The Power of Common Data


Have you ever thought how to manage dozens of projects information produced daily by your project team and find relevant information in an unstructured, poorly coordinated container?

TheB1M (2016) explains that inefficiency in the construction sector increases costs by 20-25%. Taking care of project data and organising them in a clear way will eliminate these wastes in delivering process and save time and cost. This process of a well-structured data is called the Common Data Environment (CDE). CDE's are an online place for managing, collecting and sharing information among team working on a project. Depending on the type and size of project you are working on, a CDE could take on diverse forms. It may be an extranet, a cloud-based system, or a project server (TheB1M, 2016).

The great thing about this CDE's is that it is a digital space allowing all team members to access these data in standardised forms.

When CDE's are used in an efficient way they can be used to build an accurate and well- structured data set, which is sometimes called Project Information Model (PIM). Then, these data are verified to make sure that they are correct, they can be used in the asset management phase, which entails using an Asset Information Model (AIM). When the project ends, the published information is stored in the archive area for future reference and use.

So, when we speak about the benefits of CDE to the AEC industry, what are these? TheBIMHub (2014) explains them as follows:

  • By reducing or eliminating the checking, revision and reissues cycle
  • Project team members can extract selections of the latest approved data from the shared area of the CDE
  • There is a reduced need for coordination checks because coordination is a by-product of the detailed design production process
  • Information can subsequently be used for construction planning, estimating, cost planning, facilities management and many other downstream activities
  • Shared information reduces the time and costs in producing coordinated information.

Considering these significant advantages, we can see that the UK government has realised the importance of Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a revolution in the delivery of construction projects because BIM has helped the AEC industry to move from inefficient paper-based processes towards the continuous stream of structured data between teams so as to deliver valuable assets. It may be summed up in simple words “creating a shared knowledge resource”.  TheBIMHub (2014).

The government CDE strategy is divided into four levels of BIM as follows:

  • Level 0 Unmanaged 2D CAD, with data exchanged in paper or electronic paper form
  • Level 1 Managed CAD in 2D or 3D format, with data shared via a collaborative tool to provide a CDE with a standardised approach to the data structure and format.
  • Level 2 Managed a 3D environment where each discipline creates its models, and all project information are shared electronically in a CDE.
  • Level 3 Operated a fully integrated, collaborative process with models shared between the project team on a web-enabled BIM hub, compliant with the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) open data standard.

The UK government believes that its plans will help in driving the quality of the data that is being gathered. The UK government should seek to drive up the quality of data collected throughout the BIM Level 2 processes by answering whether to focus on “validate” or “verify”.

TheBIMHub (2014) defines validation in the BIM context as the process of confirming that data is present, sensible and meaningful. On the contrary, verification is the process of confirming that data (and copies of it) is correct as shown in Figure 1.

TheBIMHub (2014) believes that we should be erring toward data verification rather than just validation because verifying is clearly a much bigger job than validating. While there are tools available that can automatically validate data and check that it is all in place, actually verifying that it all makes sense is a bigger task completely.


Confirming appropriate and accurate data is critical to the success of BIM as we move toward Level 3 and beyond. Thus, we must think in outside validation and verification terms and get to the heart of what we are ultimately trying to achieve from the use of BIM. The question for experts, therefore, is what is intended for this new industry target. Also, how is software going to help support these changes?


Baranowski, A. (2016). 2015-16 PDE4302 Operational BIM Management. [online] Mdx.mrooms.net. Available at: http://mdx.mrooms.net/mod/hsuforum/discuss.php?d=19829  [Accessed: 25 Nov. 2016].

The B1M (2016) What is a common data environment? [online] http://www.theb1m.com/video/what-is-a-common-data-environment  [Accessed: 27 November 2016].

Bentley Systems (2016) Beyond BIM level 2 – plenty of data; But is it of any use? [online] https://thebimhub.com/2016/11/08/beyond-bim-level-2-plenty-of-data-but-is-it-of-a-2/#.WDCiBfl96Uk  [Accessed: 28 November 2016].

TheBIMHub (2014) BIM and the common data environment. [online] https://thebimhub.com/2014/11/02/bim-and-the-common-data-environment/#.WDCf4Pl96Ul  [Accessed: 29 November 2016].

Climate.be. (2016). Introduction to climate dynamics and climate modelling - Verification, validation, testing. [online] Available at: http://www.climate.be/textbook/chapter3_node22.xml  [Accessed: 6 Dec. 2016].