LEXiCON: A new phase in a collaborative journey

Blog by Hanna Clarke, Digital and Policy Manager at the CPA and Steven Yeomans, Digital Construction Lead for BRE.

The construction industry is one of the last to become fully digitised. The construction industry is made up of several sectors, all communicating in different ways, across many subjects. The products sector is not immune to this fragmentation, and despite various initiatives to harmonise product information, it is still displayed and consumed in diverse and unconnected ways. To realise the true benefits of digitisation, product data needs to be integrated, coordinated and made machine-readable.

In 2016, LEXiCON was conceived as a method to support such ambitions. The aim was to develop a consensus process and software platform that industry could come together around to agree common terms in a data dictionary. This in turn could be compiled to make Product Data Templates (PDTs) that would be openly available for industry to use. In a joint effort, CPA and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) created an optimistic programme and announced to industry that there was a solution on the horizon. It became clear that the task was far more significant and complex than had initially been anticipated. Challenges ranged from funding and the safety of information, to clarity around software and the method of consensus. As the project expanded, so did the conversation on the need to consider an ever-increasing amount of data, procedures and standards. The topic expanded to better consider the question of interconnecting dictionaries. And, while the European conversation moved to establish rules, no clear direction was agreed.

Further ground work was needed before LEXiCON could proceed. The CPA raised the profile of LEXiCON with Government, so much so that it was mentioned as part of the Industrial Strategy Construction Sector Deal. As part of the Construction Innovation Hub, BRE was awarded the funding to resource LEXiCON and develop a software solution. Together, the CPA and the Hub have developed a new programme for moving the project forward. In the short-term, it will take what has been learnt so far and create a consensus method and flexible software platform.  In the long-term, the funds provided by the Hub will give industry the opportunity to demonstrate and verify the process and technology, which will lay the foundations for future industry-wide application.

A fundamental milestone is ensuring industry consensus over LEXiCON information and ensuring it can inter-connect with other dictionaries. To enable this the CPA has become lead sponsor for a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 14191:2020 Built environment – Management and operation of interconnected construction data dictionaries – Specification[1]. The CPA have asked Carl Collins (from Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) whose work in this area with BIMHawk is well respected to author it. Through this PAS, the CPA will outline an industry agreed process that LEXiCON and UK dictionaries can adopt, whilst still working in harmony with the over-arching work in Europe and further afield.

Progress is being made, but there is more work to do. The conversation has changed following the impact of the Grenfell disaster and Hackitt reforms. For LEXiCON to win the support of industry, the CPA and the Hub need to hear views from all levels of the industry to ensure the vision and programme is right for all involved. To that end, we are holding a LEXiCON: A New Phase stakeholder meeting on 6 February 2020, open to CPA members and the wider industry. Here we will be outlining the partnership between CPA and the Hub, the new vision and programme for LEXiCON. We will also be looking for volunteers to join and lead a new working group.

The Hub and the CPA have now entered a phase where we, along with the rest of industry, have the pieces in place to make clear and collaborative decisions over how LEXiCON can be a keystone of the journey to industry digitisation.

The LEXiCON: A New Phase stakeholder meeting will be held in a central London location 6 February 2020. To reserve your place, please contact ellie.jenkins@bregroup.com.                                                    

Hanna Clarke is the CPA project lead on the LEXiCON project and PAS 14191:2020 Built environment – Operation of interconnected construction data dictionaries. She also sits on the Industry Response Group, the committee B/555 – Construction design, modelling and data exchange and is on the Steering Group member for BS 8464 Digital Management of Fire Safety Information.

Dr Steven Yeomans is the Digital Construction Lead for BRE in the Hub and a Steering Group member of the PAS 14191:2020 Built environment – Operation of interconnected construction data dictionaries.  Steven has experience in digital construction, research, teaching, consultancy and innovation. His specialised knowledge covers the application of digital ways of working and cloud-systems for improved business and information management, communication and collaborative working. Steven’s former roles include Lecturer in Digital Construction at Loughborough University and Head of Collaboration for an international engineering company.   

[1] PAS:14191:2020 Built environment – Management and operation of interconnected data dictionaries – Specification will be out for public consultation in January 2020.

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