NBS plug-ins are available free of charge. They combine the benefits of an NBS Chorus subscription with the immediate context of your 3D model evolving in platforms like Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft Archicad and Nemetschek Vectorworks, and give you the power to link information quickly between model and specification. This article looks at five aspects of the plug-ins which can improve co-ordination, efficiency and productivity.
Traditionally, one team or individual may have specialized in visual design and engineering, whilst others focused on technical and written content, resulting in one team developing the 3D models and drawing information, with someone else responsible for the specification information, Preliminaries and other documentation. This can make co-ordination difficult, and errors can easily be introduced into both aspects of the project.
Using the relevant NBS plug-in for your modelling platform allows you to integrate these teams or individuals into a collaborative process of design development, producing model information and NBS Chorus specification data in parallel, with contextual access to NBS guidance and NBS Source product supplier information. By associating specification clauses to your model, the platform co-ordinates dynamic relationships between model and specification, which can be kept up to date as part of standardized information management processes.
NBS worked directly with the vendors (Autodesk & Nemetschek/ Graphisoft) to ensure that the plug-in methods work with the components of these specific platforms, meaning the plug-ins work slightly differently with Revit families, Archicad elements and Vectorworks classes and styles.
The core concept of accessing NBS Chorus in a browser panel or web palette within the model environment is the same in all of the plug-ins. You aren’t viewing a separate ‘version’ of NBS Chorus or a tool with reduced features; rather, you’re gaining access to whatever parts of the platform and content you already have in a browser like Chrome or Safari, with the added benefit of working within your chosen model to see visual development in context. Changes made in either external browser views or in the plug-ins will be pushed to the cloud and made available to all users with the relevant permissions. In addition, there is enhanced functionality for managing references and associations when Chorus is used within modelling platforms.
Here are five key aspects of the NBS plug-ins which can deliver productivity gains for your organization:
1. Associate model objects with individual clauses in your NBS Chorus specification
Previously, specification references were added to drawings manually or with keynotes in CAD platforms. That method is prone to error and makes it difficult to keep these references up to date. Using the NBS Chorus plug-ins, you can associate clauses from your specification directly to objects in your model.
First of all, you can associate your specification with a project model. Multiple specifications can be associated with the same model, for example where work packages have been assembled into separate specifications in the NBS Chorus project, or where discipline-based teams have authored separate architectural, services, structural or landscape specs. Equally, one specification can contain references to objects in multiple models, which have been split to reduce model size or divided into discipline-centric model content.
When you select an object in the model you are given the option, via a menu in NBS Chorus, to associate that object with a particular clause in your NBS specification.
If you have pre-written clause content, copied clauses from a previous specification, or used Masters to add clauses, then you can choose from your contents list to select the relevant part of the specification to link. If you have not started the specification, you can use the ‘Add Content’ functionality in NBS Chorus to search and filter results to add relevant technical information, and then make associations from there.
Most objects, including layered build-ups, can be associated by using the plug-in, and the objects can be user-generated in your own library, ones that have been created from a manufacturer/ product supplier or downloaded from a third-party host like NBS.
2. Automatically embed properties to make a strong connection between model and spec
The link between model and specification can be used to annotate references onto drawing outputs and ensure that the specification references used in the model are kept up to date with the latest changes. This can be a useful way to navigate model information whilst working digitally, using the model links to move through the design, as the plug-in will display the associate clause information in the browser panel when an associated object is selected in a model view.
To achieve this, when the association is made, several pieces of data are automatically embedded into the properties of the object or element you have associated:
Uniclass/CAWS classification code.
Uniclass/CAWS classification title.
User-generated clause prefix.
User-generated clause suffix.
At the same time, three GUIDs (globally unique identifiers – long strings of letters and numbers that create a unique ID code for each clause in NBS Chorus) are also added to the object’s properties. This forms a strong link so that both the 3D modelling application and the NBS Chorus platform know the ‘breadcrumb trail’ to quickly find the correct project, specification and individual clause that has been used. The GUID properties are not editable, whereas the code, title and prefix/ suffix can be altered.
For data precision, each object (each family type in Revit) can be associated with only one clause in a specification. This allows multiple clause variants to be individually associated with corresponding objects/elements for wall types, doorsets and furniture. The plug-in can be used to manage associations and changes over time.
