With the Help of Autodesk Forge, NBS Comes to the Rescue


My colleague, Darren Brooker, works on the presentations given by our CEO and CTO. Darren has firm evidence that an effective presentation tells a story. He further postulates that every good story is based on trouble. There's even a 4-minute video by Kurt Vonnegut to back that up:

In the interest of making this blog post a good story, let's start with trouble.

NBS is committed to offering distinctive, innovative specification and information solutions to construction industry professionals and is proud to be leading the construction industry in its digital evolution. Their origins lie in the National Building Specification for the UK, and they have produced specification products for over 40 years. Their NBS specification products cover building construction, engineering services, and landscape design.

Here are the challenges that NBS faced.

  • CAD drawings and specification documents were often out of sync.
  • Up-to-date models could not be viewed on mobile devices and tablets.
  • Workers using out of date information increased project risk.

Like all good stories, trouble is resolved when a hero comes to the rescue. In this story, the hero is an online viewer developed by NBS by leveraging Autodesk Forge.

Using Forge, NBS developed an NBS Online Viewer that helps clients coordinate building models and specifications. The online viewer met a critical need. NBS customers needed to move workflows from paper to online, which was crucial during at all stages of the supply chain, from design to build. The solution had to coordinate building model information with specifications to minimize risk and variable costs and include access to dynamic project information in real-time to enable construction project teams — often consisting of global, multilingual employees with technology barriers — to make better decisions. Moving the construction industry from bits of paper to PDFs to the web browser, on tablets, on Surface laptops, etc. is a huge step forward.

Here is how Forge helped the NBS viewer be the hero:

  1. Linking of building models and specifications.

    The Data Management API provided the tools that allowed NBS' developers to sync building models with specifications, a key element in moving the industry from paper to the digital world. The architect gets all the advantages of Revit, i.e., the standardized objects — but in addition to the contractual information and the PDFs, they just log onto the project website and can see one environment that's all connected.

  2. Models needed to be viewable with no extra software and be usable on any device, anywhere.

    Because the Viewer is already a browser-based solution that works on desktop computers, tablets, and other mobile devices, any user with NBS login credentials can view models and specifications, with no need for additional software. Using Forge, NBS didn't need to spend valuable resources developing a viewer from scratch. The Model Derivative API allows NBS to translate assets (like Revit models) into industry standard SVF so that the Viewer can display it (as WebGL) to any project member with just a browser. The Forge Viewer handles all of the peculiarities of different operating systems and device types.

  3. Keep all users informed to minimize project risk.

    The combination of the Data Management API, Model Derivative API, and the Viewer means users can see all relevant information clearly linked, which means fewer errors and better-informed stakeholders. That increased efficiency translates into cost savings both on-site and off-site. The NBS online viewer enables users to click on any object in a 3D Revit or IFC model and view its specifications, and selecting specifications in the content list highlights corresponding objects. The easy-to-use experience eliminates technology barriers, providing powerful tools for even the least tech-savvy stakeholders working on a project.

Everyone loves a story with a happy ending.

NBS is proud to be leading the construction industry in its digital transformation, and Forge is helping them in that regard. How cool is that? Forge-cool, that's how cool.

Heroism is alive in the lab.