Ben Hussey

Innovation:
Spec Builder

Electrical Engineer, Arup; ME (Electrical & Electronics Engineering), University of Edinburgh, Scotland

The Spec Builder tool in action.

Ben Hussey was instrumental in creating a modern web-based tool to easily construct, manage and publish reports and specification documents from component parts and facilitate automated generation of documents based on external inputs.

Hussey’s aim was to store content in a structured text format that is both machine and human readable and editable. The interfaces minimise the time spent finding and copying content from previous similar documents and help to manage and update standardised sections and clauses.

The tool also provides a framework that can be used for automated generation and checking.

Hussey designed the data models and wrote a prototype front end, as well as back ends and conversion tools to import existing company content into the centralised storage repository.

“One of the key elements is moving to writing documents in a structured text format,” Hussey said.

“Word processor formats are the bread-and-butter of the consulting world, but in reality are friendly to neither humans — think trying to apply styles across large documents — nor machines.”

“Word processor formats are the bread-and-butter of the consulting world, but in reality are friendly to neither humans nor machines.”

Using tried and tested structured text formats designed for the web, Hussey laid the groundwork to more easily automate document creation and modification, apply machine learning across document sets and ensure a consistent high-quality output. This also opened the door to publishing documents in web-based formats, including interactive content like BIM-model walkthroughs or live-updated inspection reports.

Hussey also wrote a conversion tool that migrated content from Arup’s existing standard document format, passing appropriate metadata from relevant fields to blocks of structured text annotated with metadata.

Being able to pre-populate the central repository with existing content simplified the adoption process and helped to build a significant dataset for use in future reports and specifications.

The tool not only saves time when creating and editing documents, it also promotes use of web-based technology and delivery of work in modern formats.

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