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What Is A Data Template (DT)?

Advancing the construction industry through standards

The lack of a standardised approach to structuring product data in the construction sector and making it machine-readable has been a major issue, preventing organisations from bringing forward their digitisation initiatives. The (Product) Data Template methodology was created in order to address this problem and is further developed by standardisation bodies such as CEN and ISO.

A Data Template (DT) is a common data structure defining the ‘properties’ (essential and non-essential product characteristics e.g. fire rating and colour) that describe any type of product in a way that can be traced to a credible source. Such credible sources are product standards declaring the performance characteristics of products and the methods they should be tested against. There is a specific hierarchy of credible data sources taken into account in the Data Template structure. Legal data sources such as European Harmonised Standards are with greater priority than national standards which have greater priority than industry and user recognised requirements (like BREEAM, COBie). This is how Data Templates are created to serve as a common framework for anyone to use when managing construction product related data.

what is a product type infographic

* Technical entities that are relevant for the flow of information about goods on a construction project go beyond the term ‘product’. There are systems, components, elements and materials. To address the whole scope of the data templates for construction works, now the standardisation committees are discussing ‘data templates’ rather than ‘product data templates’.

What is a Construction Object?

A Data Template can only be a common data structure for a specific set of similar products. This set of similar products is what we call a ‘Construction Object’.

When a manufacturer digitises their product data by populating the DT-s in Cobuilder goBIM, they can use the ‘Construction Object’ defined by our R&D experts to load the relevant properties for their product. This template carries all standard-based, national and legislative requirements in its structure.

Who develops the methodology for creating DTs?

Cobuilder creates Data Templates, which are based on the latest ISO/CEN standards for product data management in the construction industry. (These standards are currently in development as part of the CEN technical committee 442 work and will be published in 2020.):

  • FprEN ISO 23386 Building information modelling and other digital processes used in Construction – Methodology to describe, author and maintain properties in interconnected dictionaries

  • prEN ISO 23387 Building Information Modelling (BIM) – Data templates for construction objects used in the life cycle of any built asset – Concepts and principles;

  • prEN 17473 Product data templates, for products and systems used in construction works, stored in a data dictionary framework – Part 2: Specification of Product data templates based on harmonised technical specifications under the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), and how to link the product data templates to Industry Foundation Classes (IFC);

CEN/TC 442 Standard Infographic

Legend: Click the image to view it in full size.

What are the benefits of DTs?

After having described what the Data Template methodology is, we will have a look at the advantages that it brings and how structured data can lead construction to the next level of digitalisation.

The Data Templates provide a standard-based approach to support all construction actors in their digital journey. This is the reason why it is in the center of Cobuilder`s software platform and solutions.

Essentially, the purpose of Data Templates is to make sure that product data requesters (e.g. asset owners, architects, specifiers, contractors, facility managers) and product data providers (manufacturers, distributors) exchange products information based on the same structures and using the same digital language.

Standardisation of the terms and definitions used throughout projects ensures seamless communication between different software systems, as well as participation in a BIM-supported design, construction, and operation processes.

Any actor involved in the construction project can use DTs to set data requirements, populate them with actual data and verify input data against requirements. The implementation of Data Templates is the missing puzzle piece that connects Manufacturers` product information and Clients` requirements and needs.

DTs are built upon special ontologies called ‘digital data dictionaries’ that enable the mapping of similar concepts to unique codes so that machines will be able to “read” and “understand” one common meaning, no matter the local differences in semantics. Thus, for example, all devices will “know” that if we search for “thermal transmittance”, this is the same concept as “u-value”.

Apart from making the exchange of product information much more efficient, Data templates also serve as a link to smart technologies that the construction industry can leverage. In order to create conditions for the sector to benefit from those technologies, first we need to structure product data in a digital format that is based on industry standards and make this data machine-readable and interoperable between multiple software systems and devices. This is the main prerequisite for bringing the sector to the next level of digitalisation. Only after building a stable backbone of digital data, the industry will move ahead in this journey and take advantage of the newest technologies. We will be able to create and benefit from digital representations of physical assets (Digital twins), maintain a network of internet-enabled devices (Internet of Things), enable them to learn from external stimuli (Artificial Intelligence), and even to evolve to a common digital marketplace within the construction industry.

How is a DT useful to manufacturers?

Data Templates are especially useful for manufacturers who can populate them with the most up-to-date and accurate information about their products, materials, systems and components that they produce. Among the most important benefits of the DTs for manufacturers are:

  • Better quality of the data: A single source of information for all departments and subsidiaries, no more guesswork in tendering, clients gain trust in data that they can access on the fly;
  • Adaptability to emerging business models: By applying the latest standards for structuring data manufacturers ensure that their high quality data can enter any existing or emerging digital channel;
  • Cost savings now – By introducing Data Templates the average manufacturer can save up to 25% on data management costs.

What a DT can do for Clients and Building Owners?

The client’s main goals are to bring his project and program to success, to stay compliant with regulations, to operate effectively and, finally, to grow. To achieve this, he needs to ensure co-operation and co-ordination with other stakeholders. Among the benefits that the standard-based DTs bring for Clients are:

  • The smart way to achieve project objectives: Enhanced decision-making and high visibility of product data requirements related to analysis on cost, performance, environmental impact etc.;
  • Automated information exchange and delivery to other stakeholders in the supply chain;
  • High quality data across the whole life cycle: predictive maintenance, integration with FM systems, access to historical data – all possible with structured data.

What benefits DTs bring to Contractors?

The contractor can benefit from the same opportunities as the client in terms of efficiency and increased competitiveness in the bidding process. As the contractor has many responsibilities regarding the safety of incorporated materials and works, as well as compliance with requirements, the automated validation and verification of data for the constructed asset is crucial. Some of the benefits include:

  • Choosing the optimal supplier and delivery methods by using data that is compatible with integrated BIM-GIS models;
  • Minimizing the risk of making a loss by verifying that requirements and regulations are met by the whole supply chain;
  • Reduce project costs and take advantage of eruptive digital transformation (LCA, cost estimation, digital twins, historical analysis).

How DTs help Specifiers?

As part of the iterative specification process, different actors on the project need to provide different data describing the performance of different construction products or elements to be installed – at different project stages and at different levels of information (LOIs). Among the advantages that specifiers get are:

  • Easily identify the product data needed in all phases of the information value chain;
  • Customise data templates according to the needed data deliveries per role, stage and levels of information (LOI);
  • Create/reuse specifications, based on best practices and search for matching products.

What are the differentiators of Cobuilder’s Data Templates?

  • All Data Templates Cobuilder develops are in conjunction with CEN 442 WG4 – The EU BIM standards group for product dictionaries and templates;

  • All Data Templates developed by Cobuilder are used as the basis for different BIM collaboration services. They are implemented in the software and bring tangible benefits to the user;

  • Data Templates developed by Cobuilder are in alignment with the evolution of the Smart CE marking initiative;

  • All Cobuilder DTs are based on a Common European technical language in a Data Dictionary based on EN ISO 12006-3;

  • Through intricate mapping to the common sharing format IFC, all data digitised through Cobuilder DTs can be attributed directly to COBie and hence to different BIM ‘Models’.