In a world ruled by acronyms these are just another two, but CPIC and Uniclass are important to the success of the construction industry in cutting costs and waste. Sarah Delany, CPIC Secretary and NBS Technical author, explains.


The Construction Project Information Committee (CPIC) has had several names in the past, including BPIC – Building Project Information Committee – and CCPI – Co-ordinating Committee on Project Information. It was set up to carry out the recommendations of a report produced by the government-funded Project Information Group (PIG) – the acronyms get better!

The PIG report set out ways to improve the flow of project information from design team to site team. This report was produced when a research project carried out by the Building Research Establishment identified that the quality of information in whatever form – drawings, specification or bills of quantity – had a disproportionate effect on the quality of the final product.

CPIC externallink is sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Construction Confederation (CC), the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and most recently the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). Representatives of each of these institutions sit on the committee.

The current CPIC publications include:

  • Common arrangement of work sections for building works (1998); and
  • Uniclass: Unified classification for the construction industry (1997).


Uniclass is the UK implementation of BS ISO 12006-2. The new code of practice, BS 1192:2007 Collaborative production of architectural, engineering and construction information, published in January 2008, recommends the use of Uniclass, so where BS 1192 is specified as the method of coordinating drawings on a project, a knowledge of Uniclass becomes necessary.

Uniclass contains 15 tables which classify different aspects of the construction process at different RIBA stages (see the table below).

Production information and the Avanti project

The procedure for making best use of this classification system is detailed in CPIC's Production information which was implemented in the government-funded Avanti project. The savings on cost and waste that can be achieved by using this procedure, and proven in the Avanti project, are substantial. Details can be found on the CE Avanti website externallink.

Some of the benefits include:

  • improved client satisfaction of up to 90%;
  • productivity savings of 50 to 85% on information receipt and reuse; and
  • 75 to 80% saving in design co-ordination.

Uniclass development

As the use of Uniclass grows and other organizations are working on structuring information, suggestions for amendments and extensions to Uniclass are being received. CPIC has set up a working group to manage Uniclass. This working group is made up of representatives from the RICS Building Cost Information Service (BCIS), the RICS Quantity Surveying and Construction Faculty, NBS, Autodesk, Bentley, Crossrail and Halcrow. Uniclass provides the link between all the different aspects of the construction process.

BCIS has recently revised the structure for elements in its costing information. At least one commercial automated system for producing bills of quantities uses the BCIS elements classification rather than the Uniclass elements table G. RICS is also undertaking a new Measurement Initiative to formulate a new standard method of measurement for both trade/ package measurement and estimating. This method will supersede the CAWS-based SMM7, is aligned to the new BCIS elements classification rather than CAWS, and is currently out for industry comment.

Representatives of the two major CAD software vendors have had an input into the development of a new table within Uniclass – table Z – which standardizes information relevant to drawings such as title blocks and gridlines. They are also in the forefront of the adoption of Uniclass as a result of the publication of BS 1192.

Currently the Crossrail project has adopted BS 1192 and the Uniclass group is working to help Crossrail implement the classification in CAD systems. In order to make this information more readily available, CPIC is developing some software which will allow the Uniclass database to be searched for the classification code for particular elements and products. This software will 6also provide a means of requesting new classifications where they do not currently exist. The value of this industry standard is that, where amendments and additions are identified, they can be added for the benefit of all. This will prevent a number of different versions from being used.

As the Crossrail project involves both building and civil engineering activities, the working group is considering the similarities and differences between these with a view to rationalising the existing Uniclass civil engineering tables. Many of the materials are the same so there is scope for combining the elements and work sections tables and extending the products table.

NBS's proposals for changing the services side of CAWS were accepted by CPIC in March (see 'NBS Engineering Services', NBS Journal 03). We are currently working on revisions to the structure of CAWS to take account of the wide range of methods of procurement currently in use (see 'Reclassification', NBS Journal 08).


Following the publication of BS 1192, Uniclass is now a vital part of the construction process and CPIC is working closely with industry to help with its adoption. Further information will become available on the CPIC website externallink later in the year.

Illustration of the use of Uniclass tables with the RIBA stages

Construction result

Construction resource











Construction entities


Elements for buildings

Work sections for buildings

Construction products

Properties and characteristics








Design brief









Design Development






Technical design






Production information






Tender documentation






Tender action
















Construction to practical completion







Post practical completion





■ Probable
□ Possible