#COBie and #IFC implementation thoughts #bimthoughts

This blog explores three areas how will Construction Operations Building; information exchange (COBie) be delivered in practice, how can we avoid inadequate content or COBie deliverables being abandoned, and how does the industry ensure IFC and COBie are integral to how the industry works? Additionally this blog asks how IFC and COBie will be practically implemented to meet the UK government Level 2 mandate requirements.

A definition of COBie can be seen within the government construction client group strategy paper which states that COBie is required to “improve the measurement and management of public assets, it is recommended that public client’s request that specific information be delivered by the supply chain” (Hamil, 2011).  The specified information set, called COBie, delivers “consistent and structured asset information useful to the owner – operator post-occupancy decision-making” (Hamil, 2011).  This information is the exchange format required for non-graphical data at Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2. In particular this was chosen in relation to issues such as “cost, availability and forward compatibility with IFC” (Hamil, 2011, p.4).   Hamil goes on to explain that COBie contains structured content for the whole project team and includes content from many different information models. The delivery of this information in practice will be through a simple Microsoft compatible Excel format, which is considered the basic level of information exchange that many people can access.

East (2014) discusses with greater depth the requirement for COBie which has been derived from studies that show that “8% of annual maintenance budget could be saved if open standard electronic information were available” East (2014, p.1). He argues that COBie offers designers a new way to provide electronic information for the maintenance and management requirements.  However, he goes on to say that understanding the needs of operators and facilities management for COBie is not enough and in practice more understanding is required (East, 2014).  East explains that the information is to be presented in a way that is understandable and this is why a basic spreadsheet format is used. In order to ensure the correct information is delivered from the design team and contractor, it is incumbent upon owners to make decisions on the type of information that they would like to receive through COBie.  Therefore, there are three areas of consideration that a client should understand;

  1. Clients should specify the classifications they already use to organise existing Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS)
  2. Owners should limit the information provided by a COBie to assets they manage or maintain only.
  3. The owner should identify specific properties for each assets.

East (2014, p.2)

This illustrates that in order to deliver useful COBie data, the client has to assess their own needs and specify their deliverables related to these.

The response to the client requirements from the design team and the contractor require the following issues to be understood; for designers it is required that they follow instructions from a particular BIM authoring software that they may be using, and the contractors must compile and organise their data to automatically produce Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manuals (East, 2014).  As a broad overview this gives information required for members of the project team to deliver the COBie deliverables for client use.

In order to achieve the deliverable, Industry Foundation Class (IFC) has been identified as the open sharable standard to complete this.  The IFC schema has been defined by Liebich as a system “to define a specification sharing data throughout the project life-cycle, globally, across disciplines and across technical applications” (Liebich, 2009, p. 18).  IFC is complex in its scope and it is accepted that this exchange format is broader than most systems, however it can be governed by a view definition which is a subset of the IFC schema (Liebich, 2009, p. 18).  The IFC model implementation guide confirms that most BIM authoring software will have functionality to create this schema.  Jackson (2016) has confirmed that “software exchanges” between different software types is required, and IFC provides the platform to exchange data across these software platforms.  Jackson discusses the benefits of IFC and confirms that “BIM is about collaboration and data and IFC is the format to allow that collaboration and data sharing but most importantly being platform independent” (Jackson, 2016).  Therefore IFC and COBie are both about the ability to share information across platforms and promote collaboration across the lifecycle of a project.

COBie and IFC represent new requirements for projects which mean that existing work practices will have to change to accommodate these deliverables. In regards to how these are delivered in practice the best way to achieve this will be for clients to define their needs clearly in the Employs Information Requirements (EIR), as without this the design team and contractor will not know what to produce for a project.  Further to these requirements on a project, there will always be a certain amount testing and trialling to achieve these new standards. East (2013) has discussed that for any deliverable a specification is required and COBie is a “minimum set of information needed to exchange managed asset information during the life of a project” (East, 2013).  However, East has stated that by only adding COBie as a deliverable as part of the construction contract this will not produce useful information in itself and clear understanding is required to produce this information in a structured way.  The COBie Guide (East and Carrasquillo‐Mangual, 2013) represents a thorough basis for the production of COBie data and it is argued that this should be used as the basis to develop further.  This is corroborated by East who goes on to argue that the use of COBie without customisation is the best place to start to understand the basic delivery of the information (East and Carrasquillo‐Mangual, 2013).  Therefore, it would appear that a simple step of requiring a basic standardised COBie deliverable can offer a basis to move forward with for the design team and the client.

For any practice working for a UK mandated BIM project, support may also be required from a specialist consultant or in-house BIM champion. This requirement supports the request in the blog question asking how IFC and COBie will be embedded and integral history as the EIR will ensure this is produced and is integral to a project.

To avoid the content or COBie deliverables being abandoned throughout the project it will be imperative that a client is clear on their needs, as well as the team receiving and obtaining suitable support.  This will reduce the risk of inadequate content being delivered however, as with any process that is adopted, in the early stages a client may not be able to see the outcomes in detail and understand if it meets their asset management needs until they have received the data and attempted to integrate this for use during asset management stage. The risk of inadequate content clearly requires careful consideration however with the detailed EIR and reliance on standardised format of COBie, this should be reduced.

This blog has asked four questions regarding COBie and how this will be delivered and how the industry will manage this change in production of the information.  It is clear that COBie represents a new and challenging route for a traditional industry to adopt.  There are case studies and guides available that support this production, however this brief overview is only a initial step in understanding the issues.  In time there will need to be greater experimentation and integration of COBie production and it will be fundamental that the sharing of these results will determine better and more developed working practices.


East, B. (2016). COBie for designers. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6yi5K2fpEc&list=PLArqLWh_IYo0gNiZfXUKiRqyMM-WxIvKG  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

East, B. (2012). buildingSMART alliance The COBie Guide – National Institute of Building Sciences. [online] Nibs.org. Available at: https://www.nibs.org/?page=bsa_cobieguide  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

East, B. (2014). COBie and IFC. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5K-EG9EwF0&list=PLArqLWh_IYo2WSAkuKWd1a4hnFmJPD0–  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

East, B. (2014). Construction-Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) | Whole Building Design Guide. [online] Wbdg.org. Available at: https://www.wbdg.org/resources/cobie.php  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

East, B. and Carrasquillo-Mangual, M. (2013). The COBie Guide. 1st ed. [ebook] NBIMS. Available at: https://www.nibs.org/?page=bsa_cobieguide  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

Hamil, D. (2011). What is COBie? | NBS. [online] NBS. Available at: https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/what-is-cobie  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

Jackson, R. (2016). IFC 2×3 | Bond Bryan BIM. [online] Bimblog.bondbryan.com. Available at: http://bimblog.bondbryan.com/tag/ifc/  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

Jackson, R. (2016). Why use IFC? | Bond Bryan BIM. [online] Bimblog.bondbryan.com. Available at: http://bimblog.bondbryan.com/why-use-ifc/#more-1106  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

Liebich, T., (2009). IFC 2X Edition 3 – Model Implementation Guide. Version 2.0. Building SMART International.

R, D. (2012). Guide establishes framework for implementing COBie into building projects – Commercial Architecture Magazine. [online] Commercial Architecture Magazine. Available at: http://www.commercialarchitecturemagazine.com/guide-establishes-framework-for-implementing-cobie-into-building-projects/  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].

Treldal, N. (2008). Integrated Data and Process Control During BIM Design. 1st ed. [ebook] Copenhagen: BYG DTU. Available at: http://www.ibim.no/student/International/2008_DTU_Niels_Treldal.pdf  [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].




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