A Common Data Environment Can Transform Construction

A "common data environment" is a collaborative online platform where users can store, share and manage project information. This structured approach can increase efficiency, save money and deliver projects on schedule.
By Anastasios Koutsogiannis
March 31, 2020

Construction projects can be complicated to manage. They include logistics, manpower, mechanization, material management and much more. Collecting and harnessing project data to manage these aspects on a construction project can be difficult to obtain. Creating a structured approach to project data can help increase efficiency, save money and help deliver projects on schedule. One way to achieve this is with a common data environment (CDE).

What is a Common Data Environment?

CDE is a collaborative online platform where users can store, share and manage all information related to a specific project. A CDE can come in different forms, depending on project type and scope. It can be a private network, a cloud-based platform or a project server.

A typical data environment is a digital space that all project team members have access to. This space provides collaborative tools and help users manage critical information. This digital hub brings together information as a part of a Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflow. CDE was first used in the UK BIM 2 standards. Its wide use has extended away from BIM information only to include change orders, scheduling, project contracts and more.

The path to standardization

In the modern construction industry, there are many different processes and workflows and the standards for their evaluation and execution are also different. The absence of standardization may lead to miscommunication between departments or project stakeholders. A single source of truth and information on a project will lead to standardization. With CDE, team members can access the latest plans, data and changes. When everyone is on the same page with standards, there will be less clutter and more efficiency.

Improved collaboration

Various digital technologies are used in modern business. Many have the capability to improve collaboration if organizations use them in the right way. With CDE systems in place, all relevant information and project data is stored and updated in a single centralized location. When all teams and employees use the same system, they will learn all the options it provides, such as sharing information, making changes in project plans and keeping track of the other team’s performance.

Improves quality and efficiency

A common data environment makes it easy to handle data, download it from the platform or add relevant project information. Everyone involved in the project knows where to look for critical information. All of the important data is kept on the platform, and when needed, project agents can easily access it and make decisions based on those precious pieces of information.

Such an approach could result in faster decision-making and fewer interruptions onsite. At the same time, there is no need to recreate or input data manually, which also leads to improved quality of work.

Better risk management

Having a clear overview of the project landscape leads to predictability and constant improvements. That’s the first step towards a standardized and profitable building process. Having all the relevant project data in hand allows the team to predict potential issues and prepare for them in advance. Transparency is essential when it comes to construction projects, and with CDE, everyone involved can see previous steps, leaving no room for legal conflicts and costly misunderstandings.

Accessibility and Flexibility

The majority of CDE platforms today are cloud-based, which means that anyone (with permission) can access the platform with a device connected to the internet.

Data is one of the most valuable assets in modern business, and this includes the construction industry. A data-driven approach allows contractors to utilize and manage information and be used as the catalyst for advanced technologies such as AI to improve processes and accelerate delivery.

by Anastasios Koutsogiannis
Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at LetsBuild, the end-to-end digital platform for the construction phase.

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