Ideally a CDE should operate in a client’s management system, accessible by the whole project team, which supports version control and audit trails that have permission control access to data according to the status of the data and which provides tools to support design coordination.
A Windows server network folder or FTP setup (eg. the J drive) is a poor foundation for a CDE. Version control and audit trails are manually managed and do not easily allow access by third parties. Often the ‘WIP area is located on the J drive whilst the project-wide ‘Shared’ area is hosted externally and manually mirrored to the J drive.
Standard CDE BIM Level 1 requirements
A CDE protocol is a common standard for establishing a standard document numbering, formatting and handling for project documents and data on the project.
The intention of a CDE is to establish a common way of handling, collecting, filing and storing information and data related to projects across a business. Once implemented, this solution will provide a collaborative platform that will be used to implement comprehensive and automated reporting on projects at a project and business unit level. It will also provide the platform for the future development of our project information management systems that can integrated directly into a CAFM system.
A secondary aim is to achieve a high level of data and documentation quality and as such improve the quality of the engineering and construction process and reduce rework
Project “standard method and procedure” should be developed agreed and committed to by all the relevant parties involved in the project at the pre-construction contract stage.
A “Common Data Environment” (CDE) approach allows information to be shared between all members of the project team, for example a project extranet or electronic document management system.
- Agree as early as possible which data and information should be exchanged, when, and in what format. Data Exchange processes should be established within the BIM Execution Plan (BEP):
- Agree the version of format to be used for data exchange.
- Establish procedures to test, monitor and report the accuracy of data transfer, and conduct initial data transfer trials.
- Share early, share often – before design is finalised using the ‘fit for coordination’ status and a collaborative review process. This will produce a better coordinated design and allow problems and opportunities to be identified and resolved earlier than in traditional approaches.
- Common agreed standards for document and model referencing.
- Automated version control.
- Document status.
- Distribution groups and rules. (Transmittal workflows.)
- Model origins, grids and layers.
- Processes for checking and validation.
- Model federation and collaborative design review.
- Delivery to contractor and wider team.
- Audit trails.
- Common storage area/s for data shared by the design team and with the contractor and wider team.
Minimum requirements for a Common Data Environment standard:
- Provides a viewer function to preview documents without the client needing to install software on the users PC.
- The ability for document mark up of annotations etc. is available in your system (either within your system or with third party software.)
- Ability for external parties to access and view documents issued to them if they are not registered on the system (eg. Supply Chain for tender purposes.)
- The facility for documents submitted from external parties to be uploaded and catalogued in the system (eg. centralised email address where documents/emails are sent to a designated location that requires manual intervention to process it.)
- Allow the ability for more than one person to work or collaborate on the same document (eg. MS Word/Excel) at the same time in the system. This includes any limitations that the system may have.
- Allow the ability to store and collaborate on the 3D BIM models (IFC) and 2D drawings (DWG/ PDF.)
- System allows the uploading/communication of large and/or multiple documents, to run in the background, allowing a user to continue working in other areas of the system. This includes any time out constraints that may impact the number of documents for upload. Disruption of uploads or communications can resume from where it was disrupted, rather than from the beginning. If conflicts occur due to disruptions, the system provides the ability to resolve conflicts with duplicate uploads (eg. manual intervention.)
- The system can compare documents (different revisions) side by side so a user can see changes etc. This applies to all commonly used file format such as MS Office files, PDF, Drawing files.
- System offers multiple methods of interfacing to search and retrieve information.
- The online system must be able to function on mobile devices, allowing data capture in the field, or be linked via an application to facilitate data capture and forms used in the field.
- Offline functionality is a value-added option and should be in place so work can continue when there is no signal or work is done off site etc. Including – the continual capture of data whilst offline. If connection to the mobile device is disrupted during data entry, any work to date must able to be saved locally on the device.
- Re-establishment of a connection allows data saved locally (on the mobile device) to be synchronised back to the system/server.
- Users can quickly create staging and collaboration areas for documents as they are being worked on. Once reviewed and approved, documents can be moved or linked to publishing folders for wider spread distribution.
- Users participating in review or approval workflows are provided with a personalised task list for all tasks assigned to them. Users can see at a glance their tasks, a description of the work to be done, who assigned the task and when it needs to be completed.
- System allows cross-functional and inter-business level reporting. This includes dashboard or analytical reporting either within the system or from a third party product that is compatible with your system.
These minimum requirements described for the use of a CDE are aligned to the UK BS1192 series of ‘BIM’ standards. Users can download the Common Data Environment Protocol Document from the BIM Institute BIM Library.