by Monika Mlakić, Regional Lead for Zagreb, Croatia and Operations Manager at Digital Construction Technologies Group

Lack of communication and inadequate exchange of information are the most common problems during the construction project, and they are directly related to breaking deadlines and having unexpected costs. According to research conducted by US firm Garter, poor communication is responsible for 70% of corporate errors. 

In addition to poor communication, a common problem on a construction project is certainly the loss of information. Using a traditional approach such as emails, phone calls and print of the documentation, it is very likely that information will be undelivered, misinterpreted or outdated. The loss of information is most prominent during the handover phase of the construction project where the investor does not receive all the necessary information to maintain the building and have proper renovation. 

Also, research shows that employees spend 25% of their time searching for information and managers more than half of their time executing routine tasks. If we consider that sometimes employees will not find the information they need, the problem is evident.

During all phases, construction project can exceed dozens and hundreds of participants involved. Now imagine the amount of lost information in these kinds of projects.

The construction industry longs for technological solutions and structured processes that will facilitate communication between all project participants and provide a single source of truth to share data, designs, models and documents. 

By applying Building Information Modelling procedures and methods during the construction project, and beside using BIM model for coordination and better understanding, ISO 19650 prescribes the use of Common Data Environment (CDE).

According to ISO-19650-1, a CDE is an agreed source of information for any given project or asset, for collecting, managing and disseminating each information container through a managed process.

In other words, a CDE is a single source of truth, a place where all stakeholders can collaborate, share, find and view all up-to-date project information. On the projects which are using this kind of approach, participants can find required information anytime and from anywhere they want. 


The first benefit of a CDE that can be recognised is certainly the fact that everyone has an insight into the latest versions of documents, drafts and models. In that way, searching emails and taking phone calls are kept to a minimum.

Related to that, having a centralised system improves the collaboration between internal and external stakeholders and gives a clear view on the project. The risk for the investor and all team members is reduced to a minimum which enables continues improvement during each project phase.

For each person or team involved, appointing party or third party acting on their behalf, which is responsible for managing a CDE, can set up different security settings and individually allow which data will be accessible for each team. With this approach, security of data could be controlled and managed easily. 

Key requirements

When we are talking about a CDE, most likely we will link the acronym with cloud platforms, servers or extranet. But beside the IT platform, according to ISO-19650 there are several processes that need to be defined and agreed in order to ensure quality of information exchange. In this article we will shortly explain key requirements for proper use of a CDE.

Information States

As described in ISO 19650, as an information container develops, it can exist in various states which is showed in the illustration below – Work in progress, Shared, Published, Archive.

Picture 1 CDE – Information States by ISO 19650-1

If we want to interpret the following states on the project, the most common ways to do it is:

  • to use four different folders for file exchange 
  • implement these states by including them in the form of metadata – a status code.

If we use these states in the form of metadata, they will define levels of model maturity. The Project Information Manager needs to ensure that the system used for sharing models contains the following codes and descriptions to clearly identify the ‘Purpose of Issue’ for model documents. 

DescriptionGeometrical DataNon-Geometrical DataDocuments
Work In Progress
S0Initial Status of WIP
Shared (Non-Contractual)
S1Suitable for CoordinationXX
S2Suitable for InformationX
S3Suitable for Review and CommentX
S4Suitable for Stage ApprovalXX
S6Suitable for PIM Authorisation (Stages 2a, 2b and 3)XX
S7Suitable for PIM Authorisation (Stages 4 and 5)XX
WIP to Published 
D1Suitable for Costing
D2Suitable for TenderX
D3Suitable for Contractor Design
D4Suitable for ManufactureX
Published Docs
A1, A2, A3Approved/Accepted
B1, B2, B3Partial sign off

Revision control

As noted in the beginning, one of the first benefits that can be recognized in usage of a CDE and BIM processes is tracking revision history. With the right approach and right tools, project participants are able to see up-to-date versions of their documents with the possibility of restoring the old ones. 

When we are talking about a CDE as a tool and platform, revision tracking is a part of system metadata and review of revisions is available in just few clicks.

ISO 19650-1 recommends that the information container revision system should follow agreed standard and UK National annex provides a system as shown below.

For detailed explanation take a look on Guidance Part C – Facilitating the common data environment /workflow and technical solutions).

Naming convention

If we want to avoid file naming such as Project final, Project FinalFinal, Project_Final1 in order for everyone to know what is actually in the files, one of the first goals needs to be setting up a common language for sharing information. Therefore, defined naming strategy is the key to successful information management. In this article we will show the main structure and common usage of naming convention and development of unique ID. But for detailed explanation take a look on Scottish Futures Trust.

To develop proper naming convention for any type of files you need to consider 7-8 fields which will bring the accurate information about identifying the project, originator, volume or system, levels, roles, etc.

ProjectRequiredCode for project
OriginatorRequiredCode for organisation creating information.
Volume or systemRequiredCode for system reference.
Levels and locationRequiredCode to locate info (Floor 1, etc.)
TypeRequiredCode for type of file Cost Plan, method statement, etc.)
RoleRequiredCode for role of organisation (A – Architect, etc.)
ClassificationOptionalCode to reference asset (Uniclass or equivalent)
NumberRequiredSequential file number

In this way, all relevant information is provided and misunderstanding between project participants is close to minimum.


This article provides just a brief information related to setting up a CDE and the most important requirements. For detailed review, we could publish articles related to each requirement separately. The aim of this article was to introduce you to the ease of use of a CDE and application of main requirements. Research has shown that by using structured information, our daily work becomes better and more efficient. Perhaps with an implemented CDE, next time we need information, we’ll save that 25% of the time we used to spend searching for information.