Standardised data is essential for circular economy

Modified on February 14, 2022

Swedish Wood implements data templates in a project that seeks to explore automated flow of construction object data during planning, design and construction.

In the past year, the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries CEI-Bois, through the initiative TIMBIM, has been working on creating common data models, called data templates, to support the European timber industry through its digital transformation. We met with Christer Green, who is a product information specialist at Swedish Wood and a member of the TIMBIM workgroup, to learn more about the progress of this cross-border collaboration and how the new data structures will be implemented by Swedish Wood as part of their digitalisation efforts.

 Laying the foundation

“TIMBIM has been a very exciting project and a great introduction to the complexities we as an industry have to deal with while addressing the need for digitalisation. Involving experts from different fields is essential to ensure that the data we are digitising today is fit-for-purpose and can serve the needs of all industry stakeholders”, says Christer.

The participants in the TIMBIM initiative have different backgrounds and expertise. This has been of great benefit in such a collaborative effort.

“The colleagues from Switzerland and Austria have in-depth knowledge of the standards developed by buildingSmart International and BIM application in general. This is their world, so to speak, while I come from the GS1 world”, explains Christer. “Our collaboration so far has clearly demonstrated that we need all these different perspectives to accomplish our task – to create a common digital language that can be used across Europe.”

Christer Green, data standardisation, data template, Cobuilder

So far, the TIMBIM collaboration has resulted in the creation of 12 different data templates that enable manufacturers and other construction industry actors to capture and exchange reliable, interoperable data about wood products. The data templates are developed based on 7 different harmonised standards. In addition to the properties sourced from these standards, they also include environmental properties to facilitate the growing need for accurate assessment of environmental impact in construction projects.

The first data templates are now available through a designated webpage which can be accessed from the CEI-Bois website.

“At Swedish Wood, we are awaiting the release of the API integration service that will enable the integration of the data templates within our own database. This is crucial for the success of an important Swedish project that we currently are involved in”, says Christer.

Automated information flow through different product and project lifecycle stages

Swedish Wood has joined a large-scale state funded project, called CIRCLA, that has engaged stakeholders from several industries, academia, and different actors to address the challenges of transitioning from linear to circular economy.

Under the CIRCLA initiative, Swedish Wood is participating with the second phase of the construction project Cederhusen, that Christer discussed with us in an earlier interview.  The project seeks to explore automated information flow of construction object data and identify the specific properties of raw materials and products that are required throughout all construction stages. The goal is to obtain all the necessary information to perform an accurate lifecycle assessment (LCA) and deliver a climate declaration upon project completion to the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket). As of January this year, the submission of such climate declaration is a legal requirement for all new construction projects in Sweden.

The project will explore two different information processes and their dependencies. On the one hand it will identify the data needed to automatically generate and exchange product information as part of a manufacturer’s operational processes by implementing the GS1 Global Data Model as well as to track a specific construction product through several lifecycle stages. From raw material, through manufacturing and transportation until the product is delivered to the construction site. On the other hand, the project will also define the data needed by the client, the design and the construction teams during the planning and construction of the built asset.

“The entire process starts with the data templates developed by CEI-Bois’s TIMBIM initiative”, explains Christer. “Our task will be to analyse the data needed at all points and develop additional properties to ensure that all information needs are met.”

Data quality is paramount

“One of the most important prerequisites for the success of the project is the quality of the data that is created at all stages. Therefore, implementation of all relevant international standards for data management is crucial for the outcome of this pilot project”, says Christer.

The data obtained through the automated information exchange will be incorporated into the manufacturer’s production processes by implementing the GS1 Global Data Model, and any mistakes would be costly. High-quality, trusted data is also essential for all the actors involved in the planning, design and the construction of the built asset.

The data templates created through the TIMBIM initiative are developed in the data dictionary Define. The solution enables actors to implement all relevant international standards for data management in construction, thus ensuring data quality and interoperability. Swedish Wood will also implement Define to further enrich the data templates with all the additional properties that are sourced from national standards and specifications and will be needed throughout the entire information exchange as part of the Cedenhusen project.

“The project is quite complex and certainly very ambitious”, says Christer. “It involves many different stakeholders – not only industry actors, but also software providers.“

The project aims to integrate all systems and automate the information flow as much as possible. This is why the quality of the data is essential to get everything to work. Moreover, it will enable stakeholders to enrich and make full use of the captured information throughout the building’s lifecycle, as well as during deconstruction for the purpose of reuse and recycling of the building elements.

“With this project we are entering into uncharted territory, testing new processes, methods, and even new business models. The time has come to take digitalisation to the next level.”