Construction knowledge comes out of the dark ages

The first industry-wide standard has been published to make construction knowledge more discoverable.

Developed by the Construction Knowledge Task Group (CKTG), of which CIAT is a member, the new standard will help practitioners find the knowledge they need when they need it, making it easier for them to keep up-to-date, follow best practice, adopt innovations and comply with standards.

In the last 10 years the construction industry has transformed the way it manages data and information, but until now its knowledge has remained stuck in the past, scattered across thousands of fragmented sources, and in 'dumb', unstructured and inconsistent formats.

In 2018, a survey by the CKTG revealed that 38% of practitioners do not have easy access to the knowledge they need to do their job. This is extremely serious for the industry at a time when it is being challenged to improve its competence, compliance and productivity. If practitioners do not have access to the knowledge they need, how can they meet the standards the world is now demanding?

The CKTG has committed to improving access to knowledge, and the first step is publication of the new knowledge standard. In much the same way that IFC and COBIE have revolutionised BIM and digital engineering, the new standard makes it much easier for users to find and manage construction knowledge.

The standard can be used to identify construction knowledge resources, to define their type, subject and location, and to describe the circumstances in which they might be useful. Adopting the standard across the industry will allow the creation of tools that can search, filter and manage all construction knowledge, whatever its source, and to integrate it into project environments. The standard includes 2 mandatory fields, 11 recommended fields, and 16 that are optional. It is based on existing classification systems including the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and Uniclass.

The CKTG are now calling for industry publishers to apply the standard to their knowledge and for technology providers to create new tools to help practitioners use that knowledge.

Dr Gregor Harvie, CKTG Chair, said: "It's time to stop publishing construction knowledge in dumb formats that are just digital versions of paper documents. This new standard means knowledge will come out of the dark ages and become a smart, structured resource that can be found and managed intelligently, supporting people as they work. BIM has already made this change for data and information; it's time for knowledge to catch up."

Steven Hedley MCIAT, CIAT Vice-President Technical, said: "We are delighted to be involved with the Construction Knowledge Task Group and the development of such a signifcant standard in today's intelligent information environment. The release of the Discoverable Construction Knowledge standard will benefit the entire construction industry community and CIAT look forward to seeing it become the norm for construction information management."

Tom Bartley, CEO at Barbal, who led the project, said: “We’ve made this standard as easy to adopt as possible. There are just two fields that need to be added to construction knowledge to make it discoverable. Then there are a number of optional fields that can be added depending on the needs of the publisher and their audience. The standard can be adopted by traditional publishers, and by practitioner organisations who want to share their knowledge externally or organise their internal knowledge in a more structured way.”

Development of the open standard was funded by the Lloyd's Register Foundation with the support of the Open Data Institute. It is freely available on Barbal’s StandardsRepo platform here

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