Why We Need COBie


The requirements for BIM Level 2 deliverables are actually pretty simple – the only one that at least at first will be a little bit of a challenge is COBie. So what is COBie and why do we need it?

COBie is actually the key differentiator for the UK Governments strategy. They want good data so they can drill into the 80% of cost that lies beyond construction. It’s the first Governmental strategy to make COBie a contractual requirement.

Below you can see a Turner and Townsend study on the AEC Value System:

It shows that around 3% of the cost of an asset is in its design and only 17% in its construction – so only around 20% of the whole life cost of an asset lies in the design and construction, leaving around 80% (not including demolition) lying beyond the involvement of the design and construction team.

The UK Government also hope that by making our industry ‘expert’ at how you provide good sharable structured data to help with the running of an asset, that these will be skills that we will able to export to other parts of the world.

There’s been an acknowledgement that asset information is currently really poor. This information typically gets put together in the last few weeks of a construction contract – perhaps an external consultant is appointed who manically runs around to all the different parties involved getting information, and all that information, even if it’s meant to be collated ‘as built’, has tended to be poor, and is not put together by the person who has generated it – so inevitably there are errors. The gathered information usually takes the form of multiple A4 ring binders – and of course, bits of paper go missing and over time data gets lost.

If we can provide structured digital data for handover, this will allow building operators to much more effectively manage and run their built assets. COBie sets out some goals – the main one being that data is captured as it is created by the individual who is dealing with it. For example, if an architect says a room is an office, then unless the function of that room changes, nobody else will touch that data – it will be carried forward throughout design and construction and on to the life of the building.

The data will of course be transferred upon completion to the operators and maintainers systems – so the data needs to be produced in a format which is compatible with commercial software. COBie aims to standardise the format and specification.

Other industries which have already digitised have learned the importance of sharable structured data. If you take the World Wide Web, for example, it really took off with the adoption of HTML. So our industry’s biggest challenge is learning to provide non-propriety, shareable, structured digital data – and COBie can be seen as the trainer wheels for doing this – it’s just that piece of data that relates to OM and FM – so there will be a much larger data story. In fact, COBie is a subset of the industry foundation classes or IFC – so going forward, with a little further development, we will be developing IFCs, but for now we have a great format to drill into that 80% of cost, in COBie.

At Viewpoint For Projects, we have invested heavily in a non SQL database and that is to be able to utilise structured data and in particular, COBie. The importance of COBie really lies within comparisons – many people say why don’t we go from authoring software A to FM software Z – they tend to be relational databases where we can map from the bespoke fields within the authoring software to the bespoke fields within the FM software – and that will get you perfectly decent asset data on a single asset. But, the reality is that there are many tools out there – for example, one of our key clients currently uses three standard FM softwares, and from job to job they have different consultants using different softwares – so where you may get decent data for a single asset, you lose the ability to compare multiple assets.

If the industry adopts COBie and later IFCs, you’ll be able to make really interesting comparisons between jobs. So whether you’ve got a building in Lands End or a building in John O’Groats or indeed multiple assets between the two, you’ll be able to do searches, for example on a particular boiler type to see how it’s performing across your assets, which you would never be able to do if you just mapped proprietary software to proprietary software.

And these are the reasons why it’s important that the industry gets to grips with a standard for structured data – in this case it’s COBie. And don’t forget, Big Data is coming – and in order to be able to make these comparisons across data sectors, we need to have our data structured.

So in summary, we can see that structured sharable data is crucial to our industry becoming an industry fit for the 21st Century and I believe that if we don’t manage to do this, other industries that have already digitised will actually take and use our work as their own.

For more information about how Viewpoint can help your business achieve Level 2 BIM, visit our website today: www.viewpoint.com