- Technical support

An introduction to the NBS BIM Toolkit

First published 8th April 2015; last updated 30th April 2019.

Stephen Hamil

Dr Stephen Hamil

Innovation Director at NBS

Article from Stephen Hamil, Innovation Director at NBS. Stephen looks at how the NBS BIM Toolkit can be used throughout the early stages of a project to define the exchange information requirements (EIR). The article then looks at how these can be further developed to help produce the delivery team's responsibility matrix, which allocates responsibility for developing the different aspects of the information model.


In May 2011, the UK’s ‘Government Construction Strategy’ was published. This report announced the Government’s intention to require BIM on its projects by 2016. The objectives behind this strategy were simple: build and operate assets more efficiently in terms of cost, reduce environmental impact, and improve UK exports of professional services and construction products.

In terms of the adoption of BIM, a five-year funded programme was developed that would deliver ‘BIM Level 2’ via a world-class set of standards and tools. This toolkit was part of the Government-funded Level 2 package. Launched in 2015, the NBS BIM Toolkit includes a library of thousands of cross-sector construction level-of-definition templates and a unified classification system of tens of thousands of classifications. It also includes a free-to-use digital plan of work tool that enables the definition of who is doing what and when throughout a construction project.

The team that NBS assembled to complete this work included BIM Academy, BDP, Laing O’Rourke, Microsoft, Mott MacDonald, Newcastle University, RIBA and RICS. Thanks must also go to a cross-industry institutional group that helped steer the NBS team on a monthly basis through the development phase. The following organizations were represented: APM, BIFM, CIBSE, CIOB, ICE, IStructE, RIBA and RICS. Since the funding period, NBS has continued to invest in product development based on feedback from users on real projects. The industry has continued to work with NBS to grow the number of classifications with contributions from Environment Agency, Highways England, Transport for London, Metropolitan Police, Network Rail and HS2. Wider than the UK, the Uniclass project is now engaging with both Transport for New South Wales and the Government of Victoria in Australia.

In December 2018, the ISO 19650 series of standards was released; its origins lay in the UK’s BIM Level 2 package and the principles of this international series of standards were the same. For a successful BIM project, information requirements need to be developed, and the delivery team must then deliver against these requirements. This article looks at how the Toolkit supports those working on BIM projects, as defined by the ISO 19650 series of standards.

Defining Exchange Information Requirements

Clause 5.2.1 of ISO 19650-2 defines the process of developing exchange information requirements.

Essentially, these constitute a schedule of information requirements that the appointing party requires during the appointment. To help those tendering for the work, the appointing party should establish the level of information needed to meet each information requirement. In addition, the appointing party should also establish the acceptance criteria. Finally, the appointing party should state when each information requirement is needed, relative to the project’s delivery milestones.

The Toolkit allows users to develop a digital plan of work where these information requirements can be defined and positioned against work stages. As the project progresses, and the delivery team is appointed, the parties responsible for the delivery of this information can be assigned to each requirement.

Within the Toolkit, for standard tasks, which typically result in unstructured information (for example, documentation or video/ audio files), the tasks from the RIBA Plan of Work are included. Figure 1 displays a typical task that one would expect to be completed by the end of the briefing stage. As this is being developed prior to the appointment of the delivery team, the responsibility is being assigned to the most likely role in this example. Other templates may be used when creating a project that has been provided for linear or environmental infrastructure projects. Project teams can then add, edit or remove the tasks in any of the templates.

A typical task in a digital plan of work

Figure 1 – A typical task in a digital plan of work

For deliverables, which typically result in structured information (models, drawings generated from models, spreadsheets or specifications, for example), NBS has provided a template list of around 160 items that are typically considered for a building project. These are at the third level of the Uniclass Systems Table, and include items such as: foundations and frame systems for structural engineers; cladding and flooring for architects; fencing and planting for landscape architects; and heating and lighting for building services engineers. As with the tasks, at this early stage of the project, it is probable that the exact detail is unknown, but briefing notes can be added to help with the decision-making process later on in the project. Figure 2 displays a typical deliverable that would be then be clarified further at the developed design stage of a project.

A typical deliverable in a digital plan of work

Figure 2 – A typical deliverable in a digital plan of work

Assigning Responsibility

Once the delivery team is in place and the project is progressing then further information can be added to the digital plan of work. It is expected that teams will meet regularly throughout the project, and related decisions can be captured within the platform.

Figure 3 shows that the role of the project lead is now being fulfilled by Alpha Architecture. Further notes can be added to this task.

Assigning responsibility to each task

Figure 3 – Assigning responsibility to each task

In Figure 4, it can be seen that a number of the deliverables have now been refined and different consultant organizations are fulfilling the roles of Architect, Structural Engineer and Building Services Engineer.

Refining the deliverables

Figure 4 – Refining the deliverables

Developing Information as the Project Progresses

As the design develops, there will come a point where the specific systems required to meet the project’s needs are agreed. In Figure 5 below, it is shown that the function of heating is being achieved by the selection of a combination of hot water and solar heating systems.

Defining specific deliverables as design progresses

Figure 5 – Defining specific deliverables as design progresses

With respect to the level of information needed, the library of definitions from NBS may be used to indicate what level of detail (LOD) and what level of information (LOI) are required at each stage of the project. Figure 6 shows an example set of illustrations for an LOD banding for the hot water heating system.

Defining level of information need with respect to LOD and LOI

Figure 6 – Defining level of information need with respect to LOD and LOI

Developing the Design and Specification

The delivery team can then use this digital plan of work as a reference to support them with the design and specification process. Figure 7 below shows how a Building Services Engineer can use standardized objects from the NBS National BIM Library external link to develop the model. By positioning the digital plan of work to the side of the screen, it is possible to reference this whilst working on the design.

Developing the design based on clear responsibility assignment and brief

Figure 7 – Developing the design based on clear responsibility assignment and brief

It is possible to generate outline specifications directly from the Toolkit for specification production in NBS Create external link on the desktop. Alternatively, for those wanting to specify in Uniclass 2015, it is possible to import this file into NBS Chorus external link to develop the specification collaboratively in the cloud.

Figure 8 shows NBS Chorus being used to select the products needed for a hot water heating system. Suggested values, technical guidance and links to standards are provided within NBS template content to help specifiers make the right decisions on their projects.

Developing the specification based on clear responsibility assignment and brief

Figure 8 – Developing the specification based on clear responsibility assignment and brief

Finally, the model and the specification may be developed together using plug-ins from NBS. In Figure 9, the objects and the specification clauses are being linked to ensure that all annotations and references in schedules are fully coordinated.

Linking the model and specification to ensure a coordinated set of project information

Figure 9 – Linking the model and specification to ensure a coordinated set of project information

View an Example Project

Quite often, the best way of understanding a new workflow is to read about a particular project example. The links below show how Manchester Council’s school team has been working with their suppliers to implement this process.

Further Reading

To complete the process, the information developed in response to the exchange information requirements must be shared with the team and ultimately, when ready, with the appointing party. The ISO 19650 series of standards makes it clear that this is to be done within the 'common data environment' (CDE).

To learn more about CDEs and how NBS plans to make it easier to integrate with CDEs, please see the following article:

https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/common-data-environments external link

To create your first digital plan of work using the NBS BIM Toolkit, visit the page below:


Further links

further reading