Nov 18 2012

AEC design specification market hotting up

As a construction technology blogger with a strong interest in PR and marketing across architecture, engineering and construction, I see and hear about a lot of web-based ventures targeting the sector. With building information modelling looming increasingly large, many long-standing practices and processes are going to change quite radically, and design specification is one area likely to see profound changes over the next three years as we move towards the UK government’s 2016 BIM adoption target.

Already, several existing UK product information providers have provided additional functionality to support designers’ growing BIM requirements, by, for example, extending their existing provision of 3D design information for computer aided design (CAD) to BIM objects. For example, the RIBA’s NBS launched the National BIM Library, and Barbour Index launched BIMStore.

And another CAD block provider, Edinburgh-based theCADcube (launched earlier this year), is set to follow suit, launching Specified.by around the end of 2012, and aiming, director Darren Lester says, to outstrip its competitors by offering its manufacturer customers richer analytics and reporting functionality alongside its digital file sharing platform. At the moment, Darren is busy signing up manufacturers, and the Specified.by website landing page is dismissive of existing directory websites:

Building Product Directories are crap…there, we said it! They haven’t changed in years and are not making the most of the web. They are convenient, but is convenient good enough? We don’t think so…

Specified.By will provide architects, surveyors, engineers, project managers and other specifiers with a game-changing tool for sourcing, saving, sharing and downloading important product information.

Rather than having a tiresome list of manufacturers names and links to their websites, you will easily find tech & spec documents, CAD models, BIM components, technical drawings, images and more for individual building products.

And the benefits don’t stop with specifiers, oh no my friends. We are on a mission to make product manufacturers lives easier too, providing them with a simple platform for sharing product information with specifiers in a way that is easily tracked and measured. [emphasis added]

I guess the service is intending to utilise social media particularly actively, and Darren is currently cultivating interest through Twitter (which is where I first heard of it) via @specifiedby, a LinkedIn group, and a Facebook page (which I couldn’t access for some reason).

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  1. Nothing like abuse to get attention eh?

    But seriously, if this venture is going to work it will because:
    1. The cost benefit equation stacks up for the product companies
    2. The interface is useful for specifiers
    3. It reaches critical mass

    Difficult for a relatively new company to do this without a large amount of funding up front, especially where credibility might be an issue. Where the market is already busy with credible companies who can take their audience with them into this area, its not going to be easy.

    1. Hi, Su. Knowing your previous interest and experiences in this area, I figured you’d be on the case quickly 🙂

      I have to agree with you: a new entrant to a market with several well-known, long-established and trusted incumbents faces a stiff battle unless it can show that it offers something different and desirable to its customers, and which its competitors can’t easily replicate.

      Suppliers and manufacturers will be reluctant to post their data on a new site until they can show that it is achieving good traction among specifiers, and the latter will be looking for a wide selection of materials and products, which a new arrival may struggle to provide. It’s a bit of a ‘catch 22’ situation, of course, but disruptive ideas have proved themselves before ….

      Incidentally, at my CIOB speaking engagement in Chelmsford last week, I was asked if there was a construction product equivalent of Amazon or Yelp, with designers and building end-users able to offer reviews, feedback or star ratings on products and materials they’ve specified or used. I couldn’t immediately recall one, though you and I both saw Nick Katz introduce HonestBuildings.com (at the Be2Talks in September) which appeared to offer something along these lines and is launching in the UK. I also considered Clippings.com – which is doing Pinterest-style ideas sharing focused on buildings and interiors (you can, for example, look at images posted by various interior designers, landscape architects or other professionals).

      Paul

      1. Hi Paul,
        That’s an interesting question. As far as I know there isn’t a dedicated platform that includes reviews for construction products. However these opinions are frequently passed around between specifiers who know and trust each other, both offline and online.
        The nearest I can get to this would be the products section of Linkedin Company Pages, where companies can set up pages for their products and receive recommendations from their Linkedin contacts. Company pages have been around for two years, but Linkedin has only recently increased their investment to allow some rather powerful functionality.
        The challenge would be to make it work for construction product companies, some of whom produce huge numbers of products in a range of different flavours.

  2. Thanks for giving us a mention Paul!

    Completely agree that a new company entering such a well established sector is not going to get an easy ride, but sometimes it takes new blood to come in with a fresh perspective to shake things up a bit for the better. Whilst we obviously plan to establish ourselves within this area, if all we achieve is to wake up a few of the existing providers to create something better, then we will have been successful.

    Also…product reviews/ratings will play a big part in Specified.By

    We think that the more information about a product the better, and what could be more useful than the experiences of those who have specified and worked with the products on live projects.

    Watch this space!

  3. Interesting points Paul, Su,

    There is additional pressure on design and product specification emerging, that of transparency in product composition related to healthy or toxic substances. The HPD (Healthy Product Declaration) Standard was launched at Green Build in the US last week. Its aims are to be a global open source directory of healthy materials.

    That this is not minority thinking is illustrated by the fact that Google has given a grant of some $3m dollars to the USGBC to champion product responsibility and transparency. This is in line with Google’s Healthy Buildings Simple Systems approach where human health trumps building efficiency.

    You now begin to wonder how that affects BIM thinking, where a product’s ‘health’ credential could be more significant than its performance criteria.

  1. […] my PR and marketing blog in November, I wrote about Specified.by, a forthcoming web-based service for individuals and companies involved in the specification of […]

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