A major step forward for BIM Standardisation – EN ISO 23386 published

Modified on December 8, 2020

At Cobuilder we have been focusing a great deal of our communication around the development of standards for BIM data. This is why, we are extremely proud to announce that an important standard that we have been telling you about has been published – this is ISO 23386.

Link to standard

Why is EN ISO 23386 important for me?

The main objective of EN ISO 23386 is to allow quality exchange of construction data between industry players for multiple uses within different digital tools. These digital tools can be the digital model (this is structured data, geometry and documentation, remember?), different digital product configurators, internal PIM systems, FM systems and many more.

Simply put, product/system/component/process characteristics need to be communicated digitally in the current construction industry business environment. In the digital world these characteristics are called ‘properties’ of products.

In order to ensure that these characteristics or properties are machine-readable, versatile and consistent (so we can use them in different software) these properties need to be created through an agreed method. This is exactly what EN ISO 23386 provides.

Let’s look at 3 + 1 bonus important topics that are detailed in this standard:

digital twin

All properties are described by the attributes linked to them

EN ISO 23386 Provides a methodology to define and manage construction object characteristics for digital use.

Important topic 1: Properties and attributes

Here come the specifics. A product property is the smallest building block defining a product for digital use. As the smallest building block, it has to contain some very important ‘meta data’. This ‘meta data’ is called attributes. Examples of attributes are a commonly agreed naming and definition, translations and connections to other concept types such as ‘unit’, ‘value’ etc., constraints on data type and format, versioning history and more. Attributes don’t ‘exist’ if they are not attached to a property, because they are just its descriptors. However, in order to serve the use cases of both information exchange AND data governance the property needs such descriptors – that is established by the EN ISO 23386 standard.

The principle EN ISO 23386 provides is to connect every characteristic (called ‘property’ in the digital world) to attributes. An example of an attribute is a unit or a definition derived from a reference standard within a particular local context. This can also be a unique identifier called a GUID.

digital twin

The Committee CCEN TC/442 Working Group 4 in a working session moderated by Frederic Grand, Head of Working Group 1

All dictionaries following the standard must be able to provide this specific set of attributes as THE DEFINITION of the property. 

Important topic 2: Properties, attributes and data dictionaries

In order to be used in all kinds of systems properties and their relationships to attributes need to be stored somewhere.

This storage is called a data dictionary. There is no universal data dictionary available in the world. The standard for dictionaries ISO 12006-3 (also known as IFD) allows for many organisations to develop their own data dictionaries.

Currently the experts of CEN/TC442/WG4 are making sure that the standards IFD and EN ISO 23386 are aligned to ensure that any dictionary in the world can store properties and their attributes in a consistent way.

Cobuilder has our own data dictionary-like system. It is called Cobuilder Define. Thanks to our keen knowledge of standards, we are among the first organisations to implement the ISO 23386 standard.

Connecting different software, classifications etc. through a common digital language is the key objective of EN ISO 23386.

Important note 3: Properties and governance

Within the ISO 23386 standard the practice of ensuring confidence in the exchanged properties is called data governance. This is a major point of concern in the predecessor of EN ISO 23386 – the French standard PPBIM (XP P07-150).

The process described in both of those standards creates a rigorous system of validation of all digital contents. It defines how properties and property groups shall be established by knowledgeable, trusted experts in a data dictionary, as well as how this content shall be mapped to other data dictionaries.

Within Cobuilder Define, experts make sure that every piece of knowledge, e.g. property or attribute, is defined and referenced by a credible source. Domain experts keep the quality of the knowledge in any given data dictionary by data standardisation, federation, and versioning and help the global community create new knowledge according to best practice.

A bonus point: Properties and data templates

Finally, properties stored within a data dictionary framework are used to answer specific questions. This is done by creating data models that link properties in a specific data structure. These data models are called data templates. Data templates correspond to different purposes – through them you can easily create an assembly of properties that fulfill different conditions set by data requesters.

If a system has the following query ‘what are all performance characteristics needed to CE mark a XX product in the EU’, a data template can be created to solve this need. This data template is, of course, linked to the conceptual body of properties held within the data dictionary structure.

Our very own Espen Schulze (Group VP Research) leads a group within CEN/TC442/WG4 that has been working on a standard to set out the principles and structure for Data Templates for construction objects in full alignment with EN ISO 23386. The standard that deals with the connection between properties and data templates is called prEN ISO 23387. It will be published later in 2020.

Cobuilder and EN ISO 23386

At Cobuilder we have been following and actively participating in the sharing of knowledge related to the exchange and use of construction data in BIM.

This is why, our first priority has always been to implement these standards in our systems. At the core of our systems we have a single principle that is very important in light of the newly available standard EN ISO 23386: data need to be shared, because data is value. In order to help the constructions sector take advantage of digital technologies, we have conceptualised and created a platform that enables the exchange of high-quality data for different purposes.

‘Connecting’ lies at the core of our value proposition and our company slogan. This means that we are committed to connecting industry software and respectively actors through the use of data. We are now one step closer to achieving this when the best practice on creating properties is now available as a standard that all software vendors and value chain actors take advantage of.