AEC Tech News #137

2 Feb, 2005 By: Michael Dakan

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

Whither the National CAD Standard?

NCS v3.1 is released — but is anyone
paying attention?

Not long ago, I was referred to a newly released CAD layer-management tool to see if it was something I might mention in this newsletter. I took a quick look at the Web site and didn't see anything that seemed very significant. The product appeared to be little different from many other tools available to assist with setting the correct layer before drawing something — and it had a glaring problem: It didn't support the U.S. National CAD Standard.

This product was developed in England for use in that market, and the only set of layers available for use by default was the British Standard, which is understandable given its origins. But the company was issuing press releases for the product in the United States, and it seemed strange to me that NCS would not be a featured option. This prompted me to consider the current status of the U.S. NCS in the CAD world and wonder how many firms and individuals are paying attention to NCS developments.

Support from Day One
I have been a proponent of a U.S. National CAD Standard since its inception, because I know how expensive it is for firms to constantly translate and revise drawings they receive from outside their organization. It's always a struggle to get outside consultants and others to conform with a firm's own CAD standards, and the alternative is expensive editing of things such as layer names and properties in order to most effectively use the drawings.

I felt from the beginning that a major impediment to widespread adoption of NCS would be the high cost to purchase the multivolume hard copy to assess it and make a decision about whether to use it. The information hasn't been available in usable electronic form. If we want widespread adoption, a standard like this should be placed in the public domain with free and unlimited access to read and use it as needed. But because the major entities involved with creating the individual parts of the compiled text want to maintain their exclusive right to sell the work that they funded, that hasn't happened.

Off the Radar
I confess that I haven't been paying much attention to the NCS over the past year or so. For about three years, I was part of an NCS e-mail loop and was monitoring daily developments and discussions of the participants in that forum. But I was dropped from the list for some reason about a year ago, so I no longer receive reminders of what's happening at the committee level.

It also occurred to me then that I'd seen little to no discussion about the NCS in public forums and the usual places where such things are debated and discussed. It was a pretty hot topic several years ago, about the time NCS v2 was released.

A visit to the NCS Web site a couple of weeks ago was discouraging. The site has changed scarcely at all in the several years of its existence, and the current pages, with few exceptions, contain the same information about NCS v2 that was there three years ago. I tried to check the price of what's currently available to see if that had changed for the better. I was startled to see that NCS v3 had been released, but then subsequently pulled from availability to wait for v3.1, due shortly thereafter. At the time of my visit, it appeared that you couldn't buy even an old version of NCS. I could find nothing available for purchase on the NCS Web site.

Signs of Life
I'm happy to report now that v3.1 has indeed been published and released, but at the same cost as previous versions. There's very little information to explain what has changed in v3 and v3.1 compared with v2. I guess if you want to find out, you need to spring for a new copy, which remains priced at $350 (or $250 if you are a member of one of the sponsoring organizations; $175 for academia). But at least it appears that something is available for purchase if you're so inclined.

But my question is this: Does anybody care? I'd like to hear from the readers of this newsletter about the status of the National CAD Standard in your office. Do you use it? What parts do you use? Has it been fully integrated with your daily practice and procedures? Are you interested in finding out about NCS v3.1? Please e-mail me with your input.

U.S. National CAD Standard: