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What is a Common Data Environment (CDE)?

Definition of a Common Data Environment (CDE)

The BIM process requires setting up data-sharing procedures. Due to the frequency of exchanges and the amount of data shared, the use of e-mails is not enough, neither in terms of capacity nor in terms of traceability. This is why it is necessary to set up specific information management solutions for the “platform” type. We are then talking about Common Data Environment (CDE). A CDE centralizes the common data of the project and allows each of the actors to access it. The establishment of a CDE is a mandatory step for the implementation of BIM on a project.

There are two aspects to take into account:

  • On the one hand, an information management environment for managing data and documents. It can be a Drive or Dropbox file deposit server, an Electronic Document Management (EDM) solution, data integration solutions or a combination of these solutions. This is necessary to allow consistency of information and files, and to facilitate sharing and collaboration.
  • On the other hand, a project management environment for the management of calendars, schedules, assignment of tasks, dashboards, etc. This aspect is necessary to allow the smooth running of the BIM process, in coherence with the project process.

Some solutions make it possible to manage the two aspects of data centralization and project management more or less completely such as Bimsync. Solutions covering both needs have the advantage of allowing integration and continuity between the work and project data, as well as simplifying the project solution environment.

The choice of the CDE must be made in coherence with the environment of solutions of the actors of the project and the desired functionalities. It is important to take into account the fact that each actor may already have implemented a platform solution for the conduct of their projects.

Scheme Common Data Environment
Scheme Common Data Environment


The Common Data Environment: an essential element of the BIM Execution Plan.

In a collaborative exchange of models between different contributors, it is necessary to define a Common Data Environment which will be used for the needs of the project in coherence with the practices of the actors. The elements of the CDE are defined in the BIM Execution Plan on a project.

The main elements defined in the BIM Execution Plan for the CDE are:

  • Identify the environment of information management solutions within the project;
  • Define the information management environment chosen for the project;
  • Define the chosen project management environment (if it is different from the information management environment).

Then, all the rules are to be described in the BIM Execution Plan or in specific documents annexed to it. The BIM Execution Plan must, therefore, define at least: environmental administrators and administration rules; the profiles of the actors and the access rights associated with the level of grain size required (directory, model, document, file, object, property); the access, collaboration and exchange procedures (frequency, mandatory or not, etc.) and more particularly the validation and dissemination circuits; control, validation and dissemination protocols for data, models, files and documents.

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