What is a Common Data Environment (CDE), and how is it used?

Construction projects generate a vast amount of data that is sent to many stakeholders via a range of technologies and methods. Moreover, when reducing rework and waste in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, having a shared data environment is crucial.

(BIM) workflow

A typical construction project creates a massive amount of data. From a simple retrofit to a 100-acre tech campus, untold data must be created and shared throughout any project. So, many teams struggle to manage and disseminate this information effectively. Poor management, which inevitably occurs when a company lacks a system, can result in errors, rework, missed deadlines, cost overruns, hurt feelings, and even legal action. A standard data environment, in other words, is a digital hub where information is collected as part of a formal building information modelling (BIM) workflow.

What is the definition of a typical data environment?

A typical data environment (CDE) is a browser-based application that allows for the centralized storage, access, and exchange of all project data.

It can include things like:

  • Models of BIM in the past
  • Contracts
  • Estimates
  • Reports
  • Material specs in great detail
  • Details of the installation
  • And there’s more.

Multidisciplinary project stakeholders can use a computer, mobile phone, tablet, or field machines to access the CDE anywhere.

CDEs are employed in many construction projects, including heavy civil and commercial construction. These large-scale construction projects rely on the flow of massive amounts of data and include a complicated web of parties. A CDE allows this communication by giving everyone real-time project data, from designers to contractors to owners.

Why is a Common Data Environment Required for Construction Projects?

A typical data environment is the one source of truth for all stakeholders.

Survey data is collected before any design work begins. The amount of information and people involved in a project grows exponentially.

Architects, designers, engineers, and contractors gather and share data to create a constructible model and record relevant project information. Subcontractors rely on the model for their deliverables, and they may make design changes. Machine guidance systems in the field can link to the model and communicate as-built data and task statuses back to the database.

These operations are connected through the CDE, which serves as a single source of truth for all project data.

Using a shared data environment prevents data from becoming lost or incomplete.

Furthermore, duplication of effort, inaccuracies, and a lack of communication between stakeholders are all too typical in the construction industry. Designers and contractors, for example, frequently recreate their versions of models and work with their software tools.

The International Foundation Class (IFC) file formats are designed to bridge this gap by allowing models to be read by any software, although they do so at completeness. A large amount of data is lost when design files are converted to IFC format. Non-design items, such as contracts and estimates, may also be stored in numerous systems, making file exchange more time-consuming and error-prone than necessary.

Companies in the construction industry use a shared data environment to collect data for analytics.

Improved productivity and data analytics skills result from this access, which can help AEC stakeholders create value and be more competitive. According to a Dodge Data and Analytics survey, contractors think that more robust data gathering, analysis, and reporting skills substantially impact their ability to gain new employment. The CDE lays the groundwork for such enhanced talents.

Communal Data Environments: Common Misconceptions

Misconception #1: Using a Common Data Environment Is Too Difficult to Be Effective.

CDE adoption is frequently hampered by the issues that make technology adoption difficult in construction: a lack of competence, aversion to change, and cultural obstacles. There’s a common misconception that implementing and using CDEs is difficult. The truth, however, is quite the contrary. Most CDEs are simple, and data centralization streamlines users’ day-to-day processes.

 (Misconception #2) Common Data Environments Data Integrity is being harmed.

Another prevalent misperception regarding CDEs can compromise your data’s integrity. Many consumers believe that in making data more portable, some information will inevitably be lost. Most CDs aren’t genuinely open or data agnostic, and this is true. On the other hand, a competent CDE can provide the same degree of data quality regardless of where it came from. Otherwise, any attempts to maximize BIM will be thwarted.

Misconception #3: Don’t think too small when it comes to a common data environment.

As the construction industry continues to be disrupted by business digitization, labour shortages, new technologies, and the pandemic, AEC businesses must provide more excellent value to clients.

Connected construction is often regarded as the most effective approach for companies to stay competitive while utilizing digital technologies. A shared data environment is a crucial first step toward becoming a data-driven company.

The CDE, for example, eliminates the need for subcontractors, contractors, and building/project managers to report progress twice. All parties have real-time access to the same data, lowering the chances of miscommunications and errors.

Connected construction

Connected construction also connects the construction and operational worlds. Automated data aggregation is possible with a CDE that supports bidirectional data flow between the CDE and the various systems and tools engaged in the project. The CDE is constantly given machine control, surveying data, and photogrammetry data. That information may then be utilized to build a contractor in London and a digital twin of the asset, allowing operators to make better maintenance and upgrade decisions.

  • Improve processes by maximizing time and resources.
  • To improve project performance, use real-time progress data.
  • Extend the life of your equipment by better controlling your construction assets.
  • Streamline design modifications by improving procurement and resource access.
  • Realize the Potential of Project Data + Improve Construction Outcomes with a Shared Data Environment

With so much information, people, and processes moving around on a vast construction project, it’s critical to pick a CDE that can do more than just store data. So, throughout the lifecycle of an asset, the CDE can close the information loop for all stakeholders involved. Data management is only the beginning.

Contractors in London share seven best practices for getting the most out of a CDE.

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