3. Annotate drawings with clause reference tags
When publishing drawing sheets, such as plans and sections from 3D model environments, it can be useful to have annotations referencing the relevant part of the specification. Users receiving the specification and drawings can use the annotations to quickly find the right part of the specification digitally or in published formats, read detailed technical information about that aspect of the design and understand the performance and execution requirements for the delivery of systems and products within the specification.
The plug-ins contain tags to pick up on the four key values from the specification added to the object properties automatically or support instructions to help you build the relevant properties into the tags you use. For example, in Revit the tags are located in the Support/About information and will automatically display the prefix, classification code, clause title and suffix as multi-category tags, and also include material tags to allow these references to be displayed in detail sections of material-level construction build-ups.
The tags and classification rules that can be loaded into your project, allow you to quickly add references onto drawing sheets and model views which refer to specific clauses in NBS Chorus by clicking on those objects.
4. Scan the model to show unassociated objects, warnings and errors
To view and change previous links made to NBS Chorus, you can use the plug-ins to navigate through the existing associations and manage the properties. One of the key benefits of using NBS plug-ins is the ability to keep these associations synchronized as things change.
When the initial link is created between the model and an NBS Chorus project, the plug-in runs a scan across the model content to understand the object types found in the model. You can re-run the scan at any time to update the information. For the Revit plug-in, this provides two lists in a dedicated ‘Model’ tab – ‘Unassociated’ and ‘Associated’ – showing which family types have been linked to specification content, and which have not. The user can then work their way through this list, methodically moving items from the Unassociated list to the Associated list by making object links to clauses in NBS Chorus. Materials are not shown as a separate category, but the layers of build-ups can be associated individually, (listed within the properties of the host object.) For Archicad and Vectorworks, this works slightly differently and there is support information available to walkthrough the platform differences.
So, what happens when things change? Perhaps you have altered a clause number or title in your specification, and now the reference in your model or drawing sheet no longer matches. Perhaps you have removed the clause altogether from your specification, but the object remains in your model, or vice versa.
The NBS Chorus plug-ins make it easy to manage these situations, through notifications that show which references no longer match through warnings, informing you that parameters no longer match between clause and object properties, or by indicating errors, such as the deletion of a clause from the specification or a previously associated object from the model. Using the plug-in, you can choose to update the parameters automatically to import the new data from the specification into the object, or to remove the association when items have been deleted.
5. Viewing NBS Chorus and NBS Source content
Depending on the permissions and role you have as part of your organization, you can use the NBS Chorus plug-in to access more than just your specification information. The web palettes and browser panels within the model environments provide access to NBS Chorus content and functionality as you would view it in a browser, just within the limits of reduced screen size.
So along with specification content and technical clauses, you can view NBS guidance authored by our technical teams and associated NBS Source supplier information in context, to access information on manufacturer products, and see organizational notes and specification notes authored by your team.
If you have a role with editing permissions, then side by side with the model data you can add new content and even edit the clauses in your specification within the plug-in panel. The ability to update the specification and add new clauses in the context of the model, to ensure that the two aspects of the project are developing in tandem, can be very powerful.
For examples of how the plug-ins have been implemented on real projects to integrate model and specification data, take a look at the following customer stories:
There are many productivity benefits to using NBS plug-ins. We’re always keen to hear from users about the functionality and how using NBS forms part of information management, classification, asset management and other BIM-related processes.
You can download the plug-ins for Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft Archicad, and Nemetschek Vectorworks free of charge via the links on this page. Archicad and Vectorworks users may need to talk to their vendors for updated download links and installation instructions.
You will need an NBS ID to sign-in to NBS Chorus, and an active NBS Chorus subscription to access projects and edit specifications. Certain features covered in this article are part of the Chorus Pro subscription level.
NBS can provide access for users who mainly co-ordinate and synchronize model information with NBS Chorus clause references, but don’t require permissions to edit or write specification content. Find out more about NBS Chorus Designer.
Uniclass is a classification system used to identify and manage huge amounts of information. It consists of many tables, that can be used by different parts of the industry in various ways. Learn more about Uniclass and its implementation across the construction industry.