Why is COBie relevant to Building Owners

Why is COBie (Construction Operation Building Information Exchange) relevant to Building Owners:

It can take 6 to 12 months before a Building Owners Facility Management teams to populate numerous systems with data to manage a new building. Despite the best intentions of the construction delivery team the paper/digital documents of Operations and Maintenance are invariably late, incomplete and not in a digital data format facilitating population of FM systems. The cost of being unable to run and maintain the building varies on the type of business but it is not insubstantial. Everyone recognises this and the UK Government, which is the largest owner and procurer of buildings in Britain, recognised that it could save millions and these savings would ripple through the supply chain if standards where used.

Many clients have looked to their FM applications providers to populate the systems but this has resulted in an expensive consultancy, bespoke specifications and information data formats. Wishful thinking has Building Owners specifying a particular CAD / BIM Modelling software expecting the team to provide a complete data set. The popular computer speak GIGO applies. “Garbage In Garbage Out” or more likely nothing in nothing out applies when it is identified far too late in the process. BIM is not about the software used but ensuring that the data required, is gathered, available and extractable to a usable form. Modelling (Geometric and Data) applications are flexible tools that facilitate information collation and management they are not magic wands.

There are many FM applications used by Building owners like Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM), Reactive maintenance, space planning, asset condition registers are the obvious examples but there are many more. All the applications have data requirements that overlap with other FM applications, for example what and where, spatially, items are is common requirement.

Building Smart have developed the format for a universal data format known as COBie which is a Model View definition of the IFC data model. IFC is popularly recognised as a 3D building model where elements have connectivity to which data is attached. It was designed to be used like PDF as a common way to view and read the building information. The IFC data model however provides data storage and a language to make the model interoperable between systems. IFC data can be expressed in a variety of file formats that can support the data schema. XML, JSON and XLSX (Excel spread sheet with no limits).

The primary benefits when systems import a standard format are:

  1. Lower FM system data population costs.
  2. Lower construction information costs as the supply chain adheres to the same standard.
  3. More opportunity to specify FM required data outside the standard dataset.
  4. Ability to check the data in the construction delivery process before handover when all the parties are engaged in the project.
  5. Installation dates and Warranty period and start times are captured in the installation process.

COBie has a default data requirement but like all defaults Building owners may require some all or more than. To help extend the data requirements the IFC data model has property sets, list of attributes, for different types of components and entities. The British Standard 1192 part 4 for COBie data has already published attribute recommendations for Building and Spaces.

The biggest development is in the product standards, driven in part by the online sales market so that products can be compared on performance as well as cost. These product common datasets are performance specifications rather than product description narratives.

What are the benefits of product data for Building Owners?

  1. In-house or 3rd parties can quickly source replacements products.
  2. Maintenance service contracts are less expensive to bid giving a greater market of tenders.
  3. Maintenance services bids are accurate and there is scope for issues.
  4. Building insurance can premiums can more accurately reflect the facility risk
  5. Property value is more accurate and can highlight facility features.

The current quality of COBie data will have been created by the construction team. The completeness and quality of product information will vary but the Product Manufacturing industry is starting to value the benefits of providing their data and establishing a relationship with the Building owner. The future is promising but Building Owners need to recognise the benefits now otherwise they will be reacting to legislation and discovering to late that their assets are not worth as much as they thought, and they are paying for replacements whilst they are still under warranty .

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