A Common Data Environment (CDE) is a central repository where construction project information is housed. It is the single source of information for the project, used to collect, manage, collaborate, and share information about the project with the project team.
A CDE is updated throughout the project lifecycle and can hold information relating to all aspects of the project, including documents, contracts, reports, bids, and model information. A CDE platform enhances collaboration, increases security and the auditability of data, and streamlines systems and processes used within and between the company and their supply chain.
Construction brings together a wide range of people from different disciplines, and a CDE brings together information from all who work as part of this wider project team. Using a single source of information encourages and ensures collaboration between project members. This guarantees best practice, reduced errors, and avoids duplication. A CDE allows information to be stored in a secure environment with a clear and secure audit trail of all changes and amendments.
Common Data Environment and BIM Compliance
A CDE follows the guidelines as defined in the PAS1192 and BS1192 documentation. Both of these documents outline what organizations working in the AEC sector need to do to reach a BIM Level 2 compliance on their projects.
PAS1192 is part of the PAS series of documents and guidance, which outlines the set of requirements for achieving BIM Level 2 in the AEC industry. The series of PAS documents seek to establish a framework for collaborative working and information requirements. The PAS guidelines are consistently developing, with document reviews occurring every two years.
BS 1192 outlines the method for the development, organization, and management of information. It should be implemented as standard practice as the guidance outlines the best practice approach to collaborative working across the AEC sector. It describes a stringent process for collaboration and a specified naming policy.
As outlined, BIM Level 2 compliance requires projects to work collaboratively and a process by which project members can manage the information specific to their project. This collaboration also needs to be coordinated between various systems and project participants. Therefore, in order to work within a BIM enabled environment a CDE should be a main priority for the project team.
Benefits of a Common Data Environment
A Common Data Environment is a single source of truth for a project. Some of the main advantages of implementing a CDE include:
- Project team members have access to the latest, most up-to-date information
- Information is readily available to all project members at any time or location; for example, in a global project, team members can participate from anywhere in the world
- Shared information is coordinated, reducing the time and effort required to check, version and reissue information
- Project information is continually updated, with all updates and changes logged in a secure audit trail
- Projects are aided in becoming BIM Level 2 compliant
- Any number of documents can be generated from different combinations of model files
- Project team members work collaboratively, and best practices are encouraged and ensured
- Information can be reused to support construction planning, estimating, cost planning, facilities management, and many other downstream activities.
How to implement a Common Data Environment
The ultimate aim of introducing a Common Data Environment is to improve the creation, sharing, and issuing of information to ensure the delivery of a project.
When implementing a CDE there are a number of areas which need to be considered:
One of the first points to consider when implementing a CDE is to know what systems you need to put in place to ensure all project teams have the information and platforms required.
Appoint an information manager
The information manager is responsible for keeping the information generated and shared on the CDE clear and comprehendible.
Establish conventions as early as possible
File naming conventions, for example, should be adopted early on to ensure all project members are using a standard protocol.
Implement a workflow / sign-off process
It provides a clear understanding of what information is a work in progress, what has been shared, and what has been published.
Separate project spaces
It may be necessary to divide the CDE to create separate environments on the central platform to meet the needs of different teams involved in the project.
Workspaces will need to be regularly reviewed to ensure all project members are fulfilling their obligations. This is also necessary to implement improvements if they are required.