05 April 2022

This article looks at the benefits of using the Uniclass classification structure when structuring manufacturer product information. It provides an insight into how NBS does this in the NBS Source platform.

Two of the Uniclass classification tables are for Systems and Products. These are ideal for construction manufacturers to use when classifying their information. This article looks at how the Uniclass classification system is utilized within NBS Source when categorizing products from construction manufacturers.

Single classification codes for construction products and systems

The most recent version of Uniclass (Uniclass 2015) has addressed issues that existed with codes within the Common Arrangement of Work Sections (CAWS) which was Table J in Uniclass 1997.

For example, a clay tile manufacturer may have to display four classification codes in CAWS as the code combined the application and the complexity of the works. The table below illustrates this:

Complexity of work Application CAWS code
Simple nature Roof tiling H60/3
Simple nature Vertical tiling H60/10
More complex nature Roof tiling H60/105
More complex nature Vertical tiling H60/145

In the latest version of Uniclass there is a single code: Pr_25_93_72_13 Clay plain tiles. The context provided by the drawings and the specification will show the different uses of the product. For example, the same type of tile may be used for both roof covering and wall cladding.

Another example of multiple codes in CAWS would be when cross-referencing a metal stud partition system from a drawing to a specification, then either K10/115 or K10/125 could be used, depending on the stage of the project. In the latest version of Uniclass this is a single code: Ss_25_10_30_35 Gypsum board partition systems.

In terms of recognition, whether an item is a product or a system is now clear. The classification code itself now shows whether the item supplied by the manufacturer is a product (with a ‘Pr_’ prefix) or an entire system (with an ‘Ss_’ prefix).

The structure of the classification code itself groups similar items together at increasing levels of granularity. The table below demonstrates this with examples for both products and systems.

Level Product example Systems example
One Pr_25 Skin products Ss_25 Wall and barrier systems
Two Pr_25_93 Unit skin products Ss_25_10 Framed wall systems
Three Pr_25_93_72 Roofing and cladding units Ss_25_10_30 Framed partition system
Four Pr_25_93_72_13 Clay plain tiles Ss_25_10_30_35 Gypsum board partition systems

When viewing the content within NBS Source, it is possible to move up and down the classification system to increase or decrease granularity. Equally, it is possible to move sideways to view similar items. Figure 1.1 shows the example of natural stone paving slabs that are part of the paving units parent classification. The sibling classifications such as clay paving tiles, concrete flags and plastic cellular pavers can also be viewed.

Figure 1.1 – NBS Source showing manufacturer products classified as natural stone paving slabs.

Figure 1.2 shows examples of the equivalent principles for building services; in particular, radiators that are part of the heat emitters parent classification. Sibling classifications such as air curtains, electric heated towel rails and trench convectors can be easily viewed.

Figure 1.2 – NBS Source showing manufacturer products classified as radiators.

Defining technical characteristics

For items with the same Uniclass classification, NBS Source provides consistent information with respect to the item’s technical characteristics. To ensure that this information is consistent across products from different manufacturers, these technical characteristics are researched and authored by NBS technical authors. This task is undertaken as part of the NBS Chorus specification library authoring process.

Figure 2.1 below shows this in the NBS Chorus specification platform. The technical characteristic ‘Configuration’ for aggregate concrete blocks is defined in specific BS EN standards. The terminology used, the rules for the data type and the rules for the units are defined.

Figure 2.1 – Defining technical characteristics, suggested values and units against each classified item.

By firstly creating this generic structure for each item, then each manufacturer can populate Source with their specific values. This standardization of manufacturer product information allows construction professionals to more easily specify the right product on their projects. Figure 2.2 below shows the comparison feature in NBS Source, which can help designers when specifying by brand or the construction team when submitting proposals against a generic specification.

Figure 2.2 – Standardized information across products from multiple manufacturers.

Associated information

NBS customer focus group sessions confirmed that with respect to manufacturer product information, specifiers demand more well-structured information other than classification and technical characteristics. In NBS Source manufacturer can associate their products with a range of additional information.

  • Third party certification – third-party evidence that the product performs as claimed and under what conditions it was tested.
  • Guidance on application – information on what applications the product is intended to be suitable for.
  • Imagery, case studies and literature – further context and supporting information giving examples of product usage.
  • Digital objects – parametric objects to be added to 3D design and analysis tools such as Revit and Archicad.

Figure 3.1 below shows an example of a product in Source has associated information such as multiple images, guidance on application, third-party certification and digital objects.

Figure 3.1 – A PVC-U window unit with links to associated information.

The final benefit of having well-structured product information is that it makes it easier for specifiers to transfer the appropriate information into the specification. The video below shows an example of a framed rooflight being specified from NBS Source within the NBS Chorus specification platform. The generic specification clause and the manufacturer products aligned to it all have the same classification code.

Further information