AU Focus: Common Data Environments

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Design and construction teams are cracking the code to improving communication across the project lifecycle. Their approach: common data environments (CDEs). 

A CDE is the solution to technology silos. It provides centralized data management linking all project stakeholders—a single source of truth from design to plan to build. Think of it as a digital hub for models, documents, and data—no matter where they originated or what format they’re in.  

Achieving this state of simplified collaboration takes a lot of complex work. Different disciplines and companies use a variety of software, systems, and standards. An effective CDE must resolve these variables and be easy for collaborators to use. 

“3D design is the beginning. Data makes those designs smart and when people can collaborate and use that data from anywhere, anytime, you can achieve new levels of success. Autodesk Platform Services enables new ways of working and accelerates companies’ digital transformation and efficiency.” --Cyrille Fauvel, Senior Manager, Developer Tech Consulting, Autodesk 

At Autodesk University 2022, we learned from industry professionals who are leading the way in building and implementing CDEs. Learn about their approaches in these AU classes: 

A CDE with the client in mind 

Roland Daane explains how Royal BAM built a CDE that connects project data with client business systems. In essence, its CDE works for both the project team and the client.  

SharePoint and Autodesk BIM 360 are the CDE’s foundation, with SharePoint holding documents considered “works in progress” and BIM 360 holding published and shared files. Autodesk Platform Services cloud APIs (formerly Forge) and Workato offer a blend of integrations and automations that power seamless review workflows.   

Royal BAM gives its clients an interface—via ACC Connect—to sync their business systems with the CDE. ACC Connect provides no-code integrations for a variety of software like CRMs and ERPs. This CDE framework has several benefits: 

  • Clients can work in their own environments while project data remains up to date. 
  • The CDE is ISO19650-compliant but simplified so document authors don’t need to understand ISO and naming conventions.  
  • Automated review workflows reduce manual processes, improving efficiency and quality while reducing chances for error. 

Here’s an example of an old workflow where mistakes happened: A collaborator would convert a model to PDF, attach it to an email, and send it to a colleague. The colleague marks up the PDF and returns it via email. In the interim period, the original model may have been updated multiple times.  

Here’s how the new CDE improves that workflow: Collaborators now open a document, choose the type of approval and the approver, and the review process is automated from there. That reviewed document remains in SharePoint and the approved document is sent to BIM 360. The originals and revisions are captured in a single digital thread. 

Learn more about the process of building Royal BAM’s CDE and watch the CDE in action


A CDE as the digital foundation for Paris’ largest hospital

Jacque Levy-Bencheton from Brunet Saunier Architecture and Mathieu Lalanne from Autodesk Platform Services Certified Partner, DB-Lab, walk through the process of building a CDE for Grand Paris North Hospital. The project shows the complexity of hospital design: 12 companies with 100 stakeholders coordinating to envision 1.8 million square feet of space with 7,700 rooms. 

The CDE needed to integrate different processes: 

  • Collaboration including data production/authoring, sharing, and reviews. Tools include Revit, BIM Collaborate, and BIM Collaborate Pro. 
  • Coordination including clash detection and issue management. Tools include Revit and Navisworks. 
  • Data management including permissions, authentication, and data flows between tasks and users. Tools include Autodesk Platform Services APIs.  

The developers chose Autodesk BIM 360 to centralize the data and connect these processes and will use Autodesk Construction Cloud in future hospital projects.  

With this foundation as the CDE, the developers tailored it to specific hospital design needs. For instance, they created a “data dictionary” associated with a NoSQL database to ensure the traceability of each room’s data. The result is a tool called RoomDataChecker, which manages room data through: 

  • Input data: direct import of rooms from Revit files (and Excel in the future) 
  • Restructured data: spatial tree, rooms listings, areas compared, data compared, etc. 
  • Output data: room sheets, Excel reports, PDFs, and re-import to Revit 
  • Templates/customization of sheets 

This tool offers significant efficiencies in checking and ensuring quality for hospital rooms and across many design iterations for the Grand Paris North Hospital.  

Jacque Levy-Bencheton and Mathieu Lalanne share a lot of positive results stemming from the CDE, but this one stands out: Teams spent 50% less time on data management. 

Check out their AU class to learn more about building a CDE and the improved outcomes you can gain.