by Richard McPartland
With the #ukbimcrew recently in town for BIM Show Live we thought it high time we turned our attention to the organisations and assets that make the North East a region that's really helping to drive next stage of the digital construction revolution.
10 ways the North East is helping transform construction
1. Education, education, education - Five world-class universities
In Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside universities, the North East has a ready supply of learning institutions - with particular expertise in architecture, design and digital technologies.
In recent years, a range of courses have been developed with industry needs very much in mind - with the aim of nurturing the construction industry professionals of tomorrow as well as those who want to upgrade their project delivery and design management skills for a BIM-enabled future.
2. The BIM Academy - BIM expertise and insight
The BIM Academy, based at Northumbria University, has combined industry experience with academic knowledge to create a centre of excellence around BIM and integrated project delivery.
Offering consultancy services the team can advise on strategic implementation, project services and asset management and has an impressive track record when it comes to leading edge research working with partners around the world.
3. The RIBA - championing architects and architecture
The Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) has a regional base in the North East to support over 700 local members and works to bring together the broader architectural community.
The overarching aim being the advancement of architecture and the delivery of high standards of design and fitness for purpose within the built environment to a wide and varied audience.
4. Architectural design firms delivering world-class projects
When it comes to finding examples of architectural design firms who are making big impacts in the region, across UK and around the world, the North East has plenty to choose from. Newly-established firms sit alongside those with 30, 40, 50 or more year's experience working on all conceivable kinds of projects - from the smallest to the largest scale.
We don't have the room to mention every single North East practice and project but you only have to explore the work of the teams at FaulknerBrowns, Ryder, JDDK, Space Architects, Mawson Kerr or Howard Russell Construction to get a taste for the quality, passion and experience of the North's architectural design community.
Historic buildings like Durham Cathedral nestle alongside award-winning examples of cutting-edge architecture.
5. The North East BIM Region - bringing the BIM community together
The North East BIM Region reflects the variety of insight and expertise present in the region and work to assist the UK BIM Alliance. Representatives are drawn from the BIM Academy (Ryder Architecture and University of Northumbria), BIM Store (Space Group), NBS / RIBA Enterprises, Viewpoint (formerly 4Projects), Cundall, Aecom, University of Teesside, University of Newcastle, Constructing Excellence North East, Summers Inman, BIFM, CK21 and Surgo. Each of these firms represent all of the disciplines within the construction sector.
6. BIM Show Live - world-class expertise and insight shared
Back in 2011, when BIM was only a glint in the eye of construction, Space Group hit upon the idea of an event for early adopters of BIM, driven by quality content. This year the event returns with a renewed sense of purpose - focussing on innovation and insight for digital construction with plenty of practical real-life examples and success stories.
Space Group, headquartered in the city, run the show on a not-for-profit basis on behalf of the wider construction industry. Having started as a single architecture business, the group, as very early adopters of BIM in its work, has grown a portfolio of companies off the back of the technology’s emergence in the industry - companies including the BIM Crunch website offering news, features and opinions on digital construction, the BIM Store BIM Object Library and BIM Campus purpose-made training offer.
7. Digital collaboration just comes naturally
You don't have to look too far to find collaborative co-operation when it comes to sharing skills and experience, singing the praises of, and fighting the corner on behalf of the region. Take Dynamo Build, created under the umbrella of IT cluster Dynamo North East, as an example - it provides a unified voice for construction in the region, bringing together specialists to establish a hub for skills development and retention.
The group - which has received support from industry bodies such as the Construction Industry Council North East (CIC NE), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Constructing Excellence North East - works as a virtual team, raising awareness of the region’s digital construction potential both nationally and internationally.
More broadly, networking organisations like Digital Union, run by creative digital development agency Generator and sponsored by NBS provide support for the digital and creative sectors in the region.
8. Cities and towns to be proud of - from coast to countryside
North East cities and towns regularly feature on lists of the UK's travel and tourism hot spots. Newcastle was voted the UK's top city by readers of the Guardian in 2014. Wherever you are in the region spectacular coast and countryside are never too far away. Historic buildings like Durham Cathedral nestle alongside award-winning examples of cutting-edge architecture. From the new gateway to the Northumberland National Park - The Sill Landscape Discovery Centre - to a new centre for the spoken and written word - The Word in South Shields - to modern additions to traditional buildings - be it the portico at Newcastle Central Station, or the Old Post Office, home to NBS, there's plenty of examples of design and building excellence to take in.
9. An expo to celebrate the north's 'Fires of Invention' and inspire the world
The North East was successful in its bid to host a Great Exhibition of the North beating proposals from Blackpool, Sheffield and Bradford. The expo that will showcase art, design and innovation, from across the region. Under the overarching theme of 'The Blazing World - The Fires of Invention' organisers hope to attract three million people to the region over 77 days.
As well as the £5m for the exhibition, the government has pledged £15m for a legacy fund, which will be open to cultural organisations across the north, opening up opportunities for creative innovation.
10. The NBS - delivering the specialist knowledge and tools that empower the construction industry
NBS has been delivering distinctive, innovative specification and information solutions to construction industry professionals from its Newcastle headquarters for more than 40 years. Though our origins are in the specification system for the recognised national standards of construction in the UK today we provide innovative products and services for architecture, construction, design and engineering.
Indeed, thanks to initiatives like the NBS BIM Object Standard (soon to launch internationally) and our award-winning specification software we lead the way in the digital construction revolution both in the UK and on the world stage.
A recent £5.6m investment in the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Old Post Office in the heart of Newcastle serves as further commitment to the region and has delivered a modern office space designed to facilitate collaboration alongside new spaces for use by the community and construction firms.
And, finally... don't miss our landmarks in LEGO®
Steve Mayes is an architectural photographer by trade and a LEGO® fanatic in his spare time. In a new exhibition at Newcastle's Life science centre running until 14 May you can check out miniature versions of landmarks including BALTIC, Newcastle Civic Centre, the Angel of the North and the International Centre for Life and many, many more. Find out more on the Life website and check out Steve's models in more detail on his own site.
Work in design and construction in the North-East of England? Have we missed out what makes the region special for you and your business? We'd love to hear from you - share your thoughts using the hashtg #nbsne. We hope to shine a light on other areas of the UK in the coming months.