FAQ about the newly published EN ISO 23386 Standard and their answers

Modified on May 12, 2020

March 2020 saw the arrival of a new standard – EN ISO 23386  which provides the construction industry with а common guidance on developing ‘properties’. This standard is an important milestone towards achieving interoperability in all digital processes in the sector.

Cobuilder’s experts have been following carefully the development of EN ISO 23386 from the very beginning and have built extensive knowledge on the subject. We shared a few useful online materials such as a summary article about the most important aspects of EN ISO 23386 standard as well as information about how the standard can be applied through our integrated platform. Our free webinars about EN ISO 23386 received a lot of interest and numerous inquiries from the participants.

As a result, today we would like to share with you some of the most frequently asked questions about the newly published EN ISO 23386 and provide you with their answers.

Of course, we remain at your disposal, should you have any additional questions. Just contact us and we will gladly expand.

Can you explain the use of the ‘data dictionary’ term in the context of this standard? Are ‘data dictionaries’ independent of vendor-specific systems?

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    There are three important things to note with the application of EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387 standards:

    1) The governance process – to support a data dictionary there is a need for additional infrastructure and people who will perform data governance. So, while data dictionaries are independent, an expert must analyse the inputs and support the process from a technical perspective. So, we cannot escape vendors fully;

    2) The data itself (Properties and Data Templates) is tied to a specific vendor. This would not be the case if standards were followed accurately. The goal of these documents is to make product and asset data open for all actors and applications;

    3) Someone has to set up the dictionaries anyway. From what we’ve seen so far, both professional organisations and national governments, who are interested in building their own data dictionaries with properties, subcontract this to vendors. Once again, if the standards are followed correctly, the data will be open.

    Cobie and IFC are centered around buildings. While there are some initiatives in place to expand these for infrastructure projects the progress has been very slow. Are data dictionaries being built to accommodate infrastructure projects at the same rate as buildings?

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      The approach by the EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 233887 standard is so open that it does not matter whether we are talking about buildings, infrastructure, or any other kind of installation. The important thing here is the data structure and that what it describes is captured by the attributes.

      The data template approach is much faster than what IFC can capture and much more flexible. It relies on the industry itself to identify what properties are needed for example for a highway or a bridge, to develop those properties and push them in the data dictionary. Then this can be referred by a software system and can be used in practice. So, the data template approach is better than the existing framework and more flexible to reflect every niche in the construction market, e.g. nuclear powerplants, specialized manufacturers, and many others.

      Who is a domain expert? Is it someone within Cobuilder?

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        The answer to this question depends on the data dictionary solution. In the case of Cobuilder Define, which is part of our software platform and is fully aligned with the methodology of EN ISO 23386 – yes, the domain expert is within our organization. These domain experts are engineers and architects, who are trained to understand this language, read standards and research regulations. Other data dictionary solutions will have their own domain experts. However, they must be engineers, architects and professionals from the construction business, who understand the construction matter. What should probably come next, is a guideline ensuring that these experts use the same assessment processes and take similar decisions, regardless of which data dictionary employs them.

        Are the EN ISO 23386 & 7 standards applicable to geometry data? Is there a guideline on how BIM models of products should be developed?

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          The EN ISO 23386 standard can be used to model geometry data, hence data templates according to EN ISO 23387 can also contain such data. However, it is still an ongoing discussion of whether geometry should be handled this way. IFC and most of the BIM tools already manage geometry so there is no need on that end. If you are a manufacturer and would like to manage product information in a centralised way, handling geometry data is no different than any other kind of data.

          Regarding the guidelines – such should come, but not for “BIM models of products”. Currently, CEN/TC 442 is working on several documents that explain how to create data templates from existing sources, i.e. how to model data for products and assets. Once we capture the correct data, having it in a Building Information Model (BIM) should be a software implementation rather than a guideline on how to do it.

          Is the Data dictionary owned by Cobuilder?

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            The EN ISO 23386 standard does not consider a single dictionary, but a network of multiple interconnected dictionaries. Cobuilder Define is a service that supports the creation and interconnection of data dictionaries and it is fully aligned with the provisions of EN ISO 23386 standard. The clients of Cobuilder Define own their dictionaries and share the responsibility of data governance. Cobuilder International as a company also owns a dictionary in Define and is directly responsible for the quality of data in it, as it is used to provide services to our customers. Authorities, such as professional organisations and national governments, must also come up with their own ‘23386-compliant’ dictionaries and disseminate their requirements.

            Can other software vendors propose PDT’s and Properties, and how are these collections stored and published?

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              Anyone, including software vendors, can propose Properties and Data Templates (DTs). As long as these are not duplicated or already covered by pre-existing content and are based on credible sources that data governance process can evaluate – they will be published in the dictionary and could be used by everyone. This is according to the EN ISO 23386 standard. In Cobuilder Define we have additional functionality for a “private” dictionary that gives the users a bit more freedom to create Properties and DTs, that are not available to everyone.

              Who owns the Data templates (DTs)? Could DTs be used by all software developers and avoid re-creating the same DT’s?

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                The ownership of a Data template or a Property is still a subject of research and discussions. It makes sense that the party, which creates a Data template or a Property to own both the responsibility and the benefits coming from their use. However, as the use of open data templates hasn’t been enough widely spread, it is difficult to give a conclusive answer. When enough knowledge and experience is gathered on this matter, Cobuilder will be among the first to share it.

                On the second question: This is precisely one of the goals of the EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387 standards – to avoid re-creating the same DTs and Properties by re-using the existing knowledge and being interconnected.

                What type of attributes has a manufacturer to deliver? And what is the relation of these attributes to the ones required by Cobie/ IFC?

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                  There is no need for a manufacturer to focus efforts on attributes. The attributes are going to be filled in (partially) by the Data Dictionary. Some of them are automatically generated – like the creation date and the validation date of the property. Other attributes have to be provided by the author, the person who is requesting the new property. Thus, the author has to name the attributes and provide a credible source. Properties from Cobie, IFC and so on – those are going to be represented as properties themselves. So, if you want to fill in certain fields for a Cobie spreadsheet, they should exist as properties in such a data dictionary.
                  To sum it up: what a manufacturer cares about are the properties, not the attributes, as he is going to use the properties. The attributes are what enable the manufacturer`s software solution to access a property and read and manage the data for a property.

                  What is the attitude towards using the semantic web and linked data technologies to create data templates?

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                    Properties and data templates could be expressed as linked data. As we expect to end up with multiple dictionaries and a large number of properties and DTs, we need to leverage the benefits of linked data. CEN/TC 442 has also started exploring this matter. However, it will take a couple of years for the standardization activities to take a specific direction.