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RIBA shoots down conflict fears over NBS-Aecom deal

RIBA Enterprises has refuted claims a new alliance between the National Building Specification (NBS) and Aecom will result in a commercial conflict with members

Architects have raised concerns over a potential commercial conflict with their interests after NBS announced the acquisition of Aecom’s specification consulting and design management team last month.

NBS is owned by RIBA Enterprises and supplies standard specifications used by architects who write their own specifications.

Some architects have questioned whether joining forces with a commercial specification writing service would place the organisation in conflict with architects and RIBA members who write their own specifications.

An architect who preferred to remain unnamed said: ‘Architectural specification writing is one of the traditional services offered by the architectural profession. How does the RIBA through RIBA Enterprises account for such a move - to compete with its members?’

The new venture – known as NBS Schumann Smith – will also offer cost and carbon data alongside specification consulting and design management to companies adopting BIM through the recently launched NBS Create platform.

Schumann Smith merged with Davis Langdon twelve years ago and became Aecom’s specification consulting and design management team after the global giant bought Davis Langdon in 2010.

A RIBA Enterprises (RIBAE) spokesperson refuted the suggestion of a commercial conflict with RIBA members and said: ‘The team is moving from one organisation to another and will deliver the same services they have always provided.’

In a separately statement, a RIBA spokesperson said: ‘This is not a merger, nor a monopoly. All decision making on the strategy, management and delivery of services by NBS Schumann Smith will be taken within RIBAE.

‘The services offered by both NBS and Schumann Smith are complimentary; NBS offer tools for effective specification writing, with Schumann Smith offering specification and design management consultancy services.’

Announcing the move, Dave Smith of Schumann Smith said: ‘Joining forces with NBS is an exciting development for us and I don’t envisage it will be long before our enhanced specifications become the new industry standard.’

RIBA Enterprises chief executive Richard Waterhouse said: ‘This collaboration is a logical step in our on-going efforts to make life easier for design and construction teams. Along with our National BIM Library initiative, we will be able to offer an unrivalled provision of knowledge and information supporting the BIM drive for cost and carbon efficiency.

‘NBS Schumann Smith represents a unique market proposition and going forward there is significant scope to develop and deliver new services to clients.’

Bob Pell, chief executive for Aecom’s program, cost and consultancy arm, which incorporates Davis Langdon, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with NBS with its impressive reputation and influence. The combination of Schumann Smith’s expertise, AECOM’s cost and carbon data and a first class BIM compatible software platform will result in an exceptional product that will deliver real value and best practice for the industry.’

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