Common Data Environment (CDE): What you need to know for starters

Understanding a Common Data Environment - CDEThis is an introduction to the world of Common Data Environment (CDE) requirements as defined in the PAS1192 and BS1192 documentation. These documents outline what organisations working in the construction and engineering industries need to do in order to reach a BIM Level 2 compliance on their projects. The aim is that all central government departments in the U.K. will adopt, as a minimum, collaborative Level 2 BIM by 2016. Why? The answer in its simplest form is that projects can be delivered in a far more efficient manner compared to projects following more traditional methods.

By building the asset in a virtual world under the ethos of BIM (Building Information Management), teams can reduce the cost of rework and poorly thought out or executed designs. A simple example of this would be the client, after reviewing the virtual asset, realises that he/she needs something different to what was originally proposed. A CDE provides a platform for these changes to be recorded, distributed and resolved at a lower cost, resulting in a more efficient delivery team and a happier client.

With the deadline date of 2016 looming, BIM has been highly topical in the U.K. for many years. Other countries are also driving change and of course looking to the U.K. for guidance and direction.

What is a Common Data Environment?

A CDE is simply a collaborative environment that everyone uses, following the guidance given under PAS1192 and BS1192, to coordinate information with supply chain members on the project. This article excerpt summarises a CDE very well:  “The Common Data Environment (CDE) is the single source of information for the project, used to collect, manage and disseminate documentation, the graphical model and non-graphical data for the whole project team (i.e. all project information whether created in a BIM environment or in a conventional data format). Creating this single source of information facilitates collaboration between project team members and helps avoid duplication and mistakes”.

Benefits of a Common Data Environment

Some of the benefits of a CDE include:

  • Reducing the time and effort required to check, version and reissue information
  • Extracting selections of the latest approved data from the shared area
  • Reducing coordination checks (ensuring models are correct and issues like clashes between models are not evident) which are a by-product of the detailed design production process
  • Reuse of information to support construction planning, estimating, cost planning, facilities management, and many other downstream activities
  • Reducing the time and cost of producing coordinated information

What is more important than the CDE itself?

People, process and technology.

  • You need upskilled people to plan, implement, manage, and support this way of working. Investment in people will reap huge benefits to ensure success.
  • Employees will be involved in implementing best-practice processes and procedures based on guidance from PAS1192 and BS1192 documentation, which incorporates Employers Information Requirements (EIR). The EIR document outlines, in plain English, what the team will deliver to the client on the project.
  • The technology should be supported by additional software solutions, which will benefit from integration with the CDE. These solutions include design software, clash detection software, cost/change management software, tender software, and asset operation software. The data that is produced should be meaningful so that the client benefits properly from the use of BIM.

Tips for implementing a CDE

Attend a well-structured BIM course such as RICS Certificate in Building Information Modelling (BIM) ‒ Project Management, or take courses through the BRE BIM Academy. These courses delve into the following critical components of a CDE:

  • Start with your requirements.
  • Agree on EIR.
  • Leverage industry standards like PAS1192 and BS1192.
  • Document your BEP (BIM Execution Plan).
  • Select a CDE that matches your needs.
  • Name the CDE within the EIR so all teams are mandated to use it.
  • Ensure that all task/information managers are named and documented.
  • Continuously review everyone is fulfilling their obligations and improvements are put into place if required

It’s a journey that everyone in the industry is making, and it will truly work only with the whole industry on board. There are still teams out there hand-drawing plans, and whilst I love the traditionalists, there is always a far more efficient way of working!

What are your thoughts on the new CDE standards?  Are you prepared?  Are you using a Common Data Environment on your current projects?  We invite you to share your comments below.

Ed Boxall

Ed Boxall

Regional Sales Manager at Aconex
Ed Boxall is a Regional Sales Manager at Aconex, the world's leading collaborative construction management software.
Ed Boxall

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