Last edited 27 Aug 2020

Construction knowledge comes out of the dark ages

Discoverable construction knowledge.jpg

One 27 August 2020, it was announced that the first industry-wide standard has been published to make construction knowledge more discoverable. Developed by the Construction Knowledge Task Group (CKTG), the new standard will help practitioners find the knowledge they need when they need it, making it easier for them to keep up-to-date, follow best practice, adopt innovations and comply with standards.

In the last 10 years the construction industry has transformed the way it manages data and information, but until now its knowledge has remained stuck in the past, scattered across thousands of fragmented sources, and in ‘dumb’, unstructured and inconsistent formats.

In 2018 a survey by the CKTG revealed that 38% of practitioners do not have easy access to the knowledge they need to do their job. This is extremely serious for the industry at a time when it is being challenged to improve its competence, compliance and productivity. If practitioners do not have access to the knowledge they need, how can they meet the standards the world is now demanding?

The CKTG has committed to improving access to knowledge, and the first step is publication of the new knowledge standard. In much the same way that IFC and COBIE have revolutionised BIM and digital engineering, the new standard makes it much easier for users to find and manage construction knowledge.

The standard can be used to identify construction knowledge resources, to define their type, subject and location, and to describe the circumstances in which they might be useful. Adopting the standard across the industry will allow the creation of tools that can search, filter and manage all construction knowledge, whatever its source, and to integrate it into project environments. The standard includes 2 mandatory fields, 11 recommended fields, and 16 that are optional. It is based on existing classification systems including the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and Uniclass.

The CKTG are now calling for industry publishers to apply the standard to their knowledge and for technology providers to create new tools to help practitioners use that knowledge.

Dr Gregor Harvie, CKTG Chair said: “It’s time to stop publishing construction knowledge in dumb formats that are just digital versions of paper documents. This new standard means knowledge will come out of the dark ages and become a smart, structured resource that can be found and managed intelligently, supporting people as they work. BIM has already made this change for data and information; it’s time for knowledge to catch up.”

RIBA Head of Technical Practice, Alex Tait said: “We are pleased to have helped to develop the new Construction Knowledge Standard, in order to provide much needed consistency and efficiency. This is a defining move for construction knowledge management, which will benefit not only our architect members, but the wider construction industry, immediately and into the future.”

Maria Thanigasalam, BSRIA Information Officer said: “BSRIA fully supports the new Standard developed by the Construction Knowledge Task Group. As a leading source of construction knowledge and best practice technical guidance, BSRIA recognises the need for construction industry practitioners to have access to the latest, most relevant knowledge to drive improvement and efficiency within the built environment. The increasing use of digital technologies has changed how practitioners operate; as a result, it is important that providers embrace protocols which support new ways of working.”

Tom Bartley, CEO at Barbal, who led the project, said: “We’ve made this standard as easy to adopt as possible. There are just two fields that need to be added to construction knowledge to make it discoverable. Then there are a number of optional fields that can be added depending on the needs of the publisher and their audience. The standard can be adopted by traditional publishers, and by practitioner organisations who want to share their knowledge externally or organise their internal knowledge in a more structured way.”

Development of the open standard was funded by the Lloyd's Register Foundation with the support of the Open Data Institute. It is freely available on Barbal’s StandardsRepo platform at:


The Discoverable Construction Knowledge standard

Discoverable Construction Knowledge is a new metadata standard that can be used for websites or other datasets to describe knowledge resources in a consistent way. The schema is based on the widely used Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, extended with construction-specific elements such as Uniclass. The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative is used widely throughout the world and is recognised by Google and other major search engines.

It is designed to be applicable across the whole spectrum of knowledge, including digital and physical resources, and can be used by any organisation that publishes content that could be useful to practitioners.

Guidance for applying the standard to a web page is available here.

The Construction Knowledge Task Group

The Construction Knowledge Task Group (CKTG) represents more than 30 construction knowledge organisations in the UK, including a range of professional institutions, publishers, universities, suppliers and practitioner organisations. Its aim is to make it as easy as possible for construction industry stakeholders to find, access and use knowledge.

Find out more:


Barbal is an SME from Bristol. It provides cloud software for collaborating on technical documents such as contracts, specifications and policies, and supports professional communities to develop and publish new data standards for digital transformation.

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