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John Egan for aecHive

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Roundtable discussion: Open Information Container Initiative

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As the first in the AecHive roundtable discussion series, this is the recording of the second(*) roundtable discussion that has taken place amongst a group of digital construction leaders whom come together to discuss an open initiative around the enablement of information to flow freely between solutions used in the digital construction process.

(*) This discussion does not require knowledge of the first discussion which can be found at this link

Participant selection was based on a range of experience from industry, academia, standards development and system integrators and each participant shared their view on the topic. The conclusions of which, are outside the scope of this description.

By way of agenda, Ralph Montague introduces John Egan to make his opening statement (Below) about the importance of using common data descriptions for forms of information used on a digital construction project and following this, the participants provide a response with their views on the topic before discussion ensues.

Our sincere thanks to each of the participants for their valued input to the discussion;

  • Pieter Pauwels
  • Andy Boutle
  • Mesut Pala
  • Claudio Benghi
  • Jeroen Werbrouck
  • Mohammad Shana
  • Lars Fredenlund
  • Kelly Doyle
  • Madhumitha Senthilvel
  • Ulrich Hartmann
  • Paul Wilkinson
  • Ryan Tennyson

...and to you, our listeners. This conversation will be continued on Nov 5th, 2020 at the next Construction Progress Coalition (CPC) roundtable discussion.

We are actively seeking to engage others and the opinions of others in this discussion. If you feel that you could contribute something, please comment below.

Problem Statement Overview

What problem are we trying to solve? The built environment, and the building and infrastructure that make up the physical built assets, are complex things, and rely on accurate, available, and organised information, to effectively design, deliver and operate. We have a set of international standards in the ISO19650 series, that suggest how we manage, organize and store this information in a Common Data Environment, or CDE. It is clear however, to those of us who are experienced in using CDE’s, that the real challenge is exchanging information between the growing number of solutions that make up the CDE and it is projected that the complexity of this problem is only set to increase as the adoption of digital solutions increases due to a requirement to work from home with thanks to the key instigator, COVID.

As the smallest packet of purposeful information, the information container offers a vehicle to move information between the technology solutions to make the information accessible and available to all the relevant people when they need it. However, the digital infrastructure that mesh together these solutions and allow information containers to flow in the same way that HTML enables the internet to flow is not yet available and instead, the reality is that information container exchange is manual, requiring upload/download, copy/paste of metadata and bespoke metadata mapping exercises in order to maintain the integrity of the information containers between systems. This hugely erroneous and inefficient process is caused by each solution supporting a non-standard and system specific proprietary data model that represents each information container and type thereof. The process is not only time consuming but very loss heavy even when done right - Human error can be the cause of lost information embodied through missing versions and metadata, duplicated and outdated information which adds excessive time and cost to the design and delivery of buildings and infrastructure. This not only undermines the intention of the value of the metadata from the author but also poses safety risks and hinders our ability as an industry to deliver on connected data workflows which are so fundamental to the progression of the concept of the Digital Twin and the value it is expected to deliver.

The discussion today, is to see whether some consensus can be reached, between the participants, on how exchanges of information could be vastly improved, by having a common open standard for exchange of information containers, that technology vendors could support and lead to the potential of automated exchange of information, dramatically reducing the time and cost of constructing and operating buildings and infrastructure, and reducing the safety risks of having outdated duplicate information.

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