Schumann International is an independent consultancy offering specification, design and business management services to architects, design teams, clients and manufacturers.
Nick and Mark Schumann have over 70 years of combined experience within the industry, having built several specification businesses working with architects and engineers worldwide on significant projects. Nick and Mark have a portfolio of clients they work with using the collaborative specification-writing platform NBS Chorus.
We caught up with Nick and Mark to learn more about how they're using NBS Chorus on a range of different building projects, from small, boutique hotels to multimillion-pound projects.
Residential Building, Renaissance Site designed by Jon Matthews Architects with specification support from Schumann International
Keeping up with the industry
Over the past year, Schumann International has witnessed a significant shift in the services and solutions requested by its clients. The change in approach has been made possible by introducing sophisticated tools such as NBS Chorus.
“We've found that using NBS Chorus has really helped us adapt to provide relevant solutions to architects, whilst still ensuring we protect our client's design risk in the ever more complex world of PI, procurement and contracts,” Nick explained.
Using Chorus, Schumann International can respond to the client's desire to have a more sophisticated and flexible approach to preparing specifications, and demonstrate how historical data and learnings can be reused on future projects.
Mark explains, "Historically, the role of the specification consultant was to liaise with the project team with a single focus of preparing the projects specification. The ownership of the document remained with the outsourced consultant, complicating issues around copyright, and often specifications were written with a silo mentality.
"Once complete, the consultant would move on to the next project and essentially start again, rarely taking the learnings or specification data with them. We've always wanted to change this process but until now has not been possible, be that through old technology or old mindsets."
The collaboration between NBS and Schumann International has already seen significant benefits for Nick and Mark’s clients.
Nick explains: “NBS Chorus is fundamental to our vision of providing solutions to our clients that will remain relevant and robust for years to come. As our client’s requirements evolve in the future, Chorus provides the foundation and features necessary for whichever direction they choose to prepare their specifications."
" We genuinely believe that the benefits of a Chorus licence are far greater than outsourcing to a consultant that provides their software and baseline content. Clients get not only industry-leading specification software but also greater control over their documentation and the greatest level of flexibility."
Managing risk through rich content
“Chorus provides a solid technical base from which we are able to develop specifications that meet the challenges of today's construction industry. Knowing that Chorus is kept up to date with codes of practice and standards is great because I used to employ a team of people to do that full time, so I’m now saving money on resources. The platform is constantly updated, which gives our clients a lot of confidence, and that’s one of the key benefits for us. Using out-of-date or incorrect information in a specification could lead to a dispute or mistakes being made on a project, so Chorus helps to protect our clients and us from that happening,” Nick said.
Another essential benefit of Chorus to Schumann International is the range of content libraries available, and the choice of classification systems, including CAWS and Uniclass.
Mark explains: “The content available in Chorus is unrivalled, both in terms of variety of specification format and design disciplines. Add to this the depth of knowledge within the technical guidance notes; the overall package is simply a no brainer."
Working more efficiently
NBS Chorus has a range of features that have been of great benefit to Schumann International: "As Chorus is cloud-based, offering 24/7 availability and accessible remotely from anywhere in the world, we can work collaboratively and respond quickly to requests. As we continue to navigate the current COVID pandemic, a situation that continues to place restrictions on us all, the ability to work remotely with our clients is fundamental,” Mark said.
The NBS Chorus Revit plugin enables users to develop the specification alongside the BIM model, and has been a game changer for how Schumann International works with clients: “The integration of Chorus with Revit is changing the way we engage on and build specifications. We are now able to provide a more seamless transition and communication of information between BIM model and specification”.
Schumann International frequently uses the Masters and Specification Notes features: "Without the Masters, we simply wouldn't be able to deliver the service we want to. As we work with global clients in vastly different sectors, the ability to manage and create Masters that suit these requirements is fundamental. After we adopt the specification clause content, we then use the Specification Notes to add additional guidance to advise how to complete the clause. Well-written specification clauses on projects make it easy for contractors to understand and avoid mistakes being made," Mark continues.
The importance of the tracking
Another critical benefit of Chorus to Schumann International and its clients is the publication history, and seeing who has made any changes to the specification.
"The ability to track changes using the revision history is fundamental; we use the feature day-in-day-out. We need to know who is accountable for any changes that have been made throughout the whole project. It keeps us protected," Nick said.
Nick stressed why having a specification and a project audit trail is so important by sharing a previous experience on a project where a building element had failed, but the architect was cleared of being at fault due to the specification type and wording used.
"The client sued everybody, but the architect was protected because of the robustness of the specification and the way it had been prepared, and that's happened on a number of very high-profile projects over the years."
The platform of choice
Since setting up Schumann International, Nick and Mark have been engaged by several large, multidisciplinary engineering and architectural businesses to review and provide advice on their specification strategies, procedures and risk profile.
“When it comes to the question of centralizing specification production across geographies, design disciplines, sectors or offices, you need a single platform. Chorus offers the widest feature and content set and as such is the obvious choice," Nick explains.
Nick and Mark are excited about how Chorus is enabling them to grow their business.
"What NBS is doing as a business excites us in terms of global growth, and [their] vision is aligned with our own. There's a lot of confidence in NBS as a serious, international data-based business, which makes a big difference."