A Common Data Environment (CDE) is your best answer to taming the chaos swirling around any construction project. It is a central repository where construction project information is housed and is the single source of information for the project. It collects, manages, collaborates and shares project information with the entire project team.

A CDE is updated throughout the project lifecycle, which can span years and years for many infrastructure projects. For example, New York’s East Side extension of the Long Island Railroad was started in 2006 and is not expected to be complete until late 2022—10 years past its original completion date.

With a CDE, you can house all information relating to every aspect of any project, including drawings, documents, contracts, reports, bids, submittals and BIM information. A CDE enhances collaboration and increases security and the auditability of data. It also streamlines systems and processes used within and between the company and its supply chain.

Infrastructure projects are complex and high profile; they bring together a wide range of people from different disciplines who are often in other cities, states and even countries. With a CDE, you can bring together information from all who work as part of this wider project team. Imagine multiple stakeholders trying to stay on the same page with a multimillion-dollar capital investment at stake.

When you use a single source of information, you can encourage and ensure collaboration between project members. This facilitates best practice, reduces errors and avoids duplication. By storing information in a secure environment, a CDE provides a clear and secure audit trail of all changes and amendments.


Benefits of a Common Data Environment

Keeping costs down, meeting deadlines and reducing risk are three big concerns for any infrastructure project. With a CDE, these concerns are reduced as a single source of truth simplifying complicated projects. Some of the main advantages of implementing a CDE include:

  • Every project team member has access to the latest, most up-to-date information within a shared area.
  • Information is readily available to all project members at any time or location, including document and data information. For example, in a global project, team members can participate from anywhere in the world.
  • Shared information is coordinated, reducing the time and effort required to check versions and reissue information.
  • Project information is continually updated. All updates and changes are logged in a secure audit trail, maintaining a single source of information.
  • Working within a BIM environment is facilitated. Many BIM protocols require the use of a CDE, meaning organizations wishing to engage with BIM on their projects are one step ahead.
  • Project team members work collaboratively, and best practices are encouraged and ensured.
  • Information can be reused to support construction planning, estimating, cost planning, facilities management and many other downstream activities.
  • Following the completion of the project, asset information is readily available for handover.


How to Implement a Common Data Environment

Introducing a CDE aims to improve the creation, sharing and issuing of information within a project. It ultimately ensures the delivery of a project.

When implementing a CDE, there are several areas to be considered, including:

Project requirements — When implementing a CDE, it is important to know what system best suits your needs. You need to ensure all project teams have the required information and platforms.

Appoint an information manager — The information manager is responsible for keeping the information generated and shared on the CDE clear and understandable.

Establish conventions as early as possible — File naming conventions, for example, should be adopted early on to ensure all project members are using a standard protocol.

Implement a workflow/sign-off process — It provides a clear understanding of the information's stage. Showing what work is currently in progress, what has been shared and what has been published.

Separate project spaces — It may be necessary to divide the CDE to create separate environments on the central platform. This will help meet the needs of different teams involved in the project.

Continuous reviews — Workspaces will need to be regularly reviewed to ensure all project members fulfill their obligations. This is also necessary to implement improvements if they are required.

The Asite Common Data Environment (CDE) provides infrastructure projects, organizations and their extended supply chain with shared visibility of their projects.


About the Author

Rachel Carey is a Digital Content Marketer at Asite, the leading open project management platform designed to manage capital projects and investments, as well as general construction projects.