5 W’s and a H - Part 1: Who is COBie?

 Bill East
 Lean Handover Production and Consulting

Without a common understanding of COBie, response to the standard has become a Rorschach test reflecting the perspectives and concerns of those who confront it. For example, designers might see COBie through the lens of integrated practice. In some countries, teams might see COBie as a top-down policy that will eventually go away. Some will see COBie as just something else to subcontract away. Others may see COBie as means to open new markets for systems integration services. As the inventor of COBie, I can assure you that none of these things are true. To resolve inaccurate, conflicting, and outright false claims about the COBie standard, this blog series will answer the basic journalistic questions about the COBie standard.

Who created COBie?

COBie was created by Dr. Bill East. The initial COBie specification was published in 2007 in a US Army Technical report entitled “Construction Operations Building information exchange (COBie) Requirements Definition and Pilot Implementation Standard”. Following on from this first project, documentation of the first use of COBie for a railroad maintenance building was published in the report “Pilot Test of the Construction Operations Building information Exchange (COBie) Data Format for Army Installations.”
Who funded the COBie project?

Bill Brodt a facility manager at NASA Headquarters funded Dr. East’s look into the problem of organizing construction handover documentation. Bill Brodt turned to Bill East for support following an unsuccessful attempt by what was then the International Alliance for Interoperability (now called buildingSMART international) to solve this problem. Bill Brodt also facilitated discussions with the (former) White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to obtain a second set of funding. Finally, the US Army Installation Technology Transfer Program funded the first COBie testing.
Who helped the COBie effort?

Initially the COBie effort was helped by representatives from several government agencies, design firms, construction companies, and facility management organizations participating in the initial COBie requires study. Most notably, Mr. Lyle Fogg has become the “face” of COBie as the steadfast facility manager looking over the boxes of paper construction handover information in the basement of one of his buildings. It was Beth Brucker, one of Dr. East’s former colleagues, who had no idea how important Lyle’s picture would be when she shared it.

To cover issues related to mapping the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) model to the COBie Process Maps and Exchange Requirements, two contractors were hired. Initially Jeff Wix and Nicholas Nisbet of AEC3 helped move COBie to an international stage. When COBie was being prepared for publication as part of the National BIM Standard, United States® Version 3, Tim Chipman of the company Constructivity, who was also Chair, Model View Definition Committee, buildingSMART international, revised the initial COBie MVD for IFC4 using the ifcDoc tool.
Who has implemented COBie?

During the period between 2006 and 2014 when Dr. East managed the development of the COBie standard for the US Army, over thirty software systems demonstrated their ability to product and/or consume COBie data. This testing was accomplished in live, public events and all information developed during those meetings was made public.

Over thirty software systems have demonstrated their ability to produce and/or consume COBie data based on testing criteria found in the COBie specification.

From 2014, Dr. East organized teams of volunteer designers, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors to document hands-on COBie demonstrations using a common test building.
Who published COBie?

The current version of COBie, version 2.4, is published by the not for profit National Institute for Building Sciences, located in Washington, D.C., as part of the National BIM Standard, United States® Version 3.

The copyright on this publication is a copyright in “form only.” The content and structure of the COBie standard itself have been released under Creative Commons License, as noted on the COBie MVD website.
Who creates COBie data?

While COBie is best thought of as a data definition or schema containing the requirements for operations, maintenance, and asset management, that does not tell anyone who delivers COBie data.

That requirement must be left to the specific contract requirements of each building project. What can be said, however, is that each publication of the COBie took great care to identify the point in the project when COBie data was created on an existing project. Understanding when COBie data is created directly lead to the conclusion that designers, engineering consultants, general contractors, and subcontractors each create some portion of the COBie data set.

To be most efficient, the party who creates each bit of COBie data should be responsible to provide that information. The trick is, of course, to know how to do that in the context of today’s design and construction contracting environment. That “How?” question will be answered in a later post in this series.

  I look forward to joining you for the next installment of COBie questions and answers!

Published May 2019