Two of the building sector’s buzz words in 2012, ‘Social media’ and ‘BIM’, were themes running through all the presentations at CAB’s recent mini-conference and Members’ meeting in Bradford. Over 150 members and guests across the supply chain attended the event entitled ‘The Changing Face of Specification’. The unanimous member feedback afterwards was that it had represented one of the best added value meetings that included high quality networking, detailed knowledge and clinical insight that could be taken straight back to the work place and implemented.
The first Speaker, Su Butcher, Just Practising www.justpractising.com quickly established that only 2% of the audience had recently responded to an advertising campaign, on the TV, direct mail or in the media but that 100% had recently used Google to search for a product or service. Around 50% would ask a colleague for advice on a product or service. So with the question posed, why do we continue to use traditional forms of media for getting messages across to specifiers?
Social media, mainly in the form of Twitter and Linkedin has been widely embraced by specifiers and Su urged all CAB members to get online and more importantly to just ‘listen’. With specifiers now embracing what is termed ‘pull marketing’ rather than the traditional ‘push marketing’, the importance of being in the right place at the right time was essential. Su gave some dynamic examples of tweets from architects and specifiers seeking solutions to projects and these being successfully answered by manufacturers. Sue’s immediate recomendation was ‘to just get on line and start discussions with people you already knew’.
Together with the move to social media in project specification comes the format for communication of the design of the building structure known as Building Information Modelling (BIM). Although it has been around for 10 years it has gained huge and has gained huge momentum over the last 12 months. Paul Morrell, the government’s construction adviser has stated that all public sector projects over £5M will need to use BIM. Richard Blakesley, Howitt Consulting, together with Nick Allen and James Blood, Metz Architects offered the delegates a fascinating live and interactive view of how BIM works.
The importance for CAB members was the need to be able to offer ‘virtual products’ which can be used in BIM design. These ‘virtual products’ contain not only the three dimensional model of the product, but a complete specifcation. This area of design is moving rapidly and Metz Architects are one of a growing number of practices who are now using BIM for all their design work. They acknowledged the particular challenges of interfacing BIM with current software used by CAB members for the design and production of facades, windows and doors.
Simon Lerwill of Davis Langdon, outlined the role of the specification writer. He explained to the delegates the differences between ‘prescriptive’ and ‘descriptive’ specifications and whilst specifications are ‘prescriptive’, they often become ‘descriptive’ when value engineered by main contractors and clients to keep costs down. Simon also reminded the delegates that honesty is key and if your product cannot do the job, say so, as you will often be asked again on another project. If a product is promoted and does not meet the specification, the door to future work with that contact is firmly shut. Finally he outlined key advice for ensuring your specification had an improved chance of actually reaching site – currently the figure is only about 20%.
There are many challenges facing the industry but closer working together using social media, an improved understanding of how specifiers undertake their work and the new BIM design software, will ensure that CAB members interface with the industry better to offer cost effective solutions for construction.
For further information about CAB, its team and membership take a look at the Association’s website at www.c-a-b.org.uk or contact Julie Harley on 01453 828851.