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OpenDMS - A Common File Naming Convention for Construction

Documents & Workflows
min read
Published on
December 13, 2023
Within the complex ecosystem of construction projects, coherence in document management is crucial. The adoption of a uniform file naming convention is not just a matter of order, but a true strategy for information mastery. This article explores the impact of the Open DMS convention in Belgium, an initiative aimed at harmonizing communication and optimizing collaboration among the multiple stakeholders of a project.
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Why define a convention for naming files?

When a design team collaborates on a project, each engineering office produces documents: architectural plans, stability plans, principle notes, sizing notes, meeting reports...

The information generated quickly becomes significant, while the project is still just an idea. Each project partner uses their own naming system to classify their documents. For the more diligent, the convention is set at the office level. But this is not always the case. Some teams reinvent the wheel with each project. Within the same engineering office, servers are often filled with documents designating the same thing on different projects with random names. And things get complicated when it comes to sharing the files produced on a CDE (Common Data Environment). On the same project and without a common convention, documents are named according to systems that respond to occasional and personal logics. If we add the Belgian specificity, namely the use of several national languages among the stakeholders of the same project, finding a file on a server made available for a project is a real treasure hunt.

The necessity of finding a Common Framework for naming project files

What are the benefits of adopting a uniform file naming?

The benefits of a common file naming convention are numerous:

  • Simplification of communication between partners
  • Traceability and control of documents
  • Linking data with the BIM model
  • Correspondence of revisions
  • Multicriteria search
  • Reuse of data over the document lifecycle

Adopting a common and robust naming increases significantly the quality management (document management) of your project. It remains to agree on it. And that's good because in Belgium, construction sector experts have worked on the subject and have reached a result.

The development of a Belgian convention: OpenDMS

Convinced by the benefits that a convention can bring to the management of a project, the ADEB-VBA (the association of Belgian large works contractors) and Buildwise initiated the creation of a uniform system for naming documents produced for construction projects. This convention was developed in collaboration with Embuild (Construction Confederation) and Buildet was approved by Buildwise's Digital Construction Cluster in 2023. The OpenDMS convention is integrated into the ISO 19650 information management process. It should be noted that as of the writing of this article, this convention is not yet a national annex. It is therefore a proposal for good practice but not an imposition.

As of the approval date, Cooperlink was already compatible with Open DMS. You can find on our website the webinar presentation of the OpenDMS naming convention of 27/06/2023 as well as its implementation in Cooperlink.

Principles of the OpenDMS naming convention

What does a file name look like according to the OpenDMS convention?

At first glance, the name of a file may seem enigmatic, but with a little practice, you will easily decipher it. The name of a file according to the OpenDMS convention is as follows:


Each segment (characters between hyphens) of the file name includes metadata from the document. The number of characters of the segments is also defined by the convention.

The goal of this convention is that each version of a document has only one unique name.

Deciphering an OpenDMS denomination

In order of appearance, here is what the different metadata segments correspond to:

Segment Description
Project The project code is to be defined among all partners.
Origin The name of the issuing company. This will most often be the engineering office or construction company.
Functional split It represents work packages like the contractors or the constructive elements.
Spatial distribution The building, the level, or even the concerned area are indicated. Example: B1.B2 - Building 1 Basement 2
Form It represents the document type. The form of the document is a mandatory information: is it a 2D drawing, a contract, a technical sheet...?
Discipline 91 disciplines have been identified: architecture, acoustics, BREEAM, cost management...
Number Within the same classification, this number makes the document unique.
State Is it the existing or projected situation? The phase of the project can also be indicated here.
Description Even when accustomed to the OpenDMS convention, file titles may require additional information. Or simply, within your office, you may use other metadata. The project name is typically the metadata on which no partner will adopt the same logic. That's why you can indicate in this segment the name given to the document internally.

A tool to easily name your files according to the OpenDMS convention

With 10 character strings and 91 possible metadata elements just for one segment, it’s not easy to navigate. That's why Buildwise provides an Excel file to allow you to generate the name of your files according to the OpenDMS standard: you can download it here.

How does Cooperlink implement the OpenDMS convention in its Construction Hub?

At the start of each project, our team sets up your workspace according to requests. The question arises as to which convention to adopt for the files, as one of our major advantages is metadata management.

For example, one of Cooperlink's favorite features for users is the automatic creation of header pages for technical sheets. Indeed, Cooperlink is able to link the metadata of a document and the various fields of a header page that it generates. This implies that with each new version of your document, the header page is updated without you having to do anything. Cooperlink retrieves the metadata from the file name, as well as others such as the date, comments issued, file name… in its standardized cover page. So much time saved for site managers!

The use of the OpenDMS convention is not an imposition to use Cooperlink. You can choose to use any other convention specific to your organization or meeting another standard. Each time a user deposits a document in your workspace, they must complete a few fields to feed the metadata.

When exporting all project documents deposited on Cooperlink to your server, if you wish to convert a data segment so that it corresponds to your internal system, it is possible. Cooperlink has already encountered several "custom" requests of this type. If this is also your case, please contact us.

BIM and OpenDMS

We are not telling you anything new by stating that BIM is the future of construction. To date, too few offices design projects in BIM in Belgium, but by looking at our French or German neighbors, there is little doubt that the Belgian construction world will have to train in it.

The design and manipulation of BIM objects are complex. Cooperlink collaborates on a research project with the University of Liège (ULiege) and Buildwise to make BIM accessible. Through this research project, the partners are developing a solution so that non-BIM modelers, such as site managers or subcontractors, can easily enrich a project's BIM model. The goal is to link any project object (asset) to all the documents that reference it. And with just a few clicks in the BIM model, a user can find these documents.

Metadata is a crucial issue to ensure the traceability of documents and to establish links between design documents, technical documents, and the actual conditions on the ground.


In conclusion, the adoption of a file naming convention such as OpenDMS represents a significant advance for the clarity and efficiency of document management in the construction sector. The harmonization of file naming facilitates communication, collaboration, and information retrieval, while complying with the requirements of the ISO 19650 standard.

The OpenDMS convention, while not mandatory, suggests a work discipline that promises to standardize the way documents are referenced, thus reducing the risks of errors and confusion. It is a concrete response to the challenges of managing information in multilingual and multidisciplinary projects typical of Belgium. This good practice proposal could well rise to the status of a de facto standard, given its immediate and tangible benefits.


This article was written using ISO19650 BIM wiki published by Buildwise.

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