Contractors Need a Common Data Environment to Streamline Build Projects at Every Process

The construction industry generates a tremendous amount of information. It’s also necessary to share it with dozens of people across teams and companies. Doing that becomes easier when using a common data environment (CDE). It can streamline building projects by creating a single source of information all relevant parties can access.

Some of the earliest examples of common data environments primarily contained content from building information management (BIM) systems. However, now they often have many more information types, from schedules to contracts. Since many construction sites also incorporate Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, opportunities exist to collect even more data that can become a valuable communal resource.

A Common Data Environment Can Save Money

A 2021 study estimated that problematic data, such as that which is inaccessible or untimely, cost the construction industry $1.85 trillion in 2020 and prevented people from making data-driven decisions. On the other hand, when construction teams had processes for managing, collecting, and analyzing useful data, they experienced numerous benefits. Those perks included fewer cost overruns, safety incidents, and project delays.

There’s still room for improvement, as only 12% of survey respondents said they always incorporate data into their decision-making. However, of those giving that answer, the use of a common data environment was a popular strategy, with 38% of people choosing it.

Most people (60%) agreed that having individuals with data management and analysis skills on the construction team was important for enabling effective work to happen. Additionally, 51% of people believed those working on construction sites would need skills related to maintaining a data management strategy.

Saving money is a frequently mentioned construction goal, but people are not always on the same page about how to achieve it. This research highlights how useful it can be to create established data collection methods and frameworks, which could include having a CDE.

Having Accessible Equipment Data Can Streamline Building Projects

Construction projects can’t proceed smoothly without accurate and up-to-date data about the specialized equipment needed for certain tasks. Information about fuel consumption and equipment idle times can help decision-makers track the actual cost of running a business and keeping a project profitable.

Many site managers also collect equipment utilization data. It can show them how often certain pieces of equipment get used and whether they’re available for contractors at specific times. If the equipment also contains IoT sensors, people may set time- or geography-based parameters that restrict when and where individuals can operate the machines.

When the common data environment includes information about who operated equipment at particular times, it can also be easier to spot trends that could indicate safety risks. Perhaps there is consistent information about certain operators who engage in unsafe behaviors while using a machine. That data justifies taking decisive action, such as coaching the person or putting them on probation.

There is also an ongoing push for construction sites to become more sustainable. Numerous strategies exist for doing that, but one option is to monitor equipment-related emissions. Keeping equipment such as backhoes and bulldozers well-maintained can reduce emissions, plus prevent unplanned downtime that costs money and restricts productivity.

Maintaining data about equipment upkeep and past outages reduces the chances that essential maintenance gets overlooked. Moreover, the information could help decision-makers realize it’s time to replace certain aging or often-problematic machines. Such insights will streamline building projects by preventing failures.

Getting Faster Data Access Can Keep Large Projects Proceeding Smoothly

It’s not just about people having the ability to see content in a common data environment. They should ideally be able to get that information as swiftly as possible.

That was the goal for data access associated with a multibillion-pound project in London. Planners prepared for up to 3,000 new homes and 2 million square feet of office space, as well as 1 million square feet of retail and leisure space. They also anticipated that the mixed-use space would take a decade to finish.

Besides collecting data during construction, the real estate investment company behind the project plans to gather 15 years of operational data after the site becomes usable. Those involved did not detail how they’ll do that, but IoT sensors would undoubtedly make it easier.

The project’s decision-makers hired an information management service provider to help. Representatives from that company recognized the necessity of a common data environment, knowing that having the content in multiple, isolated silos could increase project costs and cause the endeavor to fall behind schedule. They also wanted it to take no more than three mouse clicks for relevant parties to get vital information.

The service provider chose a company that could build the CDE and ensure it contained all documents, construction drawings, and other essential information. The common data environment had a role-based interface that allowed user-friendly and future-proof access throughout the project’s and building’s life cycles. Such friction-free accessibility is essential to streamline building projects like this one.

The CDE also facilitated a smaller carbon footprint since it eliminated the need to email all parties updates about the project. The estimated carbon savings were 153 kilograms per person.

Using a CDE Can Pay Off

Besides the benefits mentioned above, committing to use a common data environment brings other notable advantages to construction contractors. When everyone can see the most current and accurate information, they’re more likely to have the necessary content to do their jobs well and feel confident in the result, which will streamline building projects.

People can also access the information on multiple internet-enabled devices since CDEs typically use cloud technology. Having the pertinent information literally at someone’s fingertips speeds up overall processes and reduces confusion or uncertainty.

Creating and using a CDE requires resources and effort. However, the results can bring substantial short- and long-term benefits to everyone involved.

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