Welcome back to Adrian Williamson, Director of WM Design & Architecture Ltd, a small sustainable architectural practice based in Menai Bridge Anglesey. Adrian posted about the NBS back in May. Here’s his take about the process of finding the products themselves, and a question for product manufacturers.
In the process of developing a scheme or putting together a specification for the project, we often resort to rummaging through our product Library. If you’re in luck and have it maintained by the RIBA Library people, it will be up to date.
More often now we are resorting to the quick and easy Google, Bing or Yahoo search engine to turn up the goods This is not necessarily driven by laziness but you might genuinely be wanting to obtain a copy of the manufacturer’s general details, BBA certs or CAD / PDF details, these are more likely to be on the manufacturer’s web site and technical downloads section.
When you are familiar with the manufacturer it is relatively easy to type in the address and you’re off, however when you are researching a new or unfamiliar product how do you go about it? How do you differentiate between good or average manufacturers or suppliers from a general web search?
In a recent project we were looking at replacing paved surfaces with bound resin. We did the simple web search first and turned up a whole host of manufactures and suppliers. It took a while to sort out two or three suppliers to narrow things down. Still being unfamiliar with the product we then relied on some phoning around and obtaining samples to look over. In this instance we narrowed things down to Addagrip.
Tailored Building Product Search Engine
Now would life have been simpler if we had of used a tailored Building Product Search Engine such as ESI.info or Barbour Product Search? Again lets start with the premise that we did not have any prior experience with resin bound surfaces how would ESI.info deal with this?
Firstly the main page separates out sections into External Works, Building Design, Interior Design, Building Services and Environmental Engineering, so External Works it is, the interface for this section then is broken down into Common Requirements (sub-sections) and a search engine.
As it’s a paved surface you can opt for Roads & Pavements, further subsections then include Segmental pavements, Kerbs & edgings, Bound pavements and a few others to boot. So as one of the sub sections is Bound pavements our choice is fairly simple. In the Bound Surfacing there’s a handy description of the material and how you might use it, some product profiles and then a list of manufacturers and suppliers. So the filtering and categorizing has been done within a few minutes.
As we were concentrating on specifically paved areas and ones that offered good SUDS drainage abilities (permeable) it was then down to choosing from a selection of manufactures that met with these requirements e.g. Ronacrete, Addagrip and Surestep (list is much larger).
From within each manufacturer’s page within ESI.info quick PDF guides are available. This helps out again on searching further on the manufacturer’s web site. Off the ESI.info page you also have quick access to a brief specification, case studies where applicable and example installations. So if you’re unfamiliar with a product or installation this process does guide you through and makes it far easier to source product type and then manufacturer. Social media share options are there as well; to Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn or Pinterest the page.
When We Use a Tailored Building Product Search Engine
So are you more or less likely to use such a site as ESI.info? Certainly when you are not sure who or what you’re looking for the process is very easy and takes you through a steered route. However if you know the supplier / manufacturer then are you likely to use this search site instead of Google? Well one advantage is that the site does give you ready access to manufacturer’s data / information where you don’t have to annoyingly sign in or register (pet hate).
We had a good discussion on Twitter in the week with Playrite who make artificial sports surfaces and we got into the merits of whether manufacturer’s information should be more readily available without the need for sign ins and registering, you can see that some suppliers are cautious of giving out too much information in case their competitors get hold of it, but lets face it your competitors will have you information regardless. As we specifiers are a fickle bunch we’re easily put off by the login / register, we are more likely to go to a supplier who can provide the info, a cautionary tale is that may not necessarily be the best for the project.
So this begs a question of suppliers on ESI.info. Do you just have a very simple entry or put as much information on the site? I’d opt for the latter as it makes our life much easier.
Thanks Adrian – please do add your comments below folks. I’ve just made a new video interview with architect Matt Franklin about using the ESI.info website – take a look here. – Su
Benedikte Ranum says
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience, Adrian. Finding out more about how architects search for and specify construction products is exactly what we want to do – so that we can help make it a faster, easier and less frustrating process!
Interesting article, and good to see our conversations on Twitter perhaps helped you see a manufacturers side of things. Maybe we are naive in thinking our specs are secret and that our competitors don’t already have access to them and that’s something we’ll take on board in the future.
I’ll also remember your “as we specifiers are a fickle bunch” comments if we do ever consider having a login area in the future!
Finally, I’d just like to ask, are these the only way specifiers search for more info? Library if they have one, Google, then ESI? Looking on ESI (for products in Playrite’s industry) personally I feel like there is a massive gap in products and that often the search terms don’t necessarily tie up if you were looking for something specific.
For example, I search for “needlepunch tennis court” and get straight to Tiger Turf’s page who don’t make needlepunch – you can see how I’d be confused. If they don’t have a company that sells needlepunch tennis courts in my opinion this should come up saying that and having suggestions to other places instead of misleading users into thinking Tiger sell needlepunch.
I’m not trying to take anything away from ESI as I am sure it is an amazing resourse, but hope that users don’t see it as the only resourse our there….
Stephen Bird says
Really good to see to how a new or alternative product search might work from your point for view, Adrian.
As far as ESI.info’s concerned, it helps that you pick up on the question of manufacturers painting as full a picture as possible on their profiles – certainly what we have in mind, what we encourage, and what we work at creating a decent space for.
Worth saying too that it’s always evolving – not “automatically” but as a result of open lines of communication (like this!) going both ways – to specifiers and to manufacturers. And hopefully that helps to shape a resource that’s a good fit for a particular professional community.
Thanks for posting this and also to Lorna for her feedback.
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