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Common Data Environment (CDE) for BIM: 7 Questions Answered

Common Data Environment (CDE) for BIM: 7 Questions Answered

As the construction industry no longer relies on hand-drawn plans, any building project generates vast amounts of digital data during its entire lifecycle. Whether the construction in question is a small retrofitting project or a massive university campus, creating and sharing untold data during its lifecycle is imperative.


The rising adaptation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is among the single most transformative developments in the digitization of the construction sector. BIM improves almost all construction project outcomes, making them cheaper, more sustainable, faster, and safer.

However, as a communication and collaboration tool at the core, the information and data used in the BIM process must be managed efficiently for these desired outcomes. The solution for this challenge: A Common Data Environment (CDE). A powerful central data storage and management system that connects seamlessly to the BIM tools used. A CDE can aid all persons in the construction process to achieve efficient results and can step in to solve construction data overload.

1. What is the Common Data Environment?

CDE is the single digital environment where all the information is gathered together.

Stefan Mordue, the co-author of BIM for Dummies, describes it as: “Combining a collaborative process with enabling technology tools, the CDE brings about the opportunity to work from the most recent information or single source of truth, delivering production information right the first time.”

Anything relevant to the construction project, including the design’s intricacies, registers, schedules, contracts, reports, and model information, is all shared via the cloud in the CDE.

2. What is the Common Data Environment Used for?

CDE systems bring together all the data in a construction project from different sources, including BIM software, company spreadsheets, SAP, and others.

They manage this information and allow the executives involved in the project to access the data.

3. What’s the Difference Between BIM and CDE?

Due to similar functions and outcomes, the differences between BIM and CDE might create confusion, or attract the assumption that they’re the same tool spelled differently.

The information fed to the CDE is not limited to assets created within BIM software. In extension to BIM, CDE systems include documentation, graphical models, as well as non-graphical assets. They provide powerful features for data management, versioning and sharing.

Simply put, CDE is a tool to enhance BIM’s features and outcomes. BIM can run without CDE, but CDE is an application designed for the BIM environment.

4. Who Needs the Common Data Environment?

Construction is always a team effort that requires a diverse range of skillsets across different industries. A well-executed CDE system benefits the workflows of anyone involved with a construction project.

Apart from the architects who mastermind a building, CDE systems allow anyone from plumbers to landscape designers to make data-driven decisions in their line of work — improving the outcomes for all their colleagues.

5. What are the Advantages of the Common Data Environment?

In engineering and construction, a whopping 96 percent of the captured data goes unutilized. This is a tremendous loss of potential and leads to waste: 52 percent of all construction rework globally is caused by poor data and communication.

Thus, CDE is among the most potent tools the construction sector can use to reverse this picture. It can unleash an entirely data-driven decision process in the entire lifecycle of a building. CDE systems’ incalculable advantages include saving time and resources, unlocked efficiency in all sides of the operation, and consistency and uniformity.

6. What are the Top CDE Tools in Use Today?

Along with the digitization process of the construction sector, BIM and CDE tools constantly keep evolving. There are new CDE solutions in the increasingly crowded market of construction software every year.

However, the most established and popular CDE tools include Autodesk BIM360, Trimble Connect, Allplan Bimplus, Zutec and the B.I.G. Platform from Kaulquappe AG.

7. What’s the Future of the Common Data Environment in Construction?

By now, using BIM is mandatory in many parts of the world for all construction projects.

The future of construction is a data-driven one to move on from the notorious inefficiencies in the sector to make it kinder for budgets, people, and our planet.

Hence, along with BIM, there’s no doubt that CDE will be an indispensable facilitator of this transformation, with evolving innovations and tools.

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