Earlier this year, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), and National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) released Version 5 of the United States National CAD Standard (NCS), marking the first update to the standard in three years. The publication has shifted to a web-based format, which contains new cross-linked text references and allows users access the material online at any time.
As a graphical style standard for architects and other building industry professionals, the NCS facilitates the consistent appearance of drawing sets, which can in turn decrease costs associated with change orders. “It’s everybody talking the same language,” said Richard Hayes, the AIA’s managing director of knowledge resources. “It’s the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone.” Adopting the NCS can also help firms and building owners communicate during the bidding process by allowing isolation of one item of interest, like plumbing systems, said Hayes. For other architects and subcontractors, adopting the standard may decrease the amount of resources and money used to field requests for more information or clarification of building documents.
The new NCS contains three primary components from the organizations that collaborated to create it: NIBS authored the Foreword and Administration and Plotting Guidelines modules, while AIA supplied its CAD Layer Guidelines module and CSI supplied its Uniform Drawing System modules. In combination, the resources can enable better communication between disciplines both during construction and throughout the life of a building—a crucial consideration for architecture and design firms looking to transition to Building Information Modeling (BIM), as printed output from CAD files must comply with NCS formats to meet the minimum requirements of the National BIM Standard.
According to NIBS, more than 5,000 architecture, engineering, and construction firms have adopted the NCS, which is required or encouraged by some international corporations and by U.S. government organizations including the General Services Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Rather than sell a product, said Hayes, the AIA is focused on the future needs of the profession. “Our efforts are trying to improve the whole operational efficiency of the building industry,” he said. Many technical schools are currently adopting the NCS as well, so as a new generation enters the work force the onus will be on employers to put their education to use.