Data standardisation is the alpha and omega of free information flow

Modified on March 4, 2021

The Swedish industry organisation of timber manufacturers and wholesalers, Swedish wood, has reached an important milestone in their digital journey.

We met with Christer Green, Product Information Specialist at Swedish Wood, to learn more about their digitalisation efforts.

‘In the past few years, we have done a lot of talking about digitalisation. Now it is time for action’, says Christer Green.

digital twin

‘We have worked on numerous digitalisation projects in the past couple of years’, explains Christer Green.

Swedish Wood has participated in a couple of projects that focus on product and environmental data as part of the Swedish national digitalisation program Smart Built Environment. This is a government financed program that aims to provide support to the public construction sector through research, development and innovation. Smart Built Environment plays a key role in the digitalisation efforts of the Swedish construction industry.

‘But we are also part of many other ongoing projects, both in Sweden and internationally’, says Christer Green. ‘Digitalisation requires a joint effort. Many initiatives have so far only achieved partial success. This is because the main focus has been to resolve a specific need. What we as an industry need to do is look at the big picture.’

‘This is why, we have tried to establish collaboration with many different actors. We need to learn as much as possible about their different needs, their work processes and to figure out how we as suppliers of building materials can fit as best as possible into the information supply chain.’

Digital technology to improve environmental performance

We are currently in the middle of a very exciting project, the Cederhusen project, which involves many different actors and aims at developing ways to improve collaboration in order to work more efficiently with environmental requirements.

The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) has put forward legislation requiring a climate declaration for buildings. This will come into force on 1 January 2022, making the developer responsible for producing a climate declaration for a finished building and submitting it to Boverket.

‘With the Cederhusen project we want to explore how we can gather correct climate data to support decision making and to find out how choices made early on in the process can cut emissions, ‘ explains Christer.

Progress on the Cederhusen project

At this point, we have already mapped the information flow and identified how we can exchange data to achieve the project objectives. Now we are focusing on the type of data that will be part of the information exchange to ensure that it meets the information needs of all the different actors.

‘This is where standardisation comes into play. We envision the information exchange to be entirely automated through the use of API services. ‘

This requires very strict data definitions and stringent data management processes to ensure the quality of the data, and this is why standards are crucial. The data model that we are going to implement are the so-called Data Templates that are developed according to the latest international data management standards EN ISO 23386 & 87.

digital twin

By using Data Templates, we will develop generic construction objects that can be used during early planning and design. During the later stages, actors will use Data Templates to obtain the necessary product information through information exchange with the specific supplier of the chosen material or simply by accessing the digital product catalogue of our organsiation Swedish Wood where manufacturers can provide machine-readable data about their products.

It is also important to note that the GS1 identification standards are a key component in standardising data exchange. By applying these standards, the actors will be able to identify precisely each product or material throughout the entire lifecycle of the built asset and the lifecycle of the product itself.

And of course, at the end of the project all information will be fed through an API to the database of The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) in order to produce the climate declaration which will be required for the certification of the built asset.


Agreeing on data structure and product properties at industry level

‘As I mentioned earlier, data standardisation is absolutely essential, not only at project level but at the national level and in fact, internationally. Creating a proof of concept, such as the Cederhusen project, is only meaningful if we can actually apply these improved processes across the entire industry. ‘

This is why, we are also collaborating with the Swedish Institute for Standards.

As you know, the performance of construction products is heavily regulated at the European level by the Construction Product Regulation. These existing standards are mandatory, and if we want to improve efficiency and facilitate compliance, the next logical step is to have them available in a digital format. This constitutes a solid foundation that we can build upon when it comes to digitising product data, and this is what we are currently looking at together with the Swedish Institute for Standards. This approach is also the main principle behind the Data Templates structure.

‘Digital information should be sourced from existing industry standards, and it is only logical that these standards are made available for the industry in a digital format – through Data Templates.’

We are also taking this a step further. We are working closely with our European peers to agree on the adoption of Data Templates across the European timber manufacturing industry.

‘Digitalisation can produce the desired results only by mass adoption. The construction industry needs a common approach, and this is why standardisation must be at the center of all digital efforts’ .