Certifying COBie Qualification

 Bill East
 Lean Handover Production and Consulting

I hear the following kinds of statements on a monthly basis from those contacting me for help delivering COBie:
  “I have to compete for contracts requiring COBie deliverables against those who have no idea what they are doing.”
  “I specify COBie but I the quality of what I get differs depending on who does the work.”
  “I need to load COBie data into my maintenance, asset, inventory, and fiscal management systems but have to spend hours fixing the data.”

These problems are so bad, in fact, that US public owners who technically mandate COBie deliverables have been unable to enforce their requirements because they cannot guarantee that prospective bidders can meet the standard. For those countries that do not have top-down mandates, there is clearly a “chicken and the egg” problem when it comes to including and enforcing COBie deliverables in contracts.

In many engineering domains, a community that has encountered quality failures bands together to establish and require a minimum level of qualification. In the US and elsewhere, design professionals who have public safety requirements, such as Civil Engineers, required those who receive contracts for such work to complete minimum level of education, have a minimum amount of professional practice, and successfully complete a nationally administered exam. Only those who complete such program are licensed to practice. Contracts require licensed professionals to conduct and oversee all work and are held personally responsible for the resulting building performance.

In situations where the public safety is not at risk, a less rigorous “certification process” often allows an individual to demonstrate their first-hand knowledge of a specific set of technical requirements and practice guidelines. Today, some US government contracts require perspective bidders to hold a “COBie Technical Manager” training certificate issued by the University of Florida’s COBie Academy.

As the use of COBie continues to increase, public contracts cannot rely on a single educational vendor. In addition, there are some, in our community, who have won first-hand knowledge of COBie through a combination of extensive self-study, systematic software testing, and on-the-job experience. To expand the opportunity to demonstrate individual qualifications, a standalone COBie certification program is needed.

Ideally, this certification program will have two steps. In the first step, individuals would be able to demonstrate that they understand COBie’s purpose, scope, business-case, and major milestone requirements. Educational requirements for such a course might include a review of the non-technical aspects of the COBie standard and a set number of qualified training hours. In the second step, individuals may demonstrate a detailed understanding of COBie’s technical specification. Educational requirements for such a course would include a detailed knowledge of the technical specification, a set of in-dept educational course(s), and an understanding of the key decisions made in the technical aspects of standard usage.

Creating a two-step COBie certification program begins to address these questions outlined at the top of this post. An initial general certification can ensure that those who specify COBie in contracts or manage COBie production have previously demonstrated their general understanding of the standards-based goals and requirements. For those producing, checking and using COBie data, a technical certification ensures that everyone on the project team has at least one person who knows what they are doing.

To require or product any objectively testable building information, there must be a clear line drawn between those who understand what is to be done and how to accomplish the task, and those who do not. I offer that a two-stage COBie certification program begins to provide a quality standard for the people working on the project, not just what software tools have been tested.

Published October 2019