Apr 16 2015

Not all CDEs are created equal

CONJECT CDE diagramThe hype around BIM continues at pace, with the UK Government’s mandate of achieving Level 2 BIM on all central government projects by 2016 fast approaching. We frequently engage with project teams that have been asked to implement ‘BIM’ on both public sector and private sector schemes, without any real objectives of what needs to be achieved in place.

BIM is not all about the design and construction phases of the process. There are savings to be had from the ‘build it twice’ (once virtually and once in reality) approach through the avoidance of clashes and rework, but the greatest savings by far will be realised in the operational phase of the asset…..provided an accurate, up to date data set of what the asset actually consists of is in place at handover.

The term Common Data Environment, or CDE, has appeared in our industry over recent years as a result of documents like the PAS 1192 series. But what does this actually mean and how do you select a CDE that is fit for your requirements?



From my perspective a CDE is just a new term for what we know as a collaboration system and indeed a ‘project extranet’ before that. One difference is that the CDE needs to be able to manage data related to the asset as well as files such as drawings, specifications, reports etc. There are some fundamental requirements for the CDE:


  • Ideally the CDE will be available via the web and hosted in a secure environment ensuring all project participants can access the system to input files and data as required
  • The CDE will have levels of security to ensure project participants only access and amend data and files in the areas of the system that they are permitted to do so
  • Version control – the collation of a robust audit trail and history related to the data and files will be controlled by the CDE


There are other considerations which will undoubtedly help and in some instances are fundamental to the successful outcome of the project (i.e. completed on time, on budget and with a full and comprehensive set of data and files available at handover):


  • Will the CDE support a standard, PAS 1192-2 naming convention and process for managing files and data?
  • Can a schedule of deliverables be developed in the CDE so that deliverables are clearly identified?
  • Is the CDE capable of managing information and data supplied from non-design sources, such as commissioning data for example?
  • Can project participants continue to easily utilise the applications that they need to carry out their role on the project….Revit, Sketchup, Vectorworks, Syncro, Solibri, etc?

These requirements begin to differentiate the generic file sharing applications such as Dropbox from the developed for purpose applications such as CONJECT, 4Projects etc.


Don’t forget time, quality and cost 

However there are also some fundamentals that absolutely have to be considered if the traditional time, cost and quality outcomes are to be successfully achieved. The CDE must facilitate collaborative working but must still provide the level of control required to ensure that the asset complies with the requirements of the original scope and that both the client and the delivery team are provided with, or providing, exactly what they expected to be provided with or delivered. This means that the CDE must still allow the traditional project controls for managing contractual correspondence and communications if the project is to have any chance of a successful outcome.

The CONJECT CDE has been built on the same principles as we have always applied to collaboration and control and can help organisations achieve successful project outcomes.

To find out more about the Common Data Environment read our information sheet

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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