Standardising Construction Product Data
To help actors on their digital journey, we have put together a brief overview of some of the most important standards for managing construction product data.
Data management standards are paramount for the digital transformation of the construction industry. Defining and applying common ways of managing data is the bedrock for free data flow, automation and adoption of the latest digital technologies, such as internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc. Moreover, implementing industry best practice as part of the data management strategy will help organisations improve their internal processes, reduce time and costs, and last but not least – tackle environmental objectives in an efficient way.
In this overview, we have defined two general groups of standards one should look at: process standards and product standards. These define the ‘hows’ and ‘whats’ of construction product data in today’s digital era.
CEN 442 – BIM Standards in the EU
– process standards
Driven by the fast shifts towards digitalisation in the construction industry, the EU has set up a programme to develop and define standards for BIM (Building Information Modelling) across all European countries.
The technical committee 442 was established to take charge of the standardisation work regarding all information in the built environment. The structure of the technical committee 442 is as follows:
|CEN/TC 442/WG 1||Terminology|
|CEN/TC 442/WG 2||Exchange information|
|CEN/TC 442/WG 3||Information Delivery Specification|
|CEN/TC 442/WG 4||Support Data Dictionaries|
|CEN/TC 442/WG 5||Chairperson’s Advisory Group|
Among the first standards adopted by the European standardisation body CEN under the careful work of the technical committee 442 were the three openBIM standards. In October 2016 the buildingSMART International standards put forward by CEN/TC 442: IFD (ISO 12006-3:2007), IFC (ISO 16739:2013) and IDM (ISO 29481-2:2012) were officially adopted as EN standards. Find out more here.
The work programme of the CEN 442 committee includes, according to the Vienna agreement and where appropriate, to make current ISO standards for BIM valid as EN standards. That is why, their work is carried out in close cooperation with the ongoing BIM standardisation by ISO committees.
The international standards ISO 19650 Organization of information about construction works – Information management using building information modelling parts 1 and 2 were adopted as European standards in 2018, while parts 3 and 5 were adopted in 2020.
In 2020, CEN/TC 442 published another important standard – EN 17412 Building Information Modelling – Level of Information Need – part 1. It provides the tools for delivering geometric data, alphanumeric information and documents as part of the Information management framework established in ISO 19650. The level of information need provides methods for establishing who, should provide what information, why and when.
Two additional parts of EN 17412 are currently under development. Of those, prEN 17412-3 will provide a framework for structuring alphanumeric information requirements, i.e., digital data about construction objects. It is expected that an approach similar to the one outlined in the already published EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387 will be most rigorous for presenting alphanumeric information.
Standardising data for digital exchange
The standards EN ISO 23386 and EN ISO 23387 were published in 2020 and are of key importance for the digitalisation of the construction sector. They provide the framework for describing construction objects for digital use. In other words, these standards enable a common digital language that allows the industry to eliminate ambiguity from digital information exchange, track the data to its trusted origins and create a common digital structure for different purposes.
EN ISO 23386 provides a methodology to define and manage construction object characteristics for digital use.
Product/system/component/process characteristics need to be communicated digitally in the current construction industry business environment. These characteristics are called ‘properties’ in the digital world.
In order to ensure that these characteristics or ‘properties’ are machine-readable, versatile and consistent (so we can use them in different software) they need to be created through an agreed method.
The principle is to connect every ‘property’ to attributes. An example of an attribute is a unit or a definition derived from a reference standard within a particular local context. This can also be a unique identifier called a GUID.
- The process creates a rigorous system of validation of all digital contents and defines how properties and attributes shall be established by users and experts in a data dictionary, as well as how this content shall be mapped to other data dictionaries.
- The objective is to allow quality information exchange between industry players for multiple uses such as the digital model, also for international trade and the needs for maintenance.
For manufacturers to be able to sell their products within open markets such as the European Union, the EU commission has created procedures on how to declare performance and intended use, for construction products (via the Construction Product Regulations – CPR), electrical equipment (via the Low Voltage Directive – LVD) etc. The testing and associated data that is created in meeting legislative frameworks, such as the CPR and LVD, provides the basis for most of the data that a manufacturer will need to share with its supply chain.
It is the common agreement among the CEN 442 work group 4 that standards already set in place by CEN/CENELEC provide a common technical language and a good structure to capture the data that describes the performance of products and systems for construction works and infrastructure. This defines a ‘common context’ for translating product characteristics and their test methods into properties and property sets fit for digital use.
That is the background to EN ISO 23387: Data templates for construction objects used in the life cycle of any built asset — Concepts and principles.
EN ISO 23387 sets out the general structure that can be used to digitally describe any construction object within the construction works and building services. This structure is called a Data Template and should be based on concepts and the relationships between concepts sourced from a data dictionary. The standard deals with the connection between properties and data templates. A Data Template is a collection of standard-based properties collected in groups of properties, which can be traced to credible sources such as, for example, harmonised standards under the CPR, and any other European standards defining construction object characteristics.
Where does the content of the Data Template come from?
The Construction Products Regulation came into effect in 2011, as a major part of the European Union’s policy towards enabling and supporting the free circulation of construction products in the EU’s Single Market. The aim of the CPR is:
- to lay down harmonised rules for the marketing of construction products in the EU;
- to provide a common technical language to assess the performance of construction products;
- to ensure reliable information is available to professionals, public authorities, and consumers, so they can compare the performance of products from different manufacturers in different countries.
When the CPR came into force it became mandatory for manufacturers of construction products covered by a harmonised European (hEN) standard or a European Technical Assessment (ETA) to draw up a Declaration of Performance in order to affix the CE mark to their products.
As of 2023, the UK government will require manufacturers to substitute the CE mark with a UKCA mark following the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
How is that relevant to BIM?
The recent Smart CE marking initiative, led by Construction Products Europe (CPE), has come to address the need to expand and promote the use of harmonised product standards in digital construction. The Smart CE marking initiative puts forward the notion, also supported by the ongoing work by CEN (see above), that data regarding the characteristics that qualify and quantify a product is already available in harmonised product standards. This creates a huge amount of standardised content about construction products that can be aligned with further data standardisation initiatives in order to ensure the use of a common technical language and standardised product data in BIM. This combination will allow all users to exploit the data manufacturers provide to the fullest potential.
The Smart CE marking initiative in itself aims to get aligned with the ongoing standardisation in relation to digitalisation processes in the construction industry.
To unify these efforts, the standardisation bodies are currently working on a new standard WI=00442035 that will provide guidelines on how Data Templates should be specifically created based on harmonised standards and European Assessment Documents (EAD), using the common European technical language already existing in the harmonised technical specifications, and in normative references. This common technical language should be the foundation when creating a digital terminology for the European construction industry. In this way the Data template will become the link between harmonised standards and an open European data dictionary, which will allow for manufacturers to supply their data for digital use.
This common technical language – based on standards lies at the center of the (Data Dictionary and) Data Template methodology. The use of such language is crucial in order to create common data structures that can transfer data across systems, languages and borders.