For as long as there has been a construction industry, we have placed a value on concrete and steel. Knowing how much the raw materials cost, as well as shaping them, transporting them and placing them.

As we move into the digital age, where clients want to own both a physical and a digital asset, there must be a significant shift in how we value both assets. It is clear that once we get it right and understand what information can do for us, the digital asset will become significantly more valuable.

Information needs a use

Many organisations demand that we collect and hand over a significant amount of information without knowing what it will be used for or understanding why they are asking for it. Writing an Asset Information Requirements package in the form of an “Asset Data Dictionary” is an important part of the client’s tasks before they get anywhere near procuring the physical asset.  It is worth noting that this information can only come from that end user, be they the member of the public using the service, the operator, maintainer or any of the participant characters in the lifecycle of the asset. Think about this carefully to find out how to maintain something, don’t ask the maintenance manager, as they consume information about planning maintenance works, not the actual maintenance task itself!!

3 reasons for use

A rough rule of thumb when looking at information is to ask if it fits into these three reasons for use categories:

  1. Does it help you make an informed decision? For example, this might be a high-level decision such as “if the Olympic games came to Newcastle in 2035 would the main station be able to cope with an additional 3 million passengers?” or a more detail decision on when something needs replacing.

  2. Does it help you answer a critical question? For example, this might be a “where is the incident control point in the case of a building fire?” or “how much money is left in the budget for X?”

  3. Does it help you carry out a key activity? Admittedly, this can be quite a loose definition, as an activity could be a design, construction, operations, business, maintenance or decommissioning one etc or even a simple consumer one like “How do I replace the batteries in the remote control?”

The thing to remember is that information will have a different value to different people all the way through the lifecycle and that it will be that end user who pays for it. So, don’t be surprised that a client won’t buy your wonderfully detailed 4D/5D model, but they will buy your ability to deliver on time and on budget!

Different people, different values

Something is only as valuable as what someone else is willing to pay for it. So, finding the right buyer and understanding what they want to pay and what they require is very important.

You will probably find that the user that creates the most valuable information is also the consumer of the least valuable information!

The information used by the consumer is perceived as having the highest value. That used by the owner for making business decisions comes next followed by those of the operator and maintainer. The information used by the designer and constructor has the second lowest perceived value above that of the supply chain. However, most of the information provided by the supply chain, even though they don’t see or feel the value, can be the most valuable as it will be directly used by the consumer.

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Chain of evidence

Information is only valuable if you can trust it. If you have to go back to the raw data and re-evaluate it to produce the information needed, then you shouldn’t have paid for it!

There should be an unbreakable chain of evidence from when the information was authored, all the way through until it is used. If that chain is broken, even for a short time, then it seriously devalues the information.

This is very similar to evidence used by the police to secure a conviction. As soon as it is discovered it is bagged and signed for, every step of its journey from crime scene all the way to the court room has to be accounted for. If it is misplaced, just for a few seconds it may have been tainted and is no longer admissible in court. The same is for information. If it can be tampered with, changed or tainted, people won’t trust it and without trust there is no value! Most CDE’s generate this trust by giving an audit trail throughout the information’s lifecycle, so the consumer can see every steps of its journey.

Office of National Statistics

Back in 2012, whilst getting to grips with this “BIM” thing, I read a report from the Office of National Statistics, which included the Guidelines for Measuring Statistical Quality; based upon the five European Statistical System (ESS) Quality Dimensions. These struck a strong chord with me around the value of information and how much we trust it.

  • Relevance – Is this information relevant to the tasks or questions that I need to resolve?

  • Accuracy – Is the information accurate, or as accurate as I need it to be? (You don’t need the millimetre precision of laser scanning to know if something exists or to dig a field rain!)

  • Timeliness and punctuality – If there are deadlines to carry out a task, and the information is essential for it, then the information needs to be presented to me well in advance, otherwise its value is greatly diminished.

  • Accessibility and Clarity – If I don’t have permissions to see it or it’s hidden in a jumble of other data, I will spend much time and money getting access and ensuring it’s the right piece of information.

  • Comparability – Sometimes information or data can be an anomaly. If taken in isolation this can lead to a few disastrous decisions! It’s always good to have something to compare it to, making us more comfortable with the information and therefore trust it a little more!

  • Coherence – If the information in front of you is so muddled and non-understandable, then we trust and use it less. Some would put the much maligned COBie in this category!

5 Pillars of Information Validation

When looking at information that is presented to you and you are still concerned about its trustworthiness and value, then these 5 Pillars are worth noting.

  • Provenance - Are you looking at an original piece of information?

  • Source - Who created the original piece of information?

  • Date - When was the piece of information created?

  • Location – Where was this piece of information created?

  • Motivation – Why was the piece of information created?

Once you are satisfied with the answers, then you can probably trust the information more.


Placing a monetary figure on a piece of information can be a tough call and perhaps the financial advantage your organisation gains from it, is less than it costs to author, authorise, manage and disseminate. In the end it is the end user, who will tell you how valuable the information is and how much time/ energy/ money would be wasted either making the decision or carry out the task without it.

It is clear however that the earlier we start collecting and managing trustworthy information the more its value increases during the lifecycle of the asset. If this information gathering from the physical asset can be automated and linked to the digital asset, providing a continuous live stream of trusted information according to the guidelines set above then inevitably its value will increase to a point when it is truly more valuable than the physical.