Ian Chapman, Director of the NBS National BIM Library, documents the benefits of a standardized approach when it comes to BIM objects and assesses the impact of the NBS BIM Object Standard.

It’s hard to believe that in less than one year from now the UK will have arrived at its 2016 BIM mandate deadline. There is no doubt that awareness of BIM continues to grow, and both the client and supply sides of the construction industry are taking BIM seriously. Demand for BIM objects from designers has gone through the roof, and at the NBS National BIM Library externallink we are releasing more objects than ever before. In February 2015, we released over 1,200 BIM object files spanning 17 manufacturers. The NBS National BIM Report 2015 demonstrates that the demand for objects is high and in the future manufacturers without BIM objects will be as lost as manufacturers without a website or pdf catalogue are today.

The help and leadership provided by the Government’s BIM Task Group externallink has, without doubt, been an extremely successful approach. Other countries are in awe of how far we’ve come in a relatively short time. The release of freely available, accessible-to-all standards has given the UK a big advantage over its overseas competitors. Standards are vital to all industries. They:

  • Reduce time
  • Improve quality
  • Permit compatibility and integration
  • Improve value for money
  • Enable trade.

Their mere existence offers the purchaser a means of accepting or rejecting goods, on the basis of whether or not they comply with the standard.

How can you judge quality without a standard to make assessments against? This is a dilemma facing many when scouring the internet for BIM objects. There are more and more objects to choose from, but knowing which ones you can trust and which ones will have valuable information is not always obvious. Quality is essentially a measure of the extent to which an object fulfils its purpose. On this basis, it must therefore be possible to determine the quality of an object by comparing its inbuilt characteristics against a set of known requirements. If those characteristics meet all or most of the requirements, the object can be deemed ‘high quality’; and when objects meet few of the requirements, then ‘low quality’ is the label given. In essence, the quality of an object depends upon a set of requirements that aligns with a given purpose or need, together with the object’s inherent characteristics, with quality being the measure of how well the characteristics comply with the requirements. NBS has set the standard for construction information for decades, and the need of the majority for both generic and manufacturers’ BIM objects led to the creation of the NBS BIM Object Standard externallink.

With over 5,000 downloads of the NBS BIM Object Standard since launch, it has become more popular than we had imagined, and a day rarely goes by without someone letting us know that they’re using it. The NBS National BIM Report 2015 survey results show us the impact that the standard has had on industry to date, with 18% using it in their business within a matter of months of its launch.

Published in 2014, the NBS BIM Object Standard defines clear requirements against which all BIM objects can be assessed. The first of its kind globally, the standard defines what constitutes a quality BIM object, and provides the foundations for a consistent approach that can be adopted by designers, manufacturers and all BIM content developers alike. It is a standard that sets out essential requirements for BIM objects for use with Level 2 BIM. Not only is it essential reading for designers and manufacturers, but clients and project managers procuring buildings and digital assets can easily reference this standard, giving assurance that objects purchased are useful. Developed in-house with feedback from industry and supported by all of the major BIM platforms, the standard has been extremely well received. With over 5,000 downloads of the NBS BIM Object Standard since launch, it has become more popular than we had imagined, and a day rarely goes by without someone letting us know that they’re using it. The survey results show us the impact that the standard has had on industry to date, with 18% using it in their business within a matter of months of its launch.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and as a result (and very much in keeping with NBS’s efforts to help digitize the construction industry), we’ve digitized the NBS BIM Object Standard so that it’s now available in an entirely online form. It’s accessible on any platform at any time. Better still, we’ve authored comprehensive guidance to accompany the standard, and the online version presents this guidance in context directly next to the clause information – in a very similar fashion to the comprehensive technical guidance included within NBS’s trusted specification products.

Use of a standard affords many advantages:

  • Assurance – the assurance the standard brings to clients and project managers is significant. Clients need to improve their ability to procure data. Getting the right data about your built asset will yield benefits throughout the operational phase of the asset. By using and referencing the NBS BIM Object Standard, clients and project managers can be confident that the quality of BIM objects within their project models is suitable, and to a recognised standard.
  • Efficiency – this survey shows that designers are creating objects themselves, as there are not enough manufacturers’ objects in the marketplace. Operating in silos is not efficient for the UK construction economy. With the NBS BIM Object Standard, designers can create objects safe in the knowledge that they will be compatible with other objects to the same NBS standard. This will bring efficiency to the design process by enabling more meaningful information exchange, and ultimately lead to better designs and better buildings.
  • Quality – manufacturers have a big job to do. They have the challenge of creating objects and making them available at the right time in the right place, and all by 2016. This standard gives manufacturers who want to create objects themselves a clear benchmark and a clear place to start. It provides knowledge and helps manufacturers focus on what matters. For any manufacturer, the NBS BIM Object Standard is an invaluable starting point, as well as a mark of quality.
  • Compatibility – just as we saw with batteries, nuts and bolts, USB connectors and plug sockets, and will see in the not-too-distant future with mobile phone chargers, standardization brings compatibility. BIM objects need to work with each other – adopting a common standard benefits everyone. Combining doors from multiple manufacturers within a single project becomes possible when they all have a consistent underlying data structure – creating door schedules at the click of a button is possible with BIM.
  • Price comparison websites have been around for years – they exist and provide a valued service as a direct result of standardized information. By aggregating the results of many quotations into one place, comparison between the key features of the quotations is simple. BIM can offer far greater levels of data transparency and information comparison than ever before – and with this comes great insight and better buildings.

I’m very proud to be part of the construction industry’s digital transformation, as are many others who I’m fortunate to work with. Based upon the UK’s progress to date, we can all look forward to the continued opportunities that the BIM phenomenon brings.

This article originally appeared in the NBS National BIM Report 2015. Download your free copy of the full report containing expert insight and analysis.
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