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GIIG – An Interoperability Code of Practice for Technologies in the Built and Managed Environment

May 2023
Andrew Croft and Felicity Hird

The Government & Industry Interoperability Group (GIIG) has published their new Code of Practice for Technologies in the Built and Managed Environment which addresses the perennial issue of the inoperability of data within the construction industry. It is intended that the Code of Practice will enable parties to a construction project to achieve the ‘golden thread of information’ introduced by the Building Safety Act. There are also benefits to adopting interoperable data, including reduced project costs, more informed decision making throughout design and construction, and more accurate evidence gathering in the event of a dispute.

The key objective of the Code of Practice is to encourage interoperability of data, which means the ability to exchange and use information securely, ensure that information is independent of the technologies used to deliver it, and ensure that information is not lost over time or when it is flowed between differing software.

Interoperability is important during the course of a project to help co-ordination and production of information. Without it information may need to be converted or reformatted which can result in data loss or unintended amendments.  This is why the ISO19650-2 information protocol states that neither party warrants the compatibility of information (clause 5.1) and excludes liability for unintended amendments to Information models (clause 5.2).

In addition, following project completion interoperability is key to allow access to the information produced. Interoperability can become extremely important if a dispute arises, as crucial evidence can be lost if historic data can no longer be accessed or supported on current versions of the software available at the time.

The GIIG has identified that poor interoperability of information presents a particular problem in the construction industry, where reliable information is the life blood of a project, essential for a wide range of decision-making from the pre-contract phase through end of life stage. The root of the problem involves the silo-based, highly fragmented and often adversarial nature of the industry, which frequently focuses on short term outputs or deliverables, rather than whole-life outcomes, and the slow pace of digital adoption.

This Code of Practice outlines the principle of interoperability and five principles that underpin achieving and maintaining interoperability:

  1. Longevity – enabling better long-term findability, access, reuse and exploitation, and therefore continued value, of information;
  2. Security – maintaining necessary security, confidentiality and privacy protections, while maximising opportunities for sharing non sensitive information for the public good;
  3. Information value – enhancing the value of information created, managed and shared by technology-using professionals;
  4. Information ownership – ensuring enduring ownership and control by asset owner operators of valuable data about the assets they own; and
  5. Competition – promoting fair competition between technology providers (and indirectly among supply chain users of technologies).

Achieving better interoperability has become a stated aim of the UK Government’s construction strategy, demanded in the Construction Playbook and the TIP Roadmap to 2030. Improving interoperability also contributes to ambitions of greater sharing of better data across government, supported by national digital, data, and geospatial strategies, by guidance in the Digital, Data and Technology Playbook and the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) Technology Code of Practice.

Lastly, the interoperability of data is key to maintaining the ‘golden thread of information’ which will now become the bedrock of UK construction projects following the introduction of the Building Safety Act 2022. Each individual working on a construction project will have obligations, in some form or another, to maintain and contribute to the golden thread of information.

Looking ahead, it is hoped that clients will begin to mandate the use of the Code of Practice to help interoperability become embedded in information delivery and management. We recommend that construction professionals acquaint themselves with the Code of Practice and accompanying information standard ISO 19650 and refer other parties to the Code of Practice if a software or vendor specific information management approach is adopted or mandated (as we have seen on a number of projects historically).

The full Code of Practice can be accessed here.

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