It’s becoming apparent that to compete we all need to work smarter. Our goal must be to build “right first time”, compliant with Building Codes and Standards, with fewer change requests, efficient and safe work practices, and create buildings that meet society’s needs.
Achieving this has been difficult due to our traditional “silo” approach — the client briefs the designer, the designer creates the vision and the plans, the builder or construction company interpret those plans as best they can, and the project is handed over to the owner to maintain over its lifetime.
Unfortunately our industry sometimes struggles with connecting all these dots.
One document to rule them all?
The specification, in conjunction with the plans, is intended to address many of these challenges, yet remains, in many instances, under-utilised — often regarded as just a necessary evil to gain compliance.
The project specification also operates in its own silo — physically separate from the drawings and related documents, and relying solely on physical intervention to remain updated and relevant.
Construction Information Limited (CIL) is industry-owned by the Registered Master Builders Association and the New Zealand Institute of Architects, and publishes the Masterspec specification system.
They have now accepted the challenge to develop an online system to connect and co-ordinate all documentation into a single, unified information resource.
Beginning in 2014, first with the beta version and then the current version of Masterspec’s NextGen2 online platform, specification writing moved into “the cloud”.
This allowed specification writers to collaborate, working on the same specification at the same time.
The specification sections themselves are continually updated to meet the latest Codes, Standards and industry Codes of Practice. The system also includes branded sections containing product information to help specify selected products more accurately.
The Masterspec system intuitively draws products from the miproducts National Product Database, delivering links to manufacturer data in real time to the Masterspec workspace while the specification is being prepared.
“The Masterspec system supports the sharing of digital construction information,” CIL chief executive Rolf Huber says, “and as that information grows in complexity, Masterspec will be further developed to achieve that interactivity”.
Connecting specifications with drawings
Next in the drive to greater connectivity is Masterspec’s new MasterKey product. MasterKey connects to a Masterspec online specification project document, confirms all the product selections and descriptions, and interacts with ArchiCAD and Revit to use the data to create matching keynotes within the drawing set.
MasterKey continuously monitors the Masterspec specification. If or when a specification product choice is changed or updated, MasterKey signals that a keynote needs updating.
On accepting the change, the keynotes will be updated throughout the entire drawing set.
Patrick Clifford, director of Architectus and chairman of the CIL Board, says this is the beginning of quite a fundamental change — convergence.
“Before there was a clear separation of text and drawings — these can now be communicated in the same form.
“The user response has been incredibly positive — it is intuitive.
“They’ve done very well in bringing complex user requirements into the application.”
I thought this was BIM?
Building Information Modelling is yet to be fully accepted by the industry, although some progress is being made and implementation is starting to occur with larger projects.
“New Zealand is now moving beyond the first steps stage,” Mr Huber says, “with real interest being shown in the construction industry. However, BIM itself is still being developed from a concept and set of rules to an industry-wide technology.”
So while BIM is part of the future of how we will design, build and maintain, if it remains a stand-alone system it will be just another silo.
It needs to connect to, and interact with, all other data in the project to be truly effective and deliver on the promised gains.
Connectivity — driving the quality of the built environment
The Masterspec team believes that connecting all these data sources in a live, accessible online environment is key to delivering performance gains within the industry, and enhancing the way we live and interact with our environment.
Imagine a project where exactly what is envisaged is designed and specified, is purchased and delivered to site exactly when and where it is needed, fits exactly where it’s supposed to, and comes with exactly the right installation instructions and performance characteristics.
Imagine that it interacts exactly as it should with the products around it. And that every product on every page of the drawings and specifications worked in exactly this way.
“When we were designing the new Masterspec platform we knew right from the start that connectivity was going to be key — that updates in one area needed to be updated across the project, that new sources of information would need to be stored, sourced, linked and be able to interact with each other,” Mr Huber says.
“The Masterspec platform has been designed by the industry to facilitate that connectivity, and we will continue to develop and adapt our system to meet industry needs and work practices.”
Connected digital data
To remain relevant, everyone in the construction industry must be developing strategies to adopt connected digital data systems and practices within their field.
Take your specifications into the digital world. If you are still hand writing your specifications or, worse, copying an old Microsoft Word specification, you are putting yourself, your clients and your business at risk.
Not only are councils and BCAs insisting on project-specific specifications, the specification must refer to the correct Codes and Standards at the time of writing the specification.
When looking at any digital system consider carefully its ability to connect and interact with the other systems you are using.
Train yourself and your staff to get the most out of the technology, and keep it digital.
On site, have the drawings and specifications on your laptop or tablet. By noting the drawing keynote reference and clicking on the matching work section in the specification index, the PDF will jump to exactly the right work section — there’s no searching required.
Masterspec has further connectivity innovations in the pipeline, and is actively working with ArchiCAD, Revit and international partner organisations to ensure data interactivity is maintained and developed.
You and your industry association need to have a policy and be actively engaging with others to push for change.
Connectivity means clarity of communication between all information sources and industry players.
As the industry moves towards a data-based future, increasing connectivity is an essential element.