1. BackgroundNBS has been connecting construction professionals and product manufacturers since being founded in 1973. There are now over 3,500 practices using NBS specification solutions globally and well in excess of 1000 manufacturers in our NBS Source product platform.
At NBS, our specification platform NBS Chorus allows construction professionals to produce robust specifications documenting the requirements for the products and systems that form parts of their building projects.
In February 2020, we announced the arrival of our new manufacturer platform, NBS Source. This new platform allows our manufacturer customers to position their construction products and systems to the construction professionals that specify on projects.
Using NBS Source, construction professionals can find, select and then specify the right product for their project.
Over the years we have been on a journey of continuous improvement. We have looked to both (a) strengthen the quality of technical content we provide aligning this to industry standards, and (b) to be on the cutting edge of technology to offer the best user experience possible.
The NBS Chorus specification platform and our NBS Source manufacturer platform are aligned so that a manufacturer’s product specification is defined using the same standardised terminology as the equivalent NBS generic specification. By having this alignment, it is possible to quickly filter or compare to find the right product for a project. Equally, this means that when a product is selected, it can be easily specified.
The figures below illustrate this:
Figure 1.2 - Comparing manufacturer products for selection or to evaluate a substitution.
2. Industry standards
The construction industry rightly demands standardisation. Information should be presented in a standard structure and differences between software platforms should be around functionality and usability and not information structures.
When developing NBS Source we implemented this platform so that it utilises existing standards and is prepared for standards that are currently in development.
Some examples of this are provided below.
ISO 12006-2:2015 – Building construction. Organization of information about construction works. Part 2: Framework for classification
Members of the NBS technical team have represented the UK internationally in the development of this standard. Furthermore, working with industry, NBS is the publisher of Uniclass 2015 which is the implementation of ISO 12006-2. All products in NBS Source have a primary mapping to the relevant System (Ss) or Product (Pr) table within this classification schema. In the examples in section 1 of this document, the Hand dryer products would be classified to Pr_40_70_62_37 - Hand dryers.
Uniclass 2015 is published under a Creative Commons international licence and may be accessed and downloaded from the website https://www.thenbs.com.au/uniclass. AS ISO 19650-2 requires the use of a classification system in accordance with ISO 12006- for information exchange when working on BIM projects.
ISO 16739-1:2018 - Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) for data sharing in the construction and facility management industries — Part 1: Data schema
Probably the most established data standard for the construction industry is IFC. Typically it is used for the importing and exporting of geometry and associated attributes from one 3D modelling tool to another. However, IFC also has a data schema to give 3D objects further meaning. Where there is a definition in the IFC data schema for the product in NBS Source then the IfcElementType and PredefinedType is defined. An example of this would be a timber flooring products would have an IfcElementType of IFCCoveringType and PredefinedType of FLOORING.
For those manufacturers with digital objects authored to the NBS BIM Object Standard, the associated PSets for these items in the IFC data schema are included in their objects.
ISO 23386 – Building information modelling and other digital processes used in construction -- Methodology to describe, author and maintain properties in interconnected data dictionaries
This standard sets out how there can be multiple platforms (referred to as ‘dictionaries’) for defining libraries of product information structures. It also describes how these platforms can interoperate when exchanging data.
Fundamental to this standard is the concept of a property not simply being defined as a line of text, but it being a rich set of attributes.
For example, a property such as the Security Grading of an Intruder detection and alarm system is defined by a number of attributes. These attributes would include: a globally unique identifier; the date the property was first created in the library; the date of the last revision of the property; the name, potentially in many languages; the standard that defines it (for exampleAS/NZS IEC 60839.11.1); and, the units and the data type (string, integer, float etc.).
Furthermore, to follow this standard and to ensure quality, there must be governance in place to author and maintain the content in the platform. For NBS Source, this governance is provided by the full time NBS technical team working with our construction manufacturer partners.
ISO 23387 Building Information Modelling (BIM) -- Data templates for construction objects used in the life cycle of any built asset -- Concepts and principles
This standard looks at grouping properties together to digitally represent physical objects. These objects could be products or systems, but could equally be larger more complex objects such as spaces or buildings.
Rules are provided on how to group properties against local or international standards, and also on how to map to classifications and IFC as detailed previously.
Again, as with ISO 23386, NBS is observing and contributing to standards in development through engagement with the B/555 committees, and ensuring that the NBS Source is built on the principles that define these standards.
3. Support for the manufacturer
Standards are essential, but at NBS we remove the complexity behind these standards to provide a user experience presented in plain construction language with great functionality.
Figure 3.1 shows that once the product is classified, if there are relevant IFC property sets then they are automatically added by the NBS Source platform. In the example below, a Gas-fired boiler product has been added and the platform has automatically included the corresponding IFC entities and property sets.
4. Connected product dataWithin the construction industry, there will be other product information platforms that contain well-structured manufacturer product information. Where these platforms also align to the standards and the developing standards then it will be possible to transfer this information digitally.
For example, a manufacturer that produces clay bricks may invest in digital systems to internally manage their data. These digital systems may be known as Product Information Management systems (PIMs), Product Lifecycle Management systems (PLMs) or Master Data Management systems (MDMs). Equally, they may choose to feed this information from their internal system using APIs into commercial platforms, offered by organizations such as NBS, which position their data in front of their customers. By following a standardised approach to data, this will be digital interoperability will be possible without manual data entry.