Specifications are going off documents, into the cloud and onto BIM models.
SpecLink Cloud, introduced recently by Atlanta-based Building System Design (BSD), is a product that merges standardized specifications with BIM modelling and accessible, device independent cloud storage.
“Much of the industry is built on Word documents, and those don’t really mesh with BIM. SpecLink is a database, and it does mesh,” said BSD president and CEO Chris Anderson.
Construction Specifications Canada (CSC), a non-profit association with chapters throughout Canada, chose BSD’s SpecLink as the platform through which to publish their National Master Specifications (NMS). It made sense, Anderson said, to work with CSC to launch SpecLink cloud and BIM integration in Canada.
“We’re trying to integrate drawings, specifications and the cost elements of the project into one platform, and we wanted to work closely with CSC to launch that into the Canadian market,” he said.
BSD and CSC previously collaborated on specmarket.com, a platform through which users can access NMS products by discipline, division or section in English or French, as well as CSC reference documents, course manuals, format guides and manuals of practice.
“It was a joint initiative with the CSC, and we’ve had a surprisingly large level of transactions go through the portal already. We’re excited about what we’ve been able to do and how it’s resonating with the market,” he said.
SpecLink Cloud is a continuation of that process, he said.
We’re just trying to catch up with a lot of other industries that are ahead of us in terms of digitization
— Chris Anderson
Building System Design
“We already have a relationship with CSI, CSC’s sister company in the U.S. CSC liked what we launched at the Construct conference, and we began a conversation with them about new technology and how we’re viewing the digitization of the industry,” Anderson said.
“With our products you can view specs from tablets and other web-enabled devices, and people in the industry are seeing the benefits of that. We wanted to work with someone high profile and highly established in the Canadian marketplace.”
SpecLink is intended for use by architects, specialty engineering firms and owners, Anderson said.
“It’s meant to communicate the design intent behind a body of work and to ensure BIM models and pricing data are aligned,” he said.
The software allows users to associate spec content to BIM objects, Anderson added, but the system isn’t tied to proprietary BSD objects or other formats, in order to give it the “maximum level of flexibility.”
“BIM isn’t a single process, and people implement different solutions, so the intention behind our toolset is to assist that process. We don’t provide BIM objects; you can import either your own or NMS content,” he said. “The collaboration suite is built into the product. You can version and see changes that are made, and make sure those changes are synchronized.”
A key feature of the SpecLink platform, he added, is the ability to access NMS documents through the database, Anderson added.
“It’s the de facto standard in Canada, and we’ve had a number of customers asking for NMS content because they want to work across the border,” he said. “We already had a number of Canadian customers, but they were frustrated because we didn’t yet have access to NMS.”
Regionalization is also accounted for, Anderson said, since some government and defence projects require cloud data to reside within the project’s nation of origin.
“We have regionalization of service from our cloud provider, so the data goes into local geographies in Canada. We even have it regionalized between the east and west coasts,” Anderson said.
While Canada’s construction industry has been slow to embrace digitization, he said, “even in the U.S. there are lots of companies that still have Word documents as the specification for their process.
“We’re just trying to catch up with a lot of other industries that are ahead of us in terms of digitization.”