Sep 17 2014

What is the Common Data Environment?

CDEIt seems a long time since UK construction professionals first started to talk about the common data environment.

The principle of a shared ‘single version of the truth’ has been around since at least the year 2000, when Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) construction collaboration platforms were first available. The core purpose of these systems was creating a central repository of documents (drawings, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and various other software output files).


BIM shifts focus to data
The more recent focus on building information modelling (BIM) has helped concentrate people’s minds beyond systems to manage electronic documents. Instead, discussions are more likely to be about how we manage the “I” in BIM – the information, or, more specifically, the data at the heart of information exchanges.

The key stimulus for this was the 2011 publication by the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) of a report by the Government Construction Clients Board on building information modelling and management, later complemented by the UK Government Construction Strategy. Among many other changes, the UK industry was to embark on a transition to, first ‘Level 2’ BIM and then ‘Level 3’ integrated BIM, and the BIS document anticipated that SaaS collaboration platforms would be used to help share BIM-generated information.

As mentioned, instead of managing files, collaborators will increasingly be managing the core data of model files. Initially, for Level 2 purposes, this will involve multiple models, combined into a ‘federated model’. There is an implied expectation that the industry will migrate towards iBIM, where a single shared version of the truth is created and progressively improved throughout project delivery to the point where the BIM-generated data is then taken over by the owner/operator of the built asset for future management purposes (Soft Landings).


The Common Data Environment (CDE) provides a set of guidelines for organising information
The common data environment concept developed between the initial emergence of SaaS collaboration platforms and, later, the UK’s BIM push. It has been around since at least 2007, when the BS1192:2007 standard was published, building on the outputs of the UK Construction Product Information Committee’s (CPIC) Avanti research programme.

This aimed to overcome issues regarding the accuracy, ambiguity and completeness of construction design information. Anticipating the emergence of BIM, it encouraged the use of centralised information management platforms, and recommended use of CAD information generated with the same origin, orientation and scale, and with agreed file naming, numbering and layering conventions.  CONJECT applied these principles when BS1192:2007 was released, enhancing its functionality around auto naming conventions and status controls to suit,  advocating authoring information in a common data environment.  Much of this has since become common practice with respect to 2D information; the UK architecture, engineering and construction industry is now engaged in developing and applying these principles to the ‘Level 2’ BIM world, and new standards have been proposed.

Foremost among these is PAS1192-2, published last year, which specifies information management processes for the delivery phase (from strategic identification of need through to asset handover) of construction projects using BIM. Extending the BS1192:2007 principles, it prescribes the shared use of individually authored models in a common data environment (CDE), being a single source of information for any given project, used to collect, manage and disseminate all relevant approved project documents for multi-disciplinary teams. Use of a CDE will also require adherence to core standards enabling interoperability of data; CONJECT is one of many industry advocates of an Open BIM approach which avoids reliance on proprietary BIM authoring software and its associated file formats. All of our implementations include a CDE which can be configured for sharing files, data or information relating to contract or cost management. In some instances this a PAS1192-2 compliant configuration and in others it is bespoke to the clients requirements for information management.

Last week, CONJECT client ISG announced it was trialling the effectiveness of a comprehensive BIM process at Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s has worked with CONJECT since 2000, and, with ISG, is using intelligent 3D modelling on a 107,000 sq. ft. store in Thanet, Kent. CONJECT is providing its PAS1192-2 compliant CDE to support this this project.


Related blogs:

Are asset owners and the construction industry really ready for “Big Data”?

Are you ready for Soft Landings?

The role of PAS1192-3 in optimising asset management

CONJECT Project Control & NEC3 gets G-Cloud 5 approval

About the author

Duncan Kneller

Duncan Kneller is director of sales at Conject. He joined the company in 2000 and quickly established himself as a key sales and account manager, before taking on the sales director role in 2011. Duncan has also spearheaded the company's cycling fund-raising events in recent years.

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