ELI5-S1: BIM Basics E2: CDE Explained

The purpose of using Common Data Environment (CDE) on a project is to provide the right person with the right information at the right time.[1]

The CDE is a tool used to exchange, view, analyze, share, and manage project information whilst maintaining data integrity.

CDE can be used at any project type, but it is essential on projects requiring Building Information Modelling (BIM) to facilitate collaboration, maintain responsibility and avoid duplication and errors.

Functioning within the BIM environment requires all stakeholders to collaborate and exchange information models in a mutually accessible environment such as CDE used in all phases of the asset life cycle.

Concept of Common data Environment

Correctly instituted CDE can offer improved productivity based on better workflows and greater cross-disciplinary alignment and structured data consistency.

Summary of lessons learned from Crossrail project [2]

The reported Crossrail project key lessons learnt related to CDE are summarised below have been reproduced from Technical Paper by Malcolm Taylor. The research suggests that the information should be owned by the client (appointing party) and, the information models should be treated as a valuable resource stored on data-centric Common Data Environment, with the CDE established as early as possible.

Crossrail lessons Learned – CDE

The presented case study suggests that CDE must be structured around two main data types: data objects and event objects.

The database must process any form of data and event objects useful for managing transactional workflows and activities, allowing the integration of business processes with the database and other systems accessible via web, mobile and mobile applications.

The level of information needed should be set up at the outset and proportionate to the specific project scope at each stage.

Standardized delivery templates should be used throughout the contract to ensure efficient integration and exchange to OPEX phase.


[1]        M. Johnston, “How GHD’s common data environment saves 18,000 hours a year – Projects – Software – iTnews,” itnews, Nov. 27, 2019. (accessed Jan. 03, 2021).

[2]        M. Taylor, “Crossrail Project: Application of BIM (Building Information Modelling) and Lessons Learned – Crossrail Learning Legacy,” Jul. 2018. Accessed: Jan. 04, 2021. [On