differ from the generic architectural objects as they are not face-based. They come complete with an Object Guide in pdf format which include all of the relevant IFC and COBie parameters and property sets, including those created by the NBS National BIM Library and the NBS. In addition, we document the variable parameters which the user can use to manipulate the object.

Aside from ‘more content’ the group suggested that they would like to see approved Government content for example standard healthcare chairs and beds along with standard spaces such as ‘changing places’ and content that aligned to specific UK standards such as the London Housing Design Guide, and Wheelchair design guide.

What can we do to improve the objects?

BIM objects must evolve rapidly to realise the benefits of working within the digital environment. Aligning object information with the digital plan of work and other standards was suggested as was organising parameters in terms of level of development. Adopting the correct approach to information management is critical for the evolution to level 3 BIM.

The inclusion of clearance zones was another popular idea and we’ll see this implemented in the M&E generic BIM objects. Increasing the scope of the NBS National BIM Library to include assemblies (collections of objects providing a particular purpose) as well as simply offering more and more objects is without doubt the clear message from the user group. Comments on the day such as “Lots of MEP generic content in the next 12 months is a must” and “more content please” reflect the industry need.

Software sessions

The software sessions were facilitated by Dr Stephen Hamil, Director of Design and Innovation and John Henderson, Director of Software Development.

The sessions looking into potential software developments around the NBS National BIM Library initiative were again fascinating this year. The round table discussions looked into many different opportunities for development and three main themes emerged:

  1. Collaboration – how can the industry move past the ‘level-two’ BIM environment and truly start working collaboratively on information in the cloud? How can the information in a tool such as NBS Create move into the construction phrase so that the project team can continue to add information that details the ‘as-built’ record which is then passed to the client? How can the coordinated information in terms of geometry and specification extend further and integrate with the quantities and both environmental and financial costs?
  2. Greater use of the information in BIM objects - once information is in a structured and consistent format then great things can be achieved with it. Software tools linking into the model such as calculations of thermal, acoustic and fire performance can be developed. These tools have existed in one form or another for a number of years, but they will become better than ever before now the manufacturer data is in a library that is well structured and accessible.
  3. The ability to manage office library data – the majority of organisations represented on the day had a mix of office library and NBS library data that feeds into their projects. This was true for both specification clauses and BIM objects. There was much discussion around how information managers at an organisation can control and maintain this information to ensure that colleagues working on projects have the best information possible at their fingertips.

The day also included a ‘show-and-tell’ - 12 development features were presented by NBS. The user day participants were given the chance to comment on these developments and then rated them from 1 to 10. This gave an indication of what functionality would be the most beneficial.

The top-three rated developments, all scoring around 9 out of 10, were:

  1. The ability to create a specification from a model that has objects linked to office master specification clauses

    In terms of the workflow, the user would develop a model to a stage where they were ready to start the specification process. They would use objects that included a pre-written reference to their corresponding office master NBS Create clauses. The end result would be a newly created specification that is already well on the way to being complete using ‘tried-and-tested’ office master content and not simply blank NBS template clauses. In addition, the content between model and specification would be coordinated.

    This idea actually received an incredible average score of 9.6 out of 10 from the 17 users. So the message that a closer tie-in with office master object and specification content was heard loud and clear.

    Participants said – “Very useful”, “Absolutely critical”, “Essential”
  2. An enhanced specification preview from within the context of the model

    The theme of better coordination between specification and model continued with this feature. This reinforces the uniqueness of NBS National BIM Library BIM objects in terms of their link with the NBS specification. Currently our plug-ins for ArchiCAD, Revit and Vectorworks allow the user to view the specification, but this has the overhead of having to launch NBS Create first. The new enhanced specification preview displays in a simple pop-up window from within the BIM environment. The user will see the relevant specification clause in the context of the system it belongs.

    Participants said – “Much better”, “Excellent”, “Can we have this as a cloud app?”
  3. Improved support in terms of setting up office master content to link with the classification codes in NBS Create

    Uniclass 2 is still not finalised, yet the industry has accepted that it is logical, based on open international standards and the right classification for BIM. This feature allows the user to browse and search classifications using a web service to quickly find the correct classification for element, system or product objects.

    Participants said – “A big result”, “Speeds things up”, “It will be a massive benefit”

Finally, we asked for feedback on our NBS National BIM Library externallink website. The overall feeling was that it was pretty good, but could be improved.

The positive feedback included, “Very user friendly”, “Excellent” and “Functions well”.

The suggestions for enhancements included, “Make it more graphical”, “Improve the browse structure” and “Give us a shopping basket”.

In terms of what happens next, all of the feedback received on the day will now go into our Research and Development plans for 2014. We’ll aim to have another release of the plug-ins for the Spring conference season and will continue to focus on innovation around well-structured digital specification and BIM object data throughout the rest of 2014.


This NBS National BIM Library user day encouraged forward looking discussion and was a thoroughly enjoyable and valuable day for all involved. Past events have focused on the information needed within objects, but the group observed a shift from this to information management which is an encouraging evolution. The following quotations sum the day up nicely:

It was really good to meet up with NBS Technical and R&D teams and other fellow professionals in the industry to debate and help shape the future developments and ideas of NBS and the NBS National BIM Library.
A collaborative day which pushed the collective industry forward in a unified format.
Brilliant, enjoyable day exciting to see better BIM and specification integration.
Exciting times. Things are moving at a very fast pace.
I found this session completely informative and an interactive opportunity to communicate with the software developers. The group exercises were useful I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to the development of NBS Create and the NBS National BIM Library. I've enjoyed it and look forward to further interactive sessions in the future.
I found it very interesting. I was not aware of all the hard work that has already taken place. I really enjoyed it. It was very informative.

Thank you to the NBS staff who made the day a success and our gratitude goes to those industry participants for their contribution on the day.