The NBS Toolkit: a first look review
“It’s getting somewhere”, these are the words that are coming to mind when testing the new and official NBS Toolkit. I must admit, I was a little sceptical at yet another NBS venture as it’s all been a little here, there and nowhere for a bit with the NBS library, Uniclass and now the toolkit. Having said that I also realize that we are all in the same boat and, as an industry making good progress, that’s partly due to the help of the NBS. Even if our requirements in the support and development professions are constantly leaving us feeling that it’s not happening fast enough, the “users” will hopefully see the tools, software, and implemented strategies etc. as a complete and functional package. This however, is a bit of a problem as everything in the earlier stages of a project is user driven.
The gap that the NBS Toolkit is filling is from the management side. Helping to create an overview of the project plan in an easy to navigate user interface. This is something that is a red thread in all my training sessions, underpinning BIM, forward thinking, planning and communication while using technical applications and dealing with design development. The former is often lost when the focus is mostly on design and the deadline for the next issue. Never mind getting used to or even understanding the project specific application of the various standards and specification documents, for example the BEP, PAS1192, Digital Production Standards etc. So, enter the NBS Toolkit.
Ok it is yet another login and it is not the solution to everything. But it does help to structure and keep track of the BIM project, its objectives, stakeholder’s responsibilities and deliverables. It is also a handy tool for COBie reports.
Let’s dive in and go through what the NBS Toolkit has to offer.
- User Interface and Navigation
Firstly, you need to create an account. This could be the project manager’s account or a project email address account. It’s up to you really. But whoever wants access to the Toolkit needs to use the email address the account was created with.
This is not about giving scores but, I will in this case, 10 out of 10! To the point and no confusion. You have the option to manage the account or create a new project. So that is what we will do and click on ‘Create new project’. Once you have projects created you also have the Manage Projects button on the same welcome page.
The create new project dialogue box opens up and gives you the option of using a predefined template e.g. a template based on the RIBA Plan of Works 2013 or the use of an existing template that includes predefined tasks, roles etc. This evaluation will be based on the RIBA PoW 2013. Click ‘Create’ and the project is created in a few seconds.
The project interface is very easy to understand and navigate and since it’s hosted, everything is saved all the time so you can navigate as freely and dynamically as you see fit.
The Project you are developing is clearly indicated with the option to add project location, edit details, Participants and export information.
Edit details is self-explanatory so we won’t go in to detail about that.
Participants is important for the development of the work stages as the various roles are assigned to the participants on the project. In the available box, type the organisations name and click on the Add button to add a new organisation. Then add the email relevant addresses of the people in that organisation who are involved in the project. This will send invites with project links to the users listed.
Export will be covered later.
Under the Project information panel you find the Project navigation ribbon (terminology used here may not be official names)
You can jump between:
Each of the headings take you to a new set of information loaded on the same screen rather than browsing to a new page. This means that you have the Project information and navigation ribbon to hand and visible at all times. Awesome and current, as it should be!
Below the Ribbon the immediate space is reserved for project information relevant to the heading selected from the Ribbon e.g. Tasks
Below this space you find the actual editable information related to the heading.
On the far right side of the user interface you will find a static information column related to the Stage. Here you will find useful information and links to help you populate the information you need for each stage.
Finally the user interface for the Export button display an options window that let you choose what you want to export. Click export and the Toolkit creates a zip file for you to save locally.
To further help you in populating the project with correct and relevant information there are some support buttons at the top right hand corner.
Search definitions lets you use keywords to search the library. The library can manually be browsed using the Definitions button. This new Search definitions lets you use keywords to search the library. The library can manually be browsed using the Definitions button. This new page contains profession headings with sub heading links. The definitions are based on Uniclass 2015 and one can drill down the definitions of concrete walls for example to get the classification code and LOD and LOI and good diagrams explaining what the product, system etc. is supposed to be.
One major issue I came across was that the definition pages were not loading as expected and were unusable. In fact, it crashed the whole project and I had to close the browser and log in again.
The support button provides links to information that most people would want to have easy access to during the creation of the project e.g. information on EIR or LOD definition or just how to use the NBS Toolkit.
The projects button contain links to the active projects on the account.
- Populating the stage information
As mentioned earlier, the project information is linked to relevant editable information e.g. the Overview page has a dropdown list of all stages where one can quickly navigate across the planned timeline of the project.
The information displayed about the Project team is dependent on the participants’ role assignment per stage, these can be easily assigned by clicking on ‘Edit roles’ button under the Project Team heading.
Edit Stage Details takes you to the details relevant to the selected stage, and edit Tasks and Add deliverables takes you to locations where deliverables and tasks can be added/ removed.
On each of the Heading pages you will find interactive dropdown lists or available information you have populated in another heading e.g. (See images below)
· A calendar for date input
· Participants for roles.
· Editable and searchable tasks
· Definition selection for the Deliverables
The export function lets you choose between exporting stage specific information, Whole project information, export to various COBie file formats and IFC.
This function is currently under Beta and could not be evaluated.
- The Verdict
This toolkit feels very fresh and engaging. The behaviour of the site with the “same page required data loading” is fantastic and you can quickly navigate around and enter data where you want. The page is never cluttered but as the data is dynamic and linked to other relevant dropdown lists or editable boxes it takes a little bit of time to get used to not having to navigate a “traditional page loading site” but the 5-10 min is worth it! The Export function is great and it helps in a way that the unexperienced user of the Toolkit doesn’t have to wonder how the COBie spread sheet is going to be produced. It just does it so to speak. Well, the data needs to be entered in to the Toolkit and that is the dry bit about this experience the rest is actually quite fun.