Standardising Construction Product Data

Standards are at the very core of all Cobuilder software. In order to help construction industry actors on their long journey towards digitisation, we have defined two general groups of standards one should look at: process standards and product standards. We base our products on the BIM-related process standards that are discussed as best practice internationally and in Europe. Our data management technology, on the other hand, is based on the hierarchy of standards and market requirements construction products are tested against.  In this way we cover the ‘hows’ and ‘whats’ of construction product data in the digital era.

standardising construction product data

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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:

Working group


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 2019.

In 2020, ISO and CEN published a very important data management standard, the so-called Data Template standard – EN ISO 23397. Its main purpose is to provide a framework for structuring product data for digital use. This standard together with the Data Dictionary standard EN ISO 23386 enables the industry to eliminate the ambiguity of language from digital information exchange, to track the data to its trusted origins and create a common digital structure for different purposes.

standardising construction product data

Standardising data for digital exchange

Important assets that will have a great impact on the digital exchange of information in construction are the standards defining the type of data to be exchanged and ensuring its quality.

The newly published standard EN ISO 23386 provides a methodology to define and manage construction object characteristics for digital use. This standard is based the French standard PPBIM (XP P07-150).

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.

In order 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.

standardising construction product data

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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.

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 digitisation 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.

Read more about the Data Template here

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Information Management Standards

The construction industry worldwide is moving towards a deeper level of standardization of all business processes across the built environment, and there are many national and international initiatives to define best practices in information management for the construction sector. In the UK the series of standards PAS 1192  set up a the world-acclaimed leading framework for collaborative working on construction projects and the management of information requirements in the context of BIM.  Furthermore, the UK BIM Alliance has started an initiative to outline the best information management practices for clients in defining data requirements for the construction and management of assets.

Worldwide, the new International Standards – ISO 19650-1 and -2 ‘Organization of information about construction works —Information management using building information modelling’ are developed as essential documents for the delivery of information to asset information models. Such standardization initiatives are essential for companies such as Cobuilder creating IT solutions for the sector.

They are the needed guidance that Cobuilder recommends construction data managers and stewards to capture and translate into their organisations’ workflows. No matter if it is telemetry, IoT or machine learning that clients want – it is the underlying information management that truly affects the bottom line.

Cobuilder work

Cobuilder provides consultancy services to all information management roles within the clients’, building owners’ and managers’ and general contractors’ teams. Our experts support information managers, according to the best practices set out in ISO19650 series, in their efforts to improve the process of determining the information (primarily data) requirements they should be requiring from the supply chain, namely the OIRs, AIRs and EIRs. Once the requirements process is clear we take on different implementation strategies to ensure the required construction product information is validated and verified throughout the delivery phase.

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the Information Manager
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