The value to be gained from standardizing construction data dictionaries

As the built environment becomes more digitized, no single data dictionary will ever be able to accommodate all the definitions needed across all of BIM. That said, there’s still a lot of value to be gained from structuring these dictionaries to be compatible and to follow similar governance rules. This is therefore an area for standardization, and has resulted in the publication of three new and related documents in 2020.

The new international standard

First of all, we published BS EN ISO 23386:2020 Building information modelling and other digital processes used in construction — Methodology to describe, author and maintain properties in interconnected data dictionaries in March. This is the international standard is in this area. It establishes rules for defining properties used in construction, and a way of authoring and maintaining them to achieve confident and seamless digital sharing among stakeholders following a BIM process.
This standard provides a list of attributes that control the creation and use of properties and groups of properties.

Regarding the authoring and maintaining process, it provides definitions and roles of applicants; definitions and roles of experts and the commission of experts; definitions of request’s attributes; definitions of expert’s attributes; and requirements to establish the management rules to interconnect data dictionaries through the mapping process for properties and groups of properties.

To apply the methodology of this document, it is presupposed that an established governance model for a data dictionary and a framework for a network of data dictionaries are in place.

The PAS that supplements the standard

In the UK, we’ve produced a document to complement the international standard in the form of PAS 14191:2020 Built environment – Management and operation of interconnected construction data dictionaries – Specification. This is a new PAS on the interoperability of construction product related data dictionaries to provide consensus among the construction industry, as well as a single place to go to for all these construction terms.

It specifies requirements for a management process for the creation, acceptance, distribution, interoperability and maintenance of structured information within construction data dictionaries. It covers the development, approval and management of structured information such as data templates, but doesn’t cover data dictionary ontologies or taxonomies.

The PAS doesn’t want to prohibit technological innovation, so it doesn’t define roles. The objective is to make construction a non-siloed industry, while making the information digitally-available and machine-readable, and standardizing the used language.

This PAS complements BS EN ISO 23386 by defining what isn’t covered in the international standard. While BS EN ISO 23386 deals with international, general requirements for interconnected data dictionaries, the PAS adds to those concepts with a series of actionable steps and processes to fulfil its requirements. Note that the PAS can be used for any construction data dictionaries, though it’s been developed primarily to cover construction products data dictionaries.

Dealing with data templates

Finally, as BIM continues to develop into all aspects of the built environment, machine-readable data is essential to provide a reliable and sustainable exchange of information in an asset life cycle process. Data templates enable construction project stakeholders to exchange information about construction objects through an asset life cycle, using the same data structure, terminology and globally unique identifiers to enable machine-readability. Therefore data templates should be standardized and made available across the built environment sector through data dictionaries.

To that end BS EN ISO 23387:2020 Building Information Modelling (BIM) - Data templates for construction objects used in the life cycle of any built asset - Concepts and principles sets out the principles and structure for data templates for construction objects. It supports digital processes using machine-readable formats that deploy a standard data structure to exchange information about any type of construction object, e.g. product, system, assembly, space, building etc., used in the inception, brief, design, production, operation and demolition of facilities. The target audience is software developers appointed to create data templates based on sources describing information needs and not construction industry domain experts.

As BIM becomes more developed these three documents will prove highly useful to supporting its efficient and effective operation going forward.