Similar to putting together a puzzle, one of the greatest challenges in the construction industry is piecing together all the elements that go into a building project, sometimes from sources that use conflicting standards. Constantly working across different platforms, file types and organizations is not easy. Irregular standards make it difficult to understand and organize plan sets and other electronic design and construction data. Moreover, requests for clarification because of this confusion can lead to unnecessary design changes and cost overruns, slowing down project completion.
Just as organizing the pieces makes assembling a puzzle easier, using a simple process can help construction professionals make sense of their project data. Since its first release in July 1999, the United States National CAD Standard (NCS
) has helped thousands of designers and engineers produce quality projects by streamlining and simplifying the design process. With the latest version released last spring, NCS continues to be an instrumental tool for construction professionals, especially with the transition to Building Information Modeling (BIM).
NCS, a product of the American Institute of Architects (AIA
), the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI
) and the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS
), helps designers and engineers maintain consistent and organized project data. The consensus-based style guide provides guidelines for drawing sets; its parameters combine layer guidelines from AIA, drawing standards from CSI and plotting conventions from NIBS. The standard also includes an extensive symbols library and thousands of terms and abbreviations. It is available to users exclusively as an online document. NCS Version 5
Every few years, NCS updates the standard to reflect the changing needs of the industry. For each new version, the NCS Project Committee, comprised of representatives from across the construction and design communities, collects improvements from individual NCS users and performs a consensus peer review.
NCS Version 5 (V5), released last spring, contains a number of refinements and additions. Most notably, NCS is now web-based and accessible to licensees at all times. Additionally, the online document’s in-text references are cross-linked and users can print each section as necessary. These improvements make implementing and using the standard even easier, as there is no longer a need for a hardcopy of the more than 1,000-page, two-volume set.
The new version also includes implementation guidelines that provide step-by-step recommendations to make putting V5 into action easier. It also provides a tool that demonstrates the value of NCS to managers and clients and offers steps on how to incorporate NCS into an organization in manageable portions.
Other revisions to NCS V5 include:
Benefits of NCS
- new and expanded Discipline Designators for “Distributed Energy,” “Real Estate” and “Survey/Mapping;”
- new layers for additional structures, wind and solar power, fire ratings, air barriers, architectural curtain walls and electrical cathode protection; and
- new and revised symbols for interior elevation indicators, azimuth indicators, architectural scale, electrical symbols and other areas.
The standard offers benefits throughout the project life cycle and is not specific to one discipline; it applies to development, architecture, engineering, construction and facility management. When using NCS, no one needs to think about what a particular symbol or line represents. Instead, all project parties can effectively understand the information in every set of drawings.
The common terms, symbols and naming conventions required by the standard ensure all information appears in the same place in each drawing set. This provides predictable file translation results and speeds up translation between formats. The standard’s detailed reference system reduces the time needed for file formatting and streamlines the process for checking errors and omissions.
For clients, NCS makes understanding and utilizing project data easy. NCS saves time and money because there is no need to invest in developing individual standards and staff members no longer need to spend time deciphering plans. Above all, NCS adds value by presenting opportunities for expanded service and revenue. The U.S. General Services Administration
, many state governments and more than 5,000 public and private sector workplaces already use NCS. In fact, for firms that perform federal work, NCS is often the required output format because it ensures consistent and understandable information. A firm that independently adopts the standard may be a step ahead of the competition. NCS and NBIMS
One of the greatest advantages of NCS is its interconnectivity with the U.S. National BIM Standard (NBIMS
). NCS was the first step in creating an effective, simple standard to improve consistency and usability of construction data. BIM takes this process even further by using tools to help the industry share more complex information and allowing construction professionals to access and understand details for the total building life cycle.
The NBIMS, published by the buildingSMART alliance
, references NCS as the standard to follow for the output format of BIM jobs. Because such of the construction industry continues to build with 2-D paper output from BIM, this is where NCS focuses. NCS supports the printed output of NBIMS projects, making sure the information is consistent and understandable.
Moreover, adopting NCS helps firms implement NBIMS. Because NCS is about building a standard, it helps form a firm’s consistency in the building process. This consistency is vital for the object-based BIM. Imagine if every designer or engineer did not draw walls or label dimensions in a consistent manner. In order to be effective, all the information needs to be input the same way each time. BIM implements NCS through the entire project chain by building off the guidelines provided by NCS to streamline the production of 3-D models.
NCS is essential in today’s world. Educational institutions are teaching it to students and new hires are required to understand it. As NBIMS becomes more widespread, NCS will become even more critical to the industry. One major advantage of an industry-based standard, such as NCS, is actual experience drives it forward and keeps it current. Already, there are some examples of paperless jobsites, and NCS needs input from these firms. To apply to join the NCS Project Committee, visit www.buildingsmartalliance.org/index.php/join/application