Meeting a higher standard of build quality is a key area of focus for the construction industry. It needs to drastically improve standards across the board, be they safety or efficiency standards that can feed into the ‘golden thread’ of information’. It’s even been estimated that poor quality building is costing the industry more annually than the combined profits of the companies within it, revealing the scale of the issue.
However, one area that represents an important yet undervalued element in improving this process is the use of Uniclass – a unified construction classification system – which is owned, managed, and moderated by NBS. It is used as a way of identifying and managing the vast amount of information that’s involved in a construction project. Uniclass is also a requirement for BIM projects, as set by the BS EN ISO19650 series of standards.
The classification of objects and assets is allowing for greater consistency and a ‘shared language’ amongst companies and organizations, resulting in a more standardized approach, easier communication, and more robust record-keeping. Uniclass contains tables classifying items of any scale, from a large facility such as a railway down to products such as a CCTV camera in a railway station. The classifications within the tables allow buildings, landscape and infrastructure to be classified under one unified scheme.
But to bring this to life, here are three ways that Uniclass is being put into practice to deliver exceptional results.
The Environment Agency – a smart and considered approach
The Environment Agency – a UK Government body responsible for flood and coastal risk management, regulation of water quality, water resources, conservation, and ecology – has been smart in its approach to the huge amount of physical asset information that its team manages. Be they embankments, flood defences or weirs, handling this bank of assets would be nigh on impossible without a detailed-but-comprehensible classification system like Uniclass.
The Environment Agency has taken one step back and considered ‘What assets have we got across the country, and what information do we need about those assets?
Sarah Delany, Head of Classification at NBS
Central to managing this process is the quality of data that it receives. This is done through its Data Requirements Library (DRL) – an online system that specifies how information is to be delivered to the EA digitally – which automates generation of asset data, rather than the time-heavy traditional approach of interrogating drawings to collect it manually. Once this data arrives, Uniclass is then used to organize this information – not only to better identify the assets it has, but also to make the managing, handling, and sharing of data between organizations much easier. The result is a more informed decision-making process and optimized digital automation.
Uniclass across the globe – Transport for New South Wales, Australia
Uniclass is also being used internationally. Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW: an extensive transport system for the state of New South Wales, Australia) is constantly looking to improve its infrastructure delivery and asset owner outcomes through the implementation of digital engineering.
Having multiple classification systems in place within its transport ‘cluster’ meant that significant efforts and costs were needed to maintain and align the organization. To overcome this issue, it turned to Uniclass, delivering a uniform classification system: one that could be used as a blanket point of reference to avoid any would-be confusion or mistakes.In its 2016 report, it recommended that ‘detailed classification should be a critical part of its project planning and execution’, and that a standardized approach to providing ‘a common language for people, construction and managing assets’ was needed. Through opting to use Uniclass as its classification system, time efficiency and accuracy have greatly improved. It’s also become vital to its ‘search and retrieve’ database of documents, which contain the likes of design models, project information and asset registers. Crucially, opting for Uniclass is facilitating TfNSW’s future growth plans through easier classification and a more uniform approach.
Galliford Try – navigating project complexities
As one of the UK’s leading construction groups, Galliford Try is using Uniclass in a wider remit, using the classification system to identify objects beyond BIM models. Having an extensive range of clients means that a common language must be used throughout its internal and external communications.
As part of its ISO19650 certification, and to manage its many cross-sector projects, it bases its ‘Design Responsibility Matrix’ (DRM) and ‘Master Information Delivery Plan’ (MIDP) on Uniclass. These are data-heavy, complex document guides that not only help the construction process but also help inform their work package and information requirements when they are working with many different clients. Through the Uniclass classification system, this information can be more easily located and tracked.
The use of Uniclass even extends to changes resulting from the Building Safety Bill, and incorporated into Galliford Try’s quality check sheets and handover requirements. Speaking at a recent webinar, Adrian Shilliday, Technical Director at Galliford Try, said: “Off the back of the Building Safety Bill, there’s been a huge focus on quality, fire-stopping and fire performance products, and we need to ensure we have the required quality records, as well as collected data to feed back into models and specifications to ensure that we are providing all of the handover information in the correct format.
As a contractor, we see huge benefits through Uniclass, as well as some challenges of wider industry adoption. By having a standardized approach to specification and classification, all the way through to products and project management tables, we can start to embed further project efficiencies, greater use of digital tools and reporting. It’s now vital to our process of handovers, performance, fire safety, acoustic analysis and carbon measurement.
Continuing Uniclass adoption
Whilst Uniclass has seen rapid adoption in recent years (with those using the system now seeing it as invaluable to the functionality and smooth running of their businesses), there still remains some hesitancy from built environment professionals unsure of how to bring the Uniclass tables into practical use.
As Uniclass becomes embedded in software workflows, its popularity is rising, and the examples listed merely scratch the surface of its uses. It’s also proving to be instrumental in bringing government and industry together, allowing them to work side by side. It also represents an important piece of the puzzle when achieving the golden thread, allowing greater insight into the decision-making process, and leading to greater degrees of safety and build quality.
Finally, Uniclass has future plans to constantly evolve its offering. With ‘Process activities’ and ‘Properties and characteristics’ soon to be added to its list of tables, a deeper level of the process of delivery – not just the identification of the asset – is set to make Uniclass even more effective. The launch of the UAB (Uniclass Advisory Board) is also a marker of intent – continuously improving its capabilities to drive up construction quality across all areas of the built environment.