EPR Architects: NBS Create case study
What are the key business reasons for using NBS Create?
EPR Architects has always used NBS specification software to assist the practice to write comprehensive and technically proficient specifications. Historically, specifications have been prepared on behalf of EPR Architects' design teams by our in-house technical team of specification writers.
The introduction of NBS Create, with its additive approach to specification writing is far more intuitive and user-friendly, which means that we have been able to devolve specification writing back to the design teams and reintegrate it into the design process right from outline stage.
This improves the efficiency of the process and reduces the opportunities for mistakes that are inherent in double-handling the specification during the drafting stages.
In turn, this has freed up EPR Architects' technical team to allow them to focus more on providing support to the design teams to improve the quality of our design, construction detailing and specifications.
How does NBS Create 'add value' to the EPR offer?
The NBS brand is well known and trusted throughout the industry and using NBS software ensures that EPR Architects produces specifications that are reliable and meet the needs of our clients and their contractors.
That said, clients and contractors have some way to go getting to grips and familiarising themselves with NBS Create. Some of the NBS Create specifications that we have issued to date have been met with some confusion and a certain amount of resistance, particularly from contractors because they are unfamiliar with the new structure, format and system classifications.
However, I am confident that this will quickly resolve itself as the industry take up of NBS Create increases.
As an ex-NBS Building customer, what was it about NBS Create that prompted EPR to make the switch?
Most importantly, the improved operability means that the software is a lot more intuitive and straightforward to use without the same level of specialist training that NBS Building required.
The additive approach to specification writing that NBS Create is based upon also means it is better suited to creating and developing specifications much earlier as an integrated part of that design process. This means writing the specification supports and aids the design development rather than simply documenting the completed design, which was the tendency using NBS Building.
Lastly, we assumed that eventually NBS Building will be phased out and we wanted to be well ahead of this happening.
On how many projects is EPR using NBS Create?
We currently have half a dozen or so project teams trained and actively working with NBS Create on a mix of project types and values, including new build and refurbishment projects for hotel, residential and commercial developments. I anticipate that over half the office will be trained and working with NBS Create on live projects by the end of 2013.
The feedback from the design teams currently using NBS Create has been extremely positive, with them finding the software intuitive to use. The level of NBS and in-house technical guidance available is providing the teams with the guidance and confidence they need to create technically proficient specifications.
Most reports of difficulties people are having with NBS Create are from people who are familiar with NBS Building trying to use NBS Create in the same way, which is not possible. If you have used NBS Building you have to effectively reboot your approach to specification writing before you start using NBS Create because the two pieces of software are so different.
What planning and practical considerations did EPR make when transferring to NBS Create, e.g. business case, cost analysis, training plans? How did NBS help this process?
We are phasing the introduction of NBS Create to manage the time required for training and to help us monitor and review the impacts of introducing it. We started using NBS Create on live projects at the beginning of 2013 and the specifications for all new projects that are instructed to proceed beyond planning stage from now on will be developed using NBS Create.
NBS Building and NBS Create are totally different approaches and specification systems. We are therefore continuing to use NBS Building on projects where specifications have already been started in NBS Building rather than re-write existing specifications in NBS Create, which wouldn't make sense in terms of either time or cost.
NBS has been very supportive of the process and continues to provide us with free licences to use NBS Building in recognition of the software's legacy on existing projects. NBS support has also been very good at providing us with bespoke training sessions and providing quick and informative responses to individual queries that we have had whilst we familiarise ourselves with the software.
NBS support has also been very open to receiving EPR Architects' feedback regarding NBS Create, in particular fixing glitches in the software and introducing improvements to assist how we use and get maximum benefit from the software.
How has NBS Create supported/ impacted the practice's use of BIM?
NBS Create is proving invaluable to introducing the design teams to the Uniclass classification system that underpins the BIM modelling software that EPR Architects is introducing across the practice.
We have a programme to manage the phased introduction of BIM across the office, similar to the programme that we are using to introduce NBS Create. Whilst NBS Create is not quite there yet with respect to full integration into our BIM modelling software, the parallels between the two pieces of software are obvious and it is clear that integrating specification content into our models will be happening in the very near future.
Does EPR have any estimations of how much time they have saved (and any benefits derived) from the use of office masters on projects?
We are still developing the EPR Architects office master and are adding content to it on a regular basis. It is not really possible to determine how much time is saved using office masters but feedback from the design teams is clear that some is.
More importantly the office master content allows our technical team to manage the rigour and consistency of specifications produced by the design teams. This, combined with the guidance notes that the technical team are able to incorporate into the NBS guidance, provides the design teams with the confidence that they are specifying the appropriate system, product, manufacturer or performance standards for their projects.
How does EPR find working with NBS?
EPR Architects has a very good working relationship with NBS, which we have developed over many years, a relationship that has proved to be mutually beneficial to both companies. This has been apparent over the last six months with the release and development of NBS Create during which time EPR Architects and NBS' support team have worked closely together to refine elements of the software to ensure it delivers what it promises.