Construction Products Regulation: Aligning legislation to data standardisation

In this second article, Cobuilder’s Senior Digital Construction Researcher Rumela Atanasova looks closer at the connection between the standardisation of data management in construction and the proposed changes to the Construction Products Regulation, particularly with regard to Construction Digital Product Passports.

Please note that the revision of the Construction Products Regulation is still in progress and is not yet published as an official legal framework.

The link between Construction Digital Product Passports and Building Information Modelling

In our previous article, we discussed some important aspects of the revision of the Construction Products Regulation, more specifically with regard to the upcoming requirement for Construction Digital Product Passports, and how they relate to achieving EUs sustainability goals and enabling circularity.

An important factor in accomplishing the main objectives with Construction Digital Product Passports is to ensure that construction data can be used across the entire European construction industry. Such interoperability requires a certain level of standardisation when it comes to data modelling and data sharing.

A Digital Product Passport (DPP) is responsible for managing product data throughout its entire lifecycle and making it accessible to different stakeholders along the value chain. This chain can be categorized into two main sections: upstream and downstream. Upstream refers to the value chain involved in the production of the product, including the manufacturer and all their suppliers of raw materials, whereas downstream refers to the value chain involved in the use of the product, such as architects, contractors, etc. In the short term, it is more likely that the DPP initiative will have more impact in upstream scenarios, however, lately a lot of attention is directed towards the downstream utilisation of the DPP and how it can be effectively employed by all participants engaged in downstream scenarios. This is where the connection between Digital Product Passports and Building Information Modelling, or the standards developed by the technical committees ISO/TC 59 SC/13 and CEN/TC 442, becomes particularly evident and impactful. Moreover, the texts of the proposed revision of the CPR, particularly article 81a, says “The construction digital product passport shall be compatible and interoperable with the digital product passport established by the regulation (EU) [Regulation on eco design for sustainable products], without compromising interoperability with Building Information Modelling (BIM) by taking into account the specific characteristics and requirements related to construction products.”

Standardisation is key for interoperability

Now, to explain how alignment between DPP and BIM can be realised, let’s revisit the downstream applications of DPP and delve into the concept of interoperability. For over a decade, the technical committees ISO/TC 59/SC 13 and CEN/TC 442 have dedicated substantial efforts to establish a comprehensive framework of standards, specifications, and reports. The framework aims to facilitate the seamless creation, exchange, and management of information related to construction projects and products within the construction industry. The overarching goal is to enhance efficiency and sustainability in their operations, ultimately resulting in cost reduction for all stakeholders involved.

Data dictionaries and data templates

While the Construction Products Regulation establishes a “common technical language” for construction products, data dictionaries and data templates are crucial to the introduction of a “common digital language”. This common digital language enables interoperability while creating and maintaining a common reusable ontology for construction projects and the whole supply chain involved in these projects.

The standards that are of particular importance for DPPs and the implementation of a common language are EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387.

EN ISO 23386 defines the methodology to describe, author and maintain properties in interconnected data dictionaries. Practically, this adds up to a common governance process for all users, responsible for developing a common digital language. Every new entry in a data dictionary is held up to the same scrutiny, all of them are equally well described. That happens by referencing actual relevant sources (ideally, standards and regulations) and approval by domain experts. This standard is very important to ensure interconnectivity between different data dictionaries in the construction sector, thus enabling one common language for the entire industry.

What the standard EN ISO 23387 adds on top of EN ISO 23386 is context. EN ISO 22387 takes all these data dictionary entries and establishes the logical data model by linking them together via different relationships. This logical data model is called a data template. Data templates are structured digital representations of construction objects (products, building elements, buildings etc.) and their features, or properties. Practically, EN ISO 23387 leverages the requirements set in the CPR and the methodology set in EN ISO 23386 to transform actual legal requirements in a digital human-understandable, machine-readable, interoperable representations of the very standards and regulations they were derived from.

Moreover, some of the latest discussions around the revision of the CPR suggest a possible introduction of a common European data dictionary, which may be the key to achieving a common digital language in the European construction industry.

The road ahead is already charted

The latest amendments to the proposed revision of the Construction Products Regulation establish a direct connection between already published BIM standards for managing construction data and the requirement for developing Construction Digital Product Passports. This provides a clear path for the European construction industry as to the tools that can be utilised when it comes to preparing for the new requirements once they become part of the European legislation for the construction industry.