Enabling industry collaboration through standards

Modified on January 24, 2020

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on past events, goals accomplished and future challenges. And 2019 was a very eventful year for us at Cobuilder. We reached important milestones and took part in significant industry initiatives. In this article, we have put together a brief summary of the most notable events of 2019 that we believe will have an impact on the coming year.

The Cobuilder Platform – standard-based data management

At the beginning of 2019, Cobuilder successfully completed a high scale project to refactor all its legacy products and deliver new solutions as part of an integrated platform. The platform addresses the specific needs of the various construction industry actors while enabling collaboration and seamless data exchange, both internally and with any third-party software.

‘Collaboration among all the actors across the supply chain is crucial for maintaining efficient digital processes. It requires a ‘digital language’ that anyone can understand.’- explains Lars Fredenlund, CEO of Cobuilder.  ‘Businesses must select solutions that address data quality issues holistically and through applying the latest best practice in the sector. This is why, an alignment with current and future standardisation work ensures that actors can take advantage of trusted and agreed digital practices, both now and in the future. At Cobuilder, we have based our business model on the respect and enrichment of current and future industry standards and building regulations.’

digital twin

Members of the Engineering Team at Cobuilder working on the development of the Cobuilder Platform

In addition to developing standard-based solutions for data management, Cobuilder experts are also recognised contributors within the CEN/ISO standardisation work related to digital use of construction data.

‘I am excited to share that a couple of very important BIM standards, EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387, will be published next year. These standards will provide the framework for establishing a ‘common language’ through the use of common data structures, Data Templates. Data Templates will allow all actors in the construction industry to seamlessly exchange construction data across projects, platforms and borders.’ – adds Fredenlund, CEO of Cobuilder.

Digital supply chains in construction

The use of a common digital language is also the stepping stone that will enable the construction industry to take full advantage of the current technological environment. Digital technologies, such as Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, digital twins, etc., have revolutionised the aircraft and the automotive industry, and they will without a doubt shape the future of construction.

An ever-increasing number of industry actors have already recognised the importance of adopting a common approach to digitising the construction sector, and various initiatives have been put into place. One such initiative is the European project DigiPLACE that started in September this year and aims to develop a common European digital platform for construction. 2019 marked also the establishment of the user group Digital Supply Chains in the Built Environment (DSCiBE). This initiative brings standardisation bodies, industry associations, software vendors and industry forward-thinkers together (GS1, buildingSMART, Cobuilder, IBM, CPE, Wienerberger, NCC, SKANSKA and many more) with a mission to implement standard-based processes for digital exchange of construction data and share case studies and best practice with the whole sector.

Lars Fredenlund, CEO of Cobuilder, presenting at the DSCiBE meeting in Munich on 25 November 2019

Anchoring the digital supply chains

Among the notable case studies of the year are Wienerberger AG, one of the leading international suppliers of building materials and infrastructure solutions. In 2019, together with Cobuilder, Wienerberger created a new enterprise-level data model, based on the Data Template structure, that will be implemented across the entire organisation and all its brands in order to ensure consistency and standardisation of their product data. Wienerberger used Cobuilder’s solution goBIM to create their agreed and trusted data models and to future-proof their product data allowing for interoperability and automation. By embedding goBIM’s interface on their website, Wienerberger enables users to interact with their product list and explore products based on properties applicable to the specific market.

As part of Wienerberger AG, the manufacturer of plastic pipes, Pipelife Norway, was one of the first subsidiaries to implement the new enterprise-level data model. In addition to being able to provide their customers with standardised and up-to-date data, Pipelife was able to structure all their product information and establish a clear and efficient process for maintaining it by utilising goBIM as a purpose-based Product Information Management system.

Knut Jøssang, Product Manager Digital Products at Pipelife Norway, presenting the implementation of the new data model

But manufacturers and suppliers are not the only actors realising and harnessing the potential of standardised construction data. NCC, one of the leading construction and property development companies in the Nordic region, has also introduced a new data management process based on standards. The new process has enabled paperless flow of data in internal systems and streamlined the exchange of information with suppliers. In collaboration with Cobuilder, NCC created standardised data for several construction elements using Data Templates as a common data structure and technical language. This allows for seamless exchange of information during specification, cost estimation and purchasing.

Berkeley Modular, the volumetric modular construction arm of Berkeley Group, has also employed Data Templates to collect data from their supply chain for the asset management of their projects. Using Cobuilder’s solution Collaborate, Berkley Modular will be able to set product data and documentation requirements for the materials, components and equipment to be incorporated into the business’ volumetric modular solution.

Our New Year’s Resolution

‘2019 has been a great year. I am happy to see that the entire construction industry is moving in the right direction – getting closer to its digital future. But there is still a lot to be done. Standards and technology might provide the means that the construction sector needs for its digital transformation, but it is us, people, that need to align on a centralised and agreed process.’– says Lars Fredenlund.

Keeping a hand on the pulse of construction is an important part of our work, and 2019 was packed with major industry events which gave us a good perspective on the latest developments in the sector worldwide. This year we attended the International Standards Summit in Beijing, the French event BATIMAT, the 9th International Quality in Construction Summit in Istanbul, the Digital Construction Week in London, BIM World in Munich, just to name a few. Building Information Modeling was one of the most discussed topics where digital technology is concerned. Yet, for many it is still just a useful tool for clash detection during the design stage. One thing we can safely assert:  the level of BIM maturity around the world varies tremendously, and each country and region has its own approach to digitising the construction industry. However, given the complexity and globalisation of construction today, such fragmentation can be a serious hindrance to efficient collaboration and thus will limit dramatically the benefits of digitalisation.

At Cobuilder, we believe that industry collaboration supported by standards is the way forward to leveraging the full potential of digital technology, and we will dedicate our efforts to aiding the industry actors in building the digital future together.