COBie Quality Control, Part 1: The Code

 Bill East
 Lean Handover Production and Consulting

Engineers at the start of the industrial revolution who wanted to build a locomotive, would have to buy all their bolts and nuts from one manufacturer. That is because the nuts from company A would not fit on the bolts made by company B. It took about a century, that's right 100 years, for bolt standards to become internationally accepted.

Today, if we want to take design or construction information from one company’s software system and use it in another’s, we are in the same situation as the boiler maker's a hundred years ago. Luckily for us, things are beginning to change. A decade ago, I was commissioned to find a way to eliminate the boxes of paper that now surround these boilers.

To deliver high quality information on every building, every day, regardless of contractor, owner, or process I knew that delivering COBie must become as mundane as ordering bolts and nuts is today. I could have made "yet another" bolts translation software program or pressed for "yet another" government nuts mandate. The trouble was that neither approach actually solves the problem. Government-developed projects do not have the needed long-term capitalization and pit subsidized government engineers in competition with private companies. Likewise, mandates of non-industry-based government requirements fail as they simply add cost often without yielding benefits beyond the specific program (or at all).

So what was the answer - to make a standard. As I despise going to meetings where the same topic is talked about and nothing ever decided, I set out to try to bootstrap the process myself. I began by checking what was required with every current effort and every existing standard anyone told me about. This was done to make sure I wasn't reinventing that famous wheel. Also, I made sure that existing contracts and processes on projects, large and small, could be used. A solution requiring new legal theories would be dismissed out-of hand by anyone who wasn't selling that new theory. More than one member of the “standards making establishment” told me that I would not be successful, but in 2008 we conducted the first public, objective, and automated test of a building information deliverables.

We use standards every day. Information is just another deliverable. COBie is just information.

The COBie standard is available free of charge through Creative Commons License. Anyone can use COBie for any purpose provided that (1) NBIMS-US V3 is cited as the source and (2) if you change the data schema and want to share that information you may not call it "COBie."

The current COBie standard is Version 2.4. Download your free copy of COBie 2.4, as part of the United States National BIM Standard.

If you have to implement, deliver, or use COBie, start at the beginning. See how the nuts and bolts fit together. Start by downloading and reading the standard.

Published June 2016