Digital Building Permit Ontology Released

Target: General industry audience, low-technical,

Aim: Introduce AEC3PO – what, why and how to use.

At the beginning of 2024, Accord project released the digital building permit ontology called Architecture Engineering and Construction Compliance Checking and Permitting Ontology [].

The Architecture Engineering and Construction Compliance Checking and Permitting Ontology (AEC3PO) offers a transformative approach to compliance checking in the AEC sector. Digital building permit ontology modelling the complete spectrum of permitting and compliance checking, and serving as the backbone for a domain-specific rule language and formalisation methodology.

Organised into thirteen detailed modules and nearly 80 classes, AEC3PO captures the essence of regulatory documents, outlining the rules within, and defining the specific check methods for operationalisation.

It systematically structures each compliance statement, categorising them by nature—be it numerical, human evaluated, or categorical thereof—thus offering a detailed representation of the multifaceted rules and regulations. AEC3PO is a vast network of 803 axioms, including 174 logical axioms that underpin the inferential logic of the system, and 118 declaration axioms to distinctly specify elements.

This ontology has been tested with regulations from demo countries such as United Kingdom, Finland and Spain, demonstrating its capability in semantising the entire compliance checking process, a testament to its practical applicability and industry-wide significance, highlighting its role as the foundation of the rule formalisation methodology that encompasses the entirety of the compliance checking process—from regulatory document modelling to compliance verification reporting.

The model will enable industry to integrate technical solutions for automating compliance checking of buildings in their design, construction, and renovation/demolition lifecycle phases. This open resource is provided with the methodology for regulations’ digitalization that can be applied and is a critical stepstone for the digitalization of the compliance checking in the whole industry. As industry aligned model, AEC3PO ensures seamless integration into both construction sector and European Legislation framework.

Machine executable regulations: 

The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry is subject to numerous regulations and standards that govern the design, construction, maintenance, operation, and demolition of buildings and infrastructure. These regulations often involve complex language and technical jargon, which can be difficult to understand and apply in practice. Transforming natural language into machine-readable data with explicit meaning, can address this challenge by creating structured representations of regulations that can be exchanged and processed by computers. This can enable Automated Compliance Checking (ACC), facilitate communication between stakeholders, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of regulatory enforcement.

It is important that the common understanding of the regulations character and applicability is agreed to limit ambiguity and build trustful processes implementations AEC3PO plays a central role in this approach standing as the refence for the specialized solutions. Digital building permit ontology is the common language for the formal regulations expression that is both human and machine understandable and processable. It is designed to be used in automated, manual and semi-manual modes.

Read more on the digitalisation of the regulation enforcement process methodology.

Role of the model in the compliance checking:

Once the rules are formulated according to the AEC3PO, they can be processed by the checking ecosystem. It enables APIs definition between components specialised as the rule exposure,  application processing software, rule checkers etc.. For the usability of the whole setup, regardless of the software, the same results shall be generated on the information level that is enabled by the common language understanding. Also, the model ensures all the results can refer to the formal and source regulations so that the outcomes can be documented and verified in the legal framework for the construction activities compliance.

Accord project uses AEC3PO to integrate all the components around it annotating relevant information in the APIs definition. Given that, services can match and bind services and execute the process in the distributed enviroment. 

How to use AEC3PO in local implementations 

Published report [link] provides a methodology for digitalizing and formalizing regulations and compliance-related Documents. It is a top-down approach where various level of the information is captured: 

  • Document Instantiation – reference to the document is set 
  • DocumentSubdivision Instantiation –multi-part document is mapped to sections for clarity of references 
  • Statement Instantiation – individual statement 
  • CheckStatement Instantiation – category and type of check to be applied 
  • FeatureOfInterest Instantiation – a Feature of Interest represents here entities, for which rule applies 
  • Property Instantiation – properties and their constraints 
  • CheckMethod Instantiation – check method definition 
  • OrCheck and AndCheck Instantiation – logical relations between rules/checks 

Document[link] provides comprehensive guide though the abovementioned steps. For example, the legal statement of the minimum height of the cantilevers and their distance in the regulations: 

Can be transofrmed into set of statements, among other these propertiescontraints instances: 

Depending on the cases, the number of definitions shall be shared for the efficiency and consistency of the process.  For example, the same document and properties would be used in a number of statements.  

Next actions:

The digitization approach developed together with the AEC3PO will be applied to the selected documents from the ACCORD demonstrators [link] from 5 European countries, while the approach is generic and can be applied to any construction regulatory documents. These diverse use cases serve as valuable demonstrations of how AEC3PO can effectively capture and represent the intricacies of compliance checks across different regulatory environments. In the subsequent sections, we will briefly describe each use case, providing an overview of the context and the specific scenarios it addresses. 

Read more about the Digital Building Permit Ontology AEC3PO

About ACCORD project:

The ACCORD project aims to enhance the digitalization of building permitting and compliance processes through the utilization of technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Geographic Information System (GIS) ultimately improving productivity and the quality of design and construction processes. Aligned with the EU Green Deal and New European Bauhaus initiative, ACCORD focuses on creating a human-centered, transparent, and cost-effective framework, specifically tailored to the needs of the industry. To achieve this, ACCORD is developing a semantic framework for European digital building permitting, driving rule formalization and integrating compliance tools as microservices. The goal is to provide consistent, interoperable, and reliable solutions that align with national regulatory frameworks, facilitating the automation of compliance checking throughout the entire lifecycle of buildings.