Cover image: Exploring new approaches for sharing data in the built environment

Exploring new approaches for sharing data in the built environment

Wed Jun 23, 2021
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Organisations that design, build, operate and maintain the built environment are exploring how to create value from data. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities, and looks into the available approaches for increasing access to data, from data-sharing agreements and data pooling, through to decentralised data publishing.

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Organisations that design, build, operate and maintain the built environment are exploring how to create value from data. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities, and looks into the available approaches for increasing access to data, from data-sharing agreements and data pooling, through to decentralised data publishing.

We create value from data when it is used. This means that data needs to be accessible to those who can use it well.

It needs to be at the right point on the data spectrum. Data has the potential to help us tackle a variety of social, environmental and economic problems. Solving the biggest challenges requires sharing data not just within organisations, but also between partners and across sectors. This requires investment in the data infrastructure that can help us to use data well.

Like other industries, the organisations designing, building, operating and maintaining the built environment are looking at how to create value from data. In this paper we explore some of the challenges and opportunities.

There are a range of existing approaches for increasing access to data and open, collaborative models for building and maintaining the necessary data infrastructure. Data-sharing agreements are the default model for sharing data between organisations and for engaging with researchers. They shape how data is used by providing clarity around the rights, responsibilities and permitted forms of reuse. But other models exist.

Pooling data from multiple organisations allows data to be aggregated and analysed in ways that individual organisations cannot achieve by themselves. For example, to support benchmarking and analytics that can increase efficiency or improve safety. With strong governance and investment in centralised infrastructure, organisations can feel comfortable that data is being used within a trusted environment.

But centralised approaches to sharing and governing data are not suitable for all scenarios. Initiatives like open banking, use another approach based around decentralised publishing of data using open standards and a common framework that governs how data is accessed, used and shared. This works well when data is best shared by those who collect and maintain it.

The right approach depends on the purpose of sharing data. We need to be clear on the challenges to be solved before building our shared-data infrastructure.

Smart buildings and digital twins can help us tackle a number of common challenges, including the urgent need to adapt to a changing climate. We highlight how increasing access to data can contribute to tackling those challenges and discuss how building stronger data infrastructure and independent stewardship of data and open standards are important to achieving that goal.

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