Common Data Model for Real Estate.

Common Data Model for Real Estate. (Photo: © IBPDI)

A joint data language for the real estate sector


Where are lifts located in a building, what spaces are used, how much energy is consumed? All of this is revealed by the digital building twin, which – in combination with a shared data language – provides previously undreamt of insights.

By Rebekka Ruppel and Laura Bäumchen

Three of five companies in the automotive industry, aerospace, life sciences and energy and utilities make use of digital twins. Capgemini Research Institute determined this as part of a current study. The companies’ goal is to enhance potential operationally and sustainability. The fact that the real estate industry, as the largest economic sector, is missing from this list is only surprising at first glance. Digitalisation occupied a subordinate role in the sector for a long time, but times have now changed.

The real estate sector can no longer manage without digital technologies either, since only in this way can transparency be established – the ultimate criterion for making forward-looking decisions and being able to manage real estate professionally, including all of its elements.

One of the biggest challenges here is the fragmented nature of the sector, for example, with regard to very different markets and players. The decision for greater use of digital twins is as unavoidable as inadequate. Without doubt, a digital twin as virtual copy of a real estate already permits greater insight, from the use of space to technical fittings. It facilitates simulations and offers different stakeholders a joint working basis - all of the data are in one virtual location.

Joint standard as solution

An important obstacle has already been mentioned with the fragmentation of the real estate sector: information comes from different sources, is collected according to different methods and is available (if one thinks of cross-border portfolios) in different units and standards. In other words, the data are often not comparable or linkable. Data silos are transferred much too frequently from analogue to digital.

This phenomenon is by no means restricted to the real estate industry – however, other sectors, such as the automotive or health sector, reacted much earlier and created corresponding data standards. These are derived from the concept of the open data initiative of Microsoft. The idea is to combine national and international standards and create a uniform data language and semantics – a so-called common data model (CDM).

Common data model for real estate

Inspired by this, the International Building Performance & Data Initiative (IBPDI) has been working on an industry-specific CDM for real estate since November 2020. Launched by BuildingMinds, Microsoft, RICS and pom+, the initiative now already has about 70 member organisations from all sectors of the real estate industry – including the lift manufacturer Schindler, among others.

This is not to say there are no standards in Germany – on contrary: something of a "regulation craze" is observable in Germany. But because information in the systems of real estate companies, as indicated, are not subject to any underlying system, the data cannot communicate with each other. Moreover, companies have for a long time not been accustomed to sharing information and data.

Basis for cooperation and innovation

The IBPDI is preparing related subject areas for various segments of the CDM for real estate. The digital building twin forms the central cluster. Other focus areas are grouped around it ( see figure).

The results are published regularly as open source – this has already occurred for the clusters Digital Building Twin (in which lifts are mapped) and Energy & Resources. This has not only created the basis for cross-company and –system data use, but also facilitated the deployment of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning in real estate application areas.

The authors: Rebekka Ruppel is CEO of pom+ Germany and chair of the International Building Performance & Data Initiative (IBPDI). Laura Bäumchen is Head of Business Development at BuildingsMinds and vice chair of IBPDI.

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