SEPTEMBER 8 | BUILDING PRODUCTS
not the only cause, these issues may well
contribute to the most cited difficulty: that
specified materials were substituted (57%).
More (78%) felt that substitution is still an
issue in the industry. Cost is frequently the reason
for product substitution, with value engineering
being part of the process. But if contractors
and subcontractors receive specifications for
products which don’t exist it can be easier to use
a different product they know, rather than spend
time contacting the specifier and manufacturer to
identify the intended component. The danger is
that a product is chosen which doesn’t achieve the
original design intent.
Building good relationships
Having a good relationship with trusted
manufacturers can help address some of these
problems and our survey suggests that specifiers
want this: 80% agreed that better communication
is needed between consultants, contractors and
manufacturers and 70% believed that the process
works best when manufacturers are involved at
an early stage. Sixty-nine percent already relied on
manufacturers for help and support.
While specification writing is often rushed, many
do start the process early and more start thinking
about products at the early stages: 35% as early
as the briefing stage (stage 1) and 64% at concept
design (stage 2). So specifiers may well value some
input from manufacturers in the early stages.
More BIM objects required
People do use different information sources
and want to communicate in different ways,
depending on the project stage.
At the early stages, where specifiers are looking
for inspiration and ideas, engaging images of
components in use are important. Eighty-percent
get initial ideas first and then come back to look at
the products in more detail later.
Over half (59%) told us that aesthetics is the
priority when looking for initial ideas. Case
studies play an important role: 71% agree they
provide inspiration for design. We are also seeing
greater use of social media – sites like Pinterest –
as useful, visual sources of ideas.
Once specifiers require technical information,
a variety of formats continue to be requested:
product literature, product data sheets,
specifications and BIM objects. From our annual
BIM survey we have seen a steady increase in the
proportion of specifiers using BIM, now at 74%.
It is being used by more people and becoming
embedded within organisations as professionals
use it for more of their projects.
This means that more specifiers want to receive
technical information from manufacturers as
BIM objects (69%). Three-quarters of BIM survey
respondents say they need manufacturers
to provide BIM objects and 85% want nonproprietary,
well-structured digital objects. ‘More
BIM objects required’ is a response we commonly
see in our surveys. A source like the NBS National
BIM Library which is free-to-use and used across
the world, allows specifiers to download BIM
objects created to the internationally recognised
NBS BIM Object Standard.
Specifiers are increasingly coordinating their
specifications with models, using tools like NBS
Create and its Plug-ins for 3D modelling software
– helping to address one of the specification
difficulties highlighted earlier, while also saving
time. Twenty-nine percent say they do this for all
projects and 32% for the majority.
As well as structured, digital information and
good technical support, our research also tells
us that built environment professionals want to
see a better audit trail of decision making, with
clear identification of the components that are
actually installed in the building. In ‘Building a
Safer Future’ Dame Judith Hackitt recommended
the creation of a golden thread of information for
high risk residential buildings.
There appears to be an appetite for systems
that enable better ways of recording decisions
and demonstrating that specified components
have been installed in the building. In the future
we are also likely to see increased emphasis on
environmental performance, more collaboration
in the writing of specifications and specifications
used throughout the lifetime of a building.
BIM will help support this but it will also be
achieved with the increased availability and use of
other digital technologies like virtual, augmented
and mixed reality, and cloud computing.
Throughout all of this, a spirit of collaboration
and good relationships between people will
continue to be important in achieving good
design and effective product specification.
NBS Research is part of NBS and provides research
services to manufacturers and other organisations
working in the built environment.
‘More BIM objects
required’ is a response
we commonly see