Advisory Topic: CRE Tech 5.0 Vol. 17 No. 28
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Data Governance and Standards – The Key to Intelligent Buildings

Author: Dave Clute, VP, Intelligent Building Group, Environmental Systems Design (ESD)

The importance of providing a well-defined data governance strategy and adopting standards is more important than ever in our quest to define, design and deliver intelligent buildings. This topic has been the subject of panel discussions, presentations and educational sessions in Realcomm conferences for the past 15 years, but we still have much work to do.

With the rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), the need to define and adopt common data standards has gained even more importance. The Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate recently launched the OSCRE Academy to help define what data governance means and how we can achieve a higher level of understanding and adoption.

The built environment depends on three basic types of data:

  • Spatial (or geospatial) data – This is the type of data found in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and applications. A GIS lets us visualize, question, analyze and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends.

  • Graphic data – Within the built environment, graphic data typically means 2D or 3D drawings, diagrams, charts, photographs, videos or images.

  • Tabular data – A table is an arrangement of data in rows and columns or possibly in a more complex structure. Tables appear in print media, handwritten notes, computer software and many other places.
During the design and construction of new buildings, it is often easier to implement a common set of data standards because we can create spatial, graphic and tabular data starting with a clean slate. It is much more difficult with existing buildings, where we are inheriting legacy definitions and interpretations. Either way, the path to achieving an Intelligent Building, often referred to as the Intelligent Building Roadmap shown below, depends on adopting a common set of data standards across an organization.

How do we get there? Like any journey, it starts with a map with an origin and a destination. We can define our starting point, our origin, by conducting an assessment of what data do we have, what does it look like, how is it organized and how is it documented. Our destination is where we would like to be to achieve a higher level of standardization with mature business processes and greater levels of efficiency and data optimization.

Let's take a simple example of how we can define, design and deliver a set of data standards for a new building: Space IDs. Unique identifiers for space, commonly known as room numbers, may seem like something that is easily defined and understood by all stakeholders. The traditional process of naming rooms or creating space IDs starts with the architect. Room names and numbers are assigned on a set of schematic design documents that may or may not be carried over into the construction documents by the contractor.

By the time a design advances through the design phases of schematic, design development and construction documents, rooms are added, more spaces get defined and finally – once the furniture, fixtures and equipment are added – there may even be more space IDs, down to the work station level. Building owners and operators or Facility Managers (FMs) may have their own way of identifying, tracking and managing space within their space management or Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) or applications.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could begin with the end in mind and have the same set of space IDs throughout the entire process? It is certainly possible to have the same set of space IDs in a set of construction documents, or a Building Information Model (BIM), throughout the entire lifecycle if all of the key stakeholders agree on a naming convention (i.e. data standard) during the schematic design phase so that the architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, vendors and ultimately the owners and operators of a building all use the same set of standards for their spatial, graphic and tabular data. This is a common practice in an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) process, but that is a subject for another day.

To learn more about data standards and how they can be applied to the design and construction of Intelligent Buildings, visit the OSCRE Academy website or contact the Intelligent Building Practice within ESD.

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ESD is a leader in Improving Society Through the Built Environment. It creates design solutions that produce economic, environmental and experiential benefits for its clients, many of whom are the biggest names in the worlds of business, technology — and beyond. The company is in the forefront of developing Intelligent Buildings. For more information, please visit

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