News > CDE – Common Data Environment

May 8, 2024

CDE – Common Data Environment

Adaptation and translation into Spanish of the document published in Bim Forum Brasil, by the same author.

Author: Ricardo Alexandre Gois Ferreira is a civil engineer, advisor and spokesperson CT 05 – Trainings of the BIM Network of Latin American Governments, treasurer and advisor of BIM Forum Brazil, director of administration of AACE, Section 10 – Brazil, director of relations with members of IBAPE-DF, member of ABRAPLAN, general director of Verko Engenharia and senior analyst of Infraero.


The main regulatory reference in Brazil in relation to Common Data Environment (CDE) is ABNT PR 1015 – Recommended Practice.

The Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations (AICO) market includes workflows at different levels of complexity, as agents in the production chain need to collaborate guided by a common set of project data. It is essential that the information is provided to any involved agent when necessary. Therefore, data exchange, storage and sharing mechanisms are essential to follow the evolution of the project and satisfy the client’s requirements.

According to the definition of ABNT NBR ISO 19650 – 1, CDE is an agreed source of information for any project or asset whose function is to collect, manage and disseminate each container of information in a controlled process.

BIM Dictionary defines CDE as an agreed source of information for any project or asset, for the collection, management and dissemination of each container of information, through a managed process.

Drawing 1 – Organization of CDE functionalities. Source: ABNT PR 1015:2022

The CDE is a server or cloud-based technology for database management, transmission, issue tracing and related capabilities that support the workflow that organizes the management of information throughout an asset’s lifecycle, across four states of information containers.

The CDE allows the user to assign these four formal states to individual data elements, define quality control procedures and properly manage the maturity and reliability of the information provided, serving as the basis for a well-defined form of collaboration between all stakeholders.

Centralizing data storage reduces the risk of redundancy and ensures the availability of up-to-date data at any time. In addition, the CDE allows a higher rate of information reuse, simplifies its aggregation and simultaneously serves as a central repository for information containers, communication and action logs.

When working in the BIM process, the strategy of federation and division of work in different information containers, with characteristics of simultaneous work, security and transmission of information, should be taken into account, taking into account the organizational hierarchy of data, structured or not, as a source of project information.

Therefore, it is necessary to have access and integration criteria for the work processes in the CDE, with information flows in terms of status, users and permissions. Compatibility and collaboration, organization and data modeling, quality assurance, access control, data protection, permissions and security, and traceability in the information lifecycle are variables in the CDE workflow.

The characterization of the CDE can be seen from the perspective of the maturity stages of information management in an organization, a technology layer focused on files, models and packages of structured and unstructured data, with intelligent database searches.

A proposed framework may consider CDE functionalities for models, collaboration, library, electronic document management system, services, connectivity, user experience and platform permissions.

The CDE can have functionalities such as standardized and automatic naming of folders and files, object libraries according to classification systems, interoperability between the various BIM solutions of the organization, connectivity of the technological resources of the organization, data repository and traceability of documents, communication of the technical and administrative team, promotion of collaborative work, including identification of authorship, access permission to the platform and coordination of information, auditing and security of information, including revision and status codes and 3D visualization of models (desirable).

The organization of structured folders should be encouraged to be created and managed for data management in collaborative work with projects, tools and workflow, with document storage criteria, according to file nomenclature, in addition to the attributes of these documents.

With this, the large amount of data in a BIM project can be mapped into an organized information flow, and quality in collaborative work, with BCF notes.[1] valid to add value in coordination efficiency, predictability, format independence, confidence in communication through standards and agreements, cycle time reduction and assignment of responsibilities.

The stages of defining, specifying and delegating issues to the BIM model objects also facilitate the workflow in project coordination, the results of which bring improvements in quality assurance and quality control.

In the context of ABNT NBR ISO 19650, four metadata are required for information containers within a CDE:

  • Unique Identifier (ID):
    • It is a single value record (file name), alphanumeric, to identify the data package. It is composed of fields separated by hyphens, which respond to a convention agreed and documented between the parties involved.
  • Revision code:
    • The revision code can be managed automatically by the CDE system and according to the agreed convention.
  • Status code:
    • Identifies the development status of the data package.
  • Classification code:
    • The classification of packages may follow the structure defined in ABNT NBR ISO 12006-2:2018.


Figure 2 – Example of metadata that can be assigned in a CDE. Source: ABNT PR 1015:2022


Table 1 – Suggested nomenclature for status codes. Source: ABNT PR 1015:2022

To achieve best practices in data sharing and project collaboration, it is recommended to answer the following key questions during the implementation of the CDE solution:

  1. a) Viable CDE solutions support reviews and analysis to ensure agreed metadata;
  2. b) Information security issues were analyzed to ensure that access permissions can be configured at the individual and organizational level;
  3. c) CDE solutions have been tested to validate that the metadata of the information containers can be transferred between them;
  4. d) It has been agreed how the information containers will be transferred between EDCs, manually or automatically;
  5. e) The workflow demonstrating the status of each information container according to the CDE was implemented and documented;
  6. f) It was analyzed which tables/datasets of the classification system should be applied to each type of information container;
  7. g) The meaning of each status code and its limits of use were understood and verified;
  8. h) How each metadata is worked in the CDE solutions adopted in the project.

From the perspective of the maturity stages of information management in an organization, the technology layer focused on files, models and structured data packages points to technology for intelligent searches in databases based on a Common Data Environment.

Aspects of the organization’s assets for the purposes of information delivery may be related to objectives, asset register management, support for regulatory and liability and legal compliance issues, risk management and support for business issues. Therefore, it is recommended that the CDE has functionalities aimed at:

  1. a) standardized and automatic naming of folders and files;
  2. b) object libraries according to classification systems;
  3. c) interoperability between the various BIM solutions of the organization;
  4. d) connectivity of the organization’s technological resources;
  5. e) data repository and document traceability;
  6. f) communication of the technical and administrative team;
  7. g) promotion of collaborative work, including the identification of authorship;
  8. h) permission to access the platform and coordinate information;
  9. i) auditing and information security, including review codes and status;
  10. j) 3D visualization of models (desirable).

The principles of openBIM are based on interoperability, open standards, reliability, collaboration, flexibility and sustainability, with IFC[2] being the most widely applied data schema in the BIM methodology. Thus, the IFC standard facilitates the consistency of the classification system of BIM model elements, the exchange and transmission of structured data, the identification and relationships of objects, the classification of their properties or attributes.

It is important to know if the software is certified according to the standard determined as a requirement for the exchange of information, which guarantees the compatibility of the files with the computer language.

The functionalities of classification and categorization, export and import, opening and combining models, change detection, data mapping, location and selection of elements can only be obtained with the correct configuration of the IFC on the BIM model objects, with well assigned, defined and classified entities, instances, elements and types.


Table 2 – Recommended additional functionalities. Source: ABNT PR 1015:2022

*APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are software communication mechanisms based on protocols and sets of operations pre-established by the software vendor.


Drawing 3 – Mind map summary of the CDE

[1] BIM Collaboration Format

[2] Industry Foundation Classes

Adaptation and translation into Spanish of the document published in Bim Forum Brasil, by the same author.

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