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Specification will survive BIM, says NBS

Specification will survive BIM, says NBS

17 May 2017

BIM is impacting on specification, but not for the vast majority of architects.

Specification writing continues to evolve, with digital ways of working and BIM expected to accelerate the process. The recently published 2017 NBS Specification Report suggests that a third of survey respondents now believe that BIM will replace specifications altogether.

NBS’ last Specification Report from 2013 pre-dated the recent rise of BIM driven by the government’s mandate.

Traditionally, specifications tended to be one of the last items written before a package was issued for tender. One of the findings in the new report is that for some the specification process now tends to start earlier, during the briefing stage and continuing into the handover and close-out stages.

So far BIM’s push towards team working and collaboration, has not led to widespread sharing of draft specifications both internally and externally. Only a quarter are sharing draft specifications with other specifiers within their own company, and just 11% with those outside of their own company. However, the trend is clear: in 2013 only 3% were sharing.

The NBS view is that the one third of respondents who think BIM will make specification writing redundant are perhaps not considering the value of the specification.

Presenting the survey findings, NBS Market Research Co-ordinator Jenny Dobson says this figure is a cause for concern, arguing that the information contained within a specification is essential for setting out the requirements of a project – the products, workmanship and quality to be used – and will always be an essential component of the model.

In a commentary presented alongside the survey, Andy Jobling, Technical Manager at Levitt Bernstein, says specification will be a key deliverable on future construction projects.

‘The specification is no longer just a tool for communicating and controlling the quality and durability of the building during construction, but now has an extended life as an asset management tool – and a very powerful one if linked to the spatial model through BIM,’ says Jobling.

‘Not many clients have yet realised the longer term value that they have in the specification. In future, I think we will see the specification as an active document that evolves from the brief, is extended through the design stages, and is further updated during construction, before being handed over to the client to manage the asset.’

Responding to the NBS Specification Report, Tim Passingham, Technical Director at GRID Architects, agrees that there is now a clear aspiration for specifications to be written and modified throughout the life of a project.

‘However, starting early and developing the content and detail appropriate to the current stage to mirror that of other production information is hampered by the lack of a proprietary specification system and user guidance that is truly applicable to a feasibility stage, rather than outline, specification,’ says Passingham.

Post contract updates and inclusion of trade contractor specification will rely upon increased collaboration between the consultant and contractor designers, and how this is to be practically achieved is not addressed by the report, he points out.

‘Collaborative use of the digital plan of work tool and NBS BIM Toolkit will help greatly in defining who does what and when and this level of detail and clarity is key to providing the right environment to produce timely specification and design information with the correct level of detail. The uptake of this is driven by the use of BIM and client generated EIR’s, which is something that the private sector in particular needs to see the benefits of using to promote its wider use.

‘Convincing contractor and developer clients and consultant and contractor designers of the benefits of using the latest Uniclass based specification systems to allow fuller integration with BIM and collaboration with the project team will take time and investment.’ concludes Passingham.

Thanks to Tim Passingham, Technical Director, GRID Architects.

RIBAJ article on the NBS Specification Report.

Text by Neal Morris, © RIBA

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