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CDE and openCDE: The Future of Collaboration in BIM

An openCDE is a web-service-based technology aiming to directly connect software applications to the Common Data Environment. Discover how openCDE transforms BIM project management.

The Essential Foundation for BIM Collaboration

A Common Data Environment (CDE) is a centralized platform for collecting, managing, and sharing data and information within a construction project. It is the digital nervous system of a BIM project: facilitating collaboration, improving communication among stakeholders, and ensuring everyone works with the most updated document versions. The CDE supports process standardization, workflow management, and contributes to project efficiency and accuracy.


The history of CDE dates back to 2007 when the British standard PAS 1192 first described its function and structure. Initially, collaboration was based on file sharing, but today ISO 19650 defines the CDE as the central component of a Project Information Model (PIM) where all project information is collected, exchanged, and transferred for project completion.

Advanced Functions of CDE

Today’s available CDEs offer a significantly wider range of functions, including project-related communication, file and plan exchange, model and comment exchange, and visualization functionality. However, one of the weaknesses of CDEs is the high effort required for information provision, which often occurs manually (Read here to find out “What are the advantages of CDE?“).

Objectives and Criteria of a CDE

The main objectives of a CDE are to create a single data environment for a project and its team or a data environment for a complete portfolio of various projects and their teams. This ensures rapid information availability, data security, and uniform structuring of project information.

It is also important to emphasize that CDEs must adhere to rigorous data protection criteria and ensure compliance with privacy laws. Often, these systems are hosted on vendor servers to ensure security and availability, and customers must pay attention to these aspects when choosing a CDE.

Workflow BIM e CDE

BIM and CDE workflow

The Future with openCDE

The use of web-service-based technologies to connect software applications to CDEs is already revolutionizing the construction industry, drastically reducing the required effort.

An openCDE approach eliminates the need for manual intervention and allows only changes to be transferred, optimizing data volume and transfer time. This means that designers and other team members no longer have to worry about manually uploading documents, plans, models (IFC), and model comments (BCF) to the CDE because openCDE automates much of this process.

The technology underlying openCDE is based on web-driven database services. This means that information is managed more efficiently and accurately: rather than having to upload and declare each individual item, openCDE can monitor changes made to the data and transfer only the changes themselves. This not only significantly reduces the effort required but also the potential for human errors.

Another key advantage of openCDE is its ability to synchronize BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) issues more efficiently. This means that issues and problems can be identified, reported, and resolved more quickly and accurately, improving communication and BIM project management.

Introduction to openCDE

openCDE represents a significant breakthrough in the Building Information Modeling (BIM) industry. This technology is being developed to overcome the challenges presented by traditional CDE systems, aiming for greater automation and integration. openCDE is not just a platform: it is an ecosystem promising to enhance data management and collaboration among different software and stakeholders involved in a construction project.

What is openCDE?

openCDE is a family of standards for providing connectivity and open communication between Common Data Environment platforms and BIM tools for the building and infrastructure sectors in the construction resources industry.

As anticipated, it is a web-service-based technology that aims to directly connect software applications to the Common Data Environment; unlike traditional CDEs, which rely on a file management approach, an openCDE operates at a service level, facilitating the exchange of data and information directly between applications without the need for manual interventions for file uploading or updating.

The OpenCDE is an initiative by buildingSMART International aimed at improving interoperability in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) software ecosystem through specific domain-specific APIs: API Foundations, API Documents, and BIM Collaboration Format (BCF).


Advantages of openCDE

  1. Improved automation
  2. Simpler communication
  3. Data efficiency

The openCDE reduces the need for manual interventions to upload and update data, minimizing errors and enabling time savings. Furthermore, with the ability to exchange data and information in real-time, communication between project teams becomes smoother and more immediate. Finally, by reducing the volume of transferred data and optimizing transfer times, openCDE makes project management faster and more responsive.

How Does openCDE Work?

openCDE works through a series of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that enable connection and communication between different BIM applications and the CDE. These APIs facilitate the exchange of data and information such as IFC models, BCF comments, and more, in a standardized format that can be easily interpreted and used by different software platforms.

The openCDE Documents API is designed to simplify the process of downloading and uploading files in a common data environment (CDE). This specification details the selection or opening, downloading, and uploading of files. When supported by both the client and the server, it provides an integrated and user-friendly way to synchronize documents stored in the cloud directly from local applications.

The API is based on a set of common conventions and services, known as the OpenCDE Foundation API, which are shared among all OpenCDE APIs and provide detailed step-by-step examples for implementation.

Implementation in the Industry and Future Challenges

Already implemented in platforms like usBIM.platform, an openCDE is proving its value in facilitating real-time communication and collaboration. With the adoption of this technology, significant workflow optimizations, greater data consistency, and overall better project management are expected.

However, despite the considerable advantages, implementing an openCDE presents challenges such as the need for standardization among different software and managing sensitive data security. Additionally, transitioning from traditional CDE systems to openCDE requires a mindset shift and skills upgrading for industry professionals.


The openCDE represents the future of collaboration in BIM, promising to radically transform how data and information are managed and shared in construction projects. With its ability to simplify communication, improve efficiency, and reduce errors, the openCDE is opening new frontiers for the construction industry, guiding the sector towards a more integrated and automated future.

Discover the openCDE for seamless communication and technological barriers-free among all components of your team. Find out more about usBIM.platform: the best way to manage the BIM process in openBIM entirely in the cloud, sharing files of any format and size.