BIM and construction management: the CDE (Common Data Environment)

BIM management: Common Data Environment (CDE) as a tool to collect, store and organize data and information in a BIM process. Let’s see how it works

The term Building Information Modeling (BIM) describes the process of creating and managing a digital model that include data associated with physical and functional characteristics (structural, energy, geometric, plant engineering, etc.) across a project lifecycle.

The key to well-structured data is the Common Data Environment, an online place for collecting, managing and sharing information amongst a team working on a project. Keeping up with new BIM technologies undoubtley requires a BIM management system for BIM data management and it is a high task for any stakeholder on the market.

The British standard PAS 1192 provides a complete overview of the CDE and it is adopted to enhance interoperability using BIM.

The UK government construction strategy required a fully 3D collaborative BIM environment by 2020  (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) to be applied to a building lifecycle.

The CDE also represents a minimum requirement for achieving level 3 BIM on all national public projects. In this regard, we briefly recall the BIM maturity levels defined by the BIM Task Group:

  • Level 0 – 2D CAD drawing
  • Level 1 – 2D/3D CAD drawing
  • Level 2 – BIM is shared across the various project members and design stages for public works
  • Level 3 – BIM as a dimension dedicated to the entire life-cycle management of a building
BIM and construction management: the CDE (Common Data Environment)

BIM levels i nthe United Kingdom

What is the Common Data Environment (CDE)?

The Common Data Environment (CDE) is the tool used to collect, manage and share model, non-graphical data and all documentation (ie all project information created in a BIM environment) amongst all project team members, facilitating collaboration and avoiding duplication and errors.

The common data environment CDE is therefore the tool used to collect, manage and exchange the model, data and all project documentation (BIM document management) between all team members, facilitating collaboration and helping to avoid duplication and errors.

The identification of the author of each piece of information within the CDE is fundamental. In this way everyone knows who has produced a certain information and what role it has within the process. The individual models produced by different members of the project team thus have a clear paternity and remain separate, even if taking part to the model production process through their specialization and know-how.

BIM levels in the United Kingdom_Bim-management_CDE

BIM platform

This means that the authors’ responsibilities are not changed when integrating their model into the federated model.

Technical standards on CDE

This data sharing platform has been for the first time outlined, in an organic and defined manner, by British technical standards. Specifically, PAS 1192 series standards, where it was named Common Data Environment.


Operating scheme

The CDE must satisfy the following aspects:

  • accessibility, according to pre-established rules by all stakeholders involved in the process;
  • traceability and historical succession of revisions made to the data contained in the model;
  • the support of a wide range of types and formats and their processing;
  • high query flows and ease of access, admission and extrapolation of data (open data exchange protocols);
  • conservation and updating over time;
  • guarantee of confidentiality and security.

Content processing levels

The process of moving the construction industry to ‘full’ collaborative working will be progressive, with distinct and recognisable milestones being defined within that process, in the form of ‘levels’:

  1. L0 – processing / updating phase. The information content is still in the “processing” stage by the specific development team and is therefore not yet available to other operators
  2. L1 – sharing phase. The information content is considered complete only for some disciplines and therefore it is subject to eventual evolution and modification
  3. L2 – publishing phase. The information content is definitive and, although still subject to revision, none of the stakeholders need to make any changes
  4. L3 – archiving phase. It can be further distinguished in L3.V – archived but still “valid”; L3.S – archived but “exceeded”.

The information flow is described graphically, highlighting the evolution of the processing and approval status and indicating the moments relating to verifications and coordination.

Gates and approval status

Closer collaboration is the key to realising the benefits of a BIM approach and, therefore, how information will be delivered across the project lifecycle needs to be carefully considered from the beginning.

4 stages are also defined for the approval status, that can be classified as follows:

  1. To be approved. In this case the information content has not yet addressed the approval process
  2. Approved. Information content has been approved with positive outcome
  3. Approved with comment.Despite having passed the approval process, inadequacies were found that required mandatory interventions for usability for the intended purposes
  4. Not approved. The process has received a negative outcome, requiring a profound revaluation of the information contained.

From this perspective, these information delivery points, referred to as “gates” for the models produced and developed, can be considered key points during the project lifecycle. These stage gates ensure that projects are properly validated and controlled as they develop.

Gates have clearly has been introduced by British PAS.

Click here to know more about the usBIM.platform, the collaborative BIM platform