COBie – the bridge between BIM and collaboration technologies?

My previous post, It’s been about collaboration all along, highlighted some emerging similarities between UK and US practices with regard to collaborative working – partly driven (at least in the USA) by the need to rethink industry approaches to management of people and processes as building information modelling (BIM) looms larger on the industry horizon.

However, while the “Big BIM” business model of integrated project delivery (IPD) requires a consistent collaborative approach, the realities of adopting new technologies and of ensuring systematic take-up demand some technological standards that extend beyond the core BIM platform. This point is made quite persuasively in the latest AECbytes Viewpoint by Ontario, Canada-based consultant Al Douglas. He draws our attention to the need for a developing open standard called COBie – Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie).

This complements the IFC standard, providing a format to publish a subset of a BIM, regardless of project type. It allows information to be stored in an accessible format throughout the planning, design, construction and commissioning process and delivering ‘as-built’ information to the asset’s owner upon handover for use in computer-aided FM systems (more information in this NIBS article). The key point is that this information is not stored in a BIM but in whatever platform is used to support team collaboration.

Al talks at length about enterprise content management (ECM) systems, for example (though I would suggest construction project data normally extends well beyond a single ‘enterprise’, so we might be best thinking about slightly different terminology to describe our project collaboration platforms – maybe here the ‘enterprise’ is the built asset project, not the corporation we normally associate with the term?). He argues that such systems have a role to play with regard to BIM: tracking the different stages of the model, providing an audit trail with time, date and access. He also helpfully points out that, beyond the BIM, there is a mass of project-related documentation that is generated and needs to be managed throughout the lifecycle of the asset, for example:

  • Contracts: contracts between the owner and the architect, contractor, project manager, etc.
  • Project communications: general communications, meeting notices, agendas, meeting minutes, requests for information, etc.
  • Design documents: conceptual design, BIM models, presentation renderings, etc.
  • Procurement documents: issued for bidding or negotiating before signing of an agreement.
  • Contract documents: that describe the work of the project.
  • Resource documents: that show existing conditions, or new construction related to the work, but are not included in the contract.
  • Submittal documents: Contractor submittals, subcontractor submittals (insurance certificates, product sheets, shop drawings, etc).
  • Construction site-related documents: Health and safety, accident reports, site photographs, etc.
  • etc

I have to confess that COBie isn’t something that I have read much about before (and I expect many other UK professionals will say the same), but I expect it will be looked at increasingly closely as more clients, teams and their technology vendor partners look to assimilate BIM into their project requirements.

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  1. Hi Paul
    Thanks for all your discussions around BIM. It really is shaping up as the next revolution in the industry. In your article above, you talk about COBie complementing the IFC standard…. but what we are hearing and seeing from the market (see my post ) is that a) not many people are saving BIM in IFC format (only around 2% of the models we see) and b) some users are actively avoiding IFC because they see it as dangerous (they loose integrity of the model). Are you seeing or hearing similar noises?

  1. […] document talks at length about the COBie data standard, which I saw last year as the bridge between BIM and collaboration technologies, and, while highlighting the suitability of cloud-based solutions, also discusses the need to […]

